Thursday, May 30, 2013

Taking It All Off, Hardcore Edition

I am not a big fan of the winter.  I detest cold weather.  Honestly, the only thing good about the colder months is the food.  I love to cook and baking is just so satisfying in so many different ways.  It makes your house smell good, it makes people feel warm and cozy and the pleasure it brings to the palate goes without saying.  The fall harvest is always a good jumping off point--apples are in season and they give rise to all manner of apple-crispy-cobbler-type concoctions.  Oh so yummy when it's warm out of the oven with the all important vanilla ice cream on top.  Let us not forget the pies and cakes and muffins--all warm from the oven, all dressed with the requisite sweet, creamy something on top.  Oh Lord, my mouth is just watering at the thought.

It's not just about the baking, daily soul food is just as satisfying to cook and eat.  I don't get overly fancy about it, it's the simple culinary masterpieces that people always seem to enjoy.  Savory stews, meatloaf, buttery mashed potatoes, soups of every kind--it's all good, it's all comforting and its all responsible for putting junk in my trunk!!

It was a 20lb delicious adventure but now it's time to take it all off!  I've got a plan and it's not for quitters.  This is hardcore and healthy and I hope you'll follow my journey as I succeed in changing my life!!

First and foremost, this is NOT rocket science.  I'm not going to tell you anything you didn't already know.  You've heard most of this before--you may have even subscribed to a similar eating plan somewhere along the way.  I'm going to share my journey with you and maybe you'll be convinced to come along for the ride.  If you do, I hope you'll comment on your progress or your pitfalls as I will right along with you.  You'll get full on disclosure from me.  You'll see the before pictures and the after pictures when all is said and done.  I WILL succeed!!  I will share my successes and my struggles along the way.  Why?  Because it's a battle that most people fight at one time or another and no one is alone in this.  It can be done and it will be done so come along on the journey and let's do it together!!

In my Butts & Bikinis piece I talked about getting a personal trainer and I promised to talk to you about the strict diet I was following along with the hardcore training I was engaged in.  Here we go....

A group of my gym babes and I are involved in a diet competition.  I use the term competition loosely because personally I'm only competing against myself.  The way I look at it, if I come out healthier and stronger in the end then I WIN!  It's called GAME ON.  There are a variety of rules and food lists and blah, blah, blah.  You can google it for the details but I'll give you the generic framework to get you started.

1.  Eat 5 small meals a day that consist of a protein, a carb and a fat.
2.  Portion control.  Proteins can be no larger than the palm of your hand, carbs can be no larger than
     the size of your fist, fats can be no larger than the size of your thumb from knuckle up to the end.
3.  Acceptable proteins, carbs and fats are found on the GAME ON food list (google it or email me).
4.  Meals must be eaten every 3 hours, no sooner than every 2 hours and no greater than every
     4 hours.  Just eat every 3 hours and your good.
5.  You must drink 3 litres of water a day.
6.  Artificial sweeteners sparingly (don't use them, you don't need them).
7.  No processed food, white bread, white flour, pasta, sugar, etc (you knew this).
8.  Eat whole food!  Whole grains, fruit, vegetables, chicken, fish, lean meat, eggs, greek yogurt, 
     etc., (you knew this too).

That is essentially the diet portion of the competition. There are other rules as well for example you must get 7 hours of sleep per night, you must give up a bad habit and take on a new, healthier habit, you must exercise at least 20 minutes per day, etc.  If we are being honest about things then in the interest of full disclosure I totally blew off the habit thing but I've been hardcore with the rest and I am seeing results.

Ok so it's all fine and dandy to give you the rules but I'd be willing to bet that you are asking yourself--"Sooooo what do you eat?".  Here are a few of my favorite meals:
I'm a carnivore so this one is my favorite.   Hamburger on top of a salad.  You can eat unlimited lettuce, spinach and cucumbers.  I use spicy mustard for salad dressing (no fat, no carbs, 5 calories in one teaspoon and you don't need much). 

Grilled chicken with steamed veggies.  I marinated the chicken with fresh herbs, lemon juice and a bit of honey.

I'm a busy mom and I'm always running so I use a whey protein isolate powder as my protein for many meals.  I like this particular brand because it tastes good and has everything I need-- one scoop gives you 114 calories, 1.5g fat, 24g protein, 2g carbs, and a bunch of other good stuff.  I make a shake with one portion of frozen fruit (usually bananas), one scoop of protein powder, water and ice and I'm good to go.  I have other shake recipes where I incorporate veggies too.  All of them taste like ice cream so it goes down real easy.  My kids even love them!

Learn from my mistakes.  I was on a road trip to visit a friend in another state and I found myself without food at meal time so I ran into CVS and grabbed one of these..........They call it Muscle Milk.  I didn't take the time to read the label but instead just tore into it and took a big gulp.  DISGUSTING!!  I turned the product around to see that it had 7 grams of fat and it tasted like I had a mouth full of oil.  Do not try this at home!!

Week #4 of Game On started this morning so wish me luck and join me on the journey! 

+Michelle Morrissette Cucchiaro
+My Baked Stuffed Life


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Butts & Bikinis - Getting My Game On!

It's been a long time coming, or it seems that way anyway, but it's here. The air is fresh with flowery scents, the birds sing their  sweet spring songs and the sun shines high and warm. Apollo has not forsaken us. The ground softens under his spell and the winds turn warm.  As we are lured from hybernation we emerge with faces turned up, eyes closed to the brightness, arms outstretched to welcome the gift of sunbeams.  The warmth relaxes the winter stresses and they spill out of every pore. Breath.....

Are you ready to walk with me? As the sun rises higher so does the heat of Apollos gift.... It gets hotter and hotter. Come with me, walk with me along the shore.  A crisp, cool dip in the ocean would be so refreshing........

Nice dream folks but that's where it ends. Ugh, I've got to put a bathing suit on this body? I've packed on a fresh 20 soooooooooo Oh HELL no!  There's no better way to start today than a good 'ole ass kickin'!
Let me back up a little.  Like many folks my weight has fluctuated throughout the years.  In my thinner days I have been referred to as small or"tiny", in my thicker days the dreaded-- "big-boned".  No girl likes the latter and I've fought hard against that term.  I've got a colorful history of exercise regimens and diet plans so I KNOW what I'm supposed to do, how I am supposed to eat and how it impacts how I feel.  As I get older, it gets tougher and tougher to stay on top of it and I came to the inevitable conclusion that I'm the type of gal that needs her butt kicked. Its really that simple.  If you want to feel good then it's all about diet and exercise.  It's not rocket science and I'm fairly certain that we all agree on that.  I need to be accountable so I got myself one of these...............

I got myself a personal trainer.  This is Chris Engel of Engel Fitness and I want her arms and her core strength!  I want her resolve and her dedication to health and wellness.  I had to come to terms with the fact that I needed a coach. 

When I was in my teens, 20's and 30's I could do it on my own and I did but it's harder now.  Life is busier and like many moms, somebody else comes first.  It's time to practice what I preach and engage in a little self care. 

There are a group of us that head to the gym in the mornings--early mornings--and work out.  Chris was one of those women.  There were many mornings that I'd come up with any excuse I could find NOT to go to the gym.  Chris was dedicated, she was there every day.  I knew she was a trainer, and a darn good one from what I could tell, but I wasn't convinced that it would make any difference.  It does.

It's about accountability.  When you make that appointment you are committed.  Someone is waiting for you at the other end so you HAVE to show up.  I showed that first time and I keep showing and I'm so glad that I make the effort because I'm already seeing results!  


It's not just about the exercise.  Your trainer is essentially helping you change your life so you are building a bond.  She encourages me when I need that final push to do just one more. 

That "one more" is what gets you the results.  That final rep is what is making you stronger.  It molds your body and it molds your mind.  If you did 10 today, there's no reason you can't do 11 tomorrow!


I'm starting week #3 in my total transformation.  Stay tuned to hear about what's for dinner!!  Eating right is a BIG part of this journey!


+Michelle Morrissette Cucchiaro
+My Baked Stuffed Life


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Kayaking the Caribbean and OH! Dat Chicken Mahn!!

The familiar horn bellowed into the morning sunshine followed by chimes and our captains booming voice announcing our arrival in Antigua.

Today's adventure didn't start until noon so we got to sleep in a bit. I was the first one up and I left the room to have my coffee on the deck upstairs, alone and in peace. Halfway thru my first cup I met Leah, a lawyer from Atlanta. We hit it off immediately and we made fast friends.  Leah and I were engrossed in animated conversation when a cloud burst overhead. A quick tropical shower and the sun was shining again. We spent too much time talking and had to part ways to return to our families. Her to her 9 year old son and me to my three and a husband.


This morning was the only time I'd have to shop and I fully intended on exercising that opportunity in Antigua's open market. Surprisingly my husband wanted to come Along. The kids were ripe for the ship's "Fun Club" (a kids club on board that comes free with passage and is complete with adult supervision) so we dropped them off and disembarked for an hour of haggling over island goods.

In an hours time we walked back to the ship with bags of colorful beads, island hats, dolls in traditional dress, t-shirts and trinkets of every sort. Not a bad take for the time spent. I was satisfied.


After collecting the kids and grabbing a quick bite we were off again for our afternoon adventure. Kayaking the mangroves in the turquoise waters of a local bay was just part of today's adventure. First we boarded a bus to take us across the island. Our driver was a native of the island and was well versed in island history. His name was Tobe and he was a fantastic historian. Before too long we arrived at "Paddles", where we would find our kayaking tour guides. Once off the bus we were directed down a steep, winding path flanked by lush greenery and colorful island flora.

 The path ended at the docks on a turquoise bay where speed boats and captains awaited our arrival. Our boat captain was "Beaza" and he was skilled at navigating the Caribbean waters.

We boarded kayaks and paddled our way through the mangroves.  The waters were crystal clear and the sun was hot up above.  It was not difficult to see all the treasures the bay had to offer.  Gigantic starfish littered the bay floor.  Our guide plucked one out of the water and passed it around for a bit of show and tell Antigua style!

 Post kayaking adventure we boarded speed boats and were off to a private island where we would hike to the top of  a small "mountain" (hill really...) for more scenic views and photo opportunities.

Words cannot describe the beauty.  It was peace come alive.....

The adventure would not have been complete without visiting the island "gift shop" and the "concession stand" where we sampled Adessa's chicken-- probably THE BEST barbecued chicken I had ever tasted....


Adessa was a real gem.  Jamaican born, Adessa now makes Antigua home with her entire family--including her granddaughters who helped her in the "store" the day we visited.  I affectionately told her that I wanted to take her back to Boston with me to which she replied  "I come wit cha anywhere honey and I mean dat."


On the ride back to the tour bus I kept thinking about how good that chicken was and I shared with Beaza that I would be dreaming of it when I got back home.  Beaza didn't miss a beat.  When I mentioned that I should have asked her for the recipe he quickly replied " 'I tell ya how ta maaake it. I taught dat womahn how ta cook dat chicken."

Beaza gave me the recipe that day and much to the enjoyment of my family, I've been making Adessa's chicken ever since.  What an awesome day!!

Come back again soon as my adventures continue!!


+Michelle Morrissette Cucchiaro
+My Baked Stuffed Life


Friday, May 10, 2013

What It's Like To Be A Girl--Dating, Round 2

For my friend who shall remain nameless, see how ridiculous it all is?  Giggle.........

 It was a day like any other. She woke 5 minutes before the alarm went off and lay there in bed just waiting for the music to come on. Right on cue a Ramones tune burst into the morning darkness and she swatted at the button to turn it off. I wonder if it will feel weird? Coffee, shower, phone. Nothing. She does the same thing every morning. You can set your watch by her routine, it never changes. Maybe I should text him good morning? See how his day is going? Maybe he will cancel and the nervousness will be all for nothing. Yea, that’s what I’ll do. Text. She makes her lunch, packs her briefcase, makes breakfast. Coffee, coffee, coffee. She makes her way to the closet to consider her wardrobe. She raises the shades in her room and sunlight streams in. She races back to the bathroom to dry her hair but checks her phone first……..
His morning is fine…ooooooookaaaaaaay, now what do I do? OMG! I haven't dated in 20 years!  What’s he going to say? What am I going to say? Is this going to be weird? What if he looks at me and says–why the hell did I ever ask this girl out? What if he's changed his mind?  I’m just not going to think about it. When in doubt, do nothing.
She ponders....Somehow I don't seem to recall dating being this difficult the first time around.
She dries her hair and wonders if he’ll like it. She considers her outfit. She wonders if he will kiss her. She dreams a little dream…she thinks about their first emails and telephone conversations and how comfortable it all was.  Will it be different?  Oh dear GOD, will it be awkward?
Back to the mirror.  Holy cow will you look at the freakin’ wrinkles on my face? What can he possibly see in this old face? I'm old. I look like hell. I really need to have work done, seriously! I look so tired, I won't be surprised if he turns on his heel and heads straight for the door.  I mean honestly, will you look at my face! Who’d want to look at that?! What am I going to wear? Not too conservative, not too “out there” either. OMG I have nothing. This is stupid. It’s a guy for christ’s sake, I’m not on the runway in Paris. Why do I do this? This is ridiculous. He really isnt’ going to care one way or another anyway. Will he? Maybe he will….SHIT!
She finishes her hair and then starts her makeup. She continues with wardrobe consideration….. 
Should I wear black? I always wear black. Is black too funeral-like? I kinda like black. I think he likes black. Black makes you look thinner but I think it also makes me look dead. SHIT! He did say he liked women in pastels….Jesus Christ! I look good in purple but I think I’ll wear that new shirt. That’s cool, yea, the new shirt. OK. What do I do with this face? I need a tan.
She returns to the kitchen for coffee.  Having completed her wardrobe choices in her head, she races back to her room to gather her clothes. She takes a call from her mother.  She gathers her dry-cleaning.  Her mind wanders.... should I have bought him a gift?  No, no... much too forward.  What does he like anyway?  OMG I'm going out with a guy and I don't even know what he likes?!!  What was I thinking! Will there be a second date?  Oh hell, let's get through the first one first.  I hate this!
She puts on her coat, gathers the dry-cleaning and heads out to start the car.  She puts the dry-cleaning bag in the car, she’ll stop on the way.  She races back into the house.  She brushes her teeth and checks the mirror…..I look fat. What if he doesnt’ like this outfit? Maybe I’ll keep my coat on. Will this be weird? What if I don’t know what to say? Text from the BFF ”Call me when you can”….oh good, a diversion.  She climbs in the car and dials her number. Driving, driving, driving……
“Hi….no, he didn’t cancel….well, yes and no….because I don’t know what he’s going to say…..I have no idea……I’m nervous, it’s been a long time. I have no idea what I'm doing…..I know…..yea…well…you have to negotiate your salary now, it’s your only shot……I have to go, it’s him!”
She rounded the corner of the coffee shop and his car came into view.  She wonders what this is going to be like. He sees her and waves. She waves back and as she does she feels the familiar butterflies…… butterflies…. butterflies…..
I guess some things never change.
+Michelle Morrissette Cucchiaro
+My Baked Stuffed Life

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

St Lucia--Getting My Pitons On!


What a difference a day makes. Just 24 hours earlier we were docked in Barbados. The docking area was very industrial and did not have that lush, island appearance I had anticipated. This morning was entirely different. I woke before my family and snuck out to have my first cup of coffee on the deck as the ship came into port and docked in St Lucia.

The coffee was strong, hot and black.  The sun was warm on my face and the breeze danced across my skin.  I was perfectly refreshed and completely relaxed, all the things great days are made of.  The view was serene, just beautiful. It was lush and oh so tropical!


After what seemed like only moments, the captain's voice broke thru the silence and announced that passengers could disembark for the day's excursions.  I tore myself away from the peace of the deck and gathered my family.

Today's adventure started with a bus tour and a narrated island history by our tour guide, Lunetta.  Lunetta was very young and an island native.  Here, in the first photo, she pointed out the state tree, the Calabash.  In the second photo you can see the fruit of the tree.  The fruit is not edible but the round globes are dried and cut in half and used as bowls.  Calabash bowls of all sizes are found in the many markets around the island.



Lunetta also described the state bird, the St. Lucian Parrot.  They are rare and she noted that we would be very lucky to actually see one.   It is illegal on the island to capture and hold a St. Lucian Parrot in captivity.  The photo below is compliments of the internet.

We stopped along the way for some photo opportunities.......


 We did a bit of shopping......


We were fortunate to have....hmmm, experienced some interesting people and their "pets"...... Yes, that IS a boa constrictor and yes, these snakes live on the island in and out of captivity.  I think I would have rathered to have seen the parrot.....

We had already seen and experienced so much and our journey had not even begun!!  After a winding ride thru several small towns, the bus came to a stop in a small lot.  We followed our guide through a wooded area and down a short trail where we met yet another guide who would lead us on a hike for perfect views of Petit Piton and Gross Piton.  The Pitons are mountains that jut up sharply from the islands to a very distinguishable point.  They are majestic and the severity of the highest points against the backdrop of the sapphire waters and white sandy beaches is just breathtaking.
There were so many interesting things to see along the way..... 
This is a cocoa plant.  The white "goo" is edible and I tried it.  It's sweet and tangy.  The seeds or beans of the plant are dried and placed in large tin vats where the "cocoa dance" is performed by skilled islanders.  The worker stomps on the cocoa beans and crushes them with his/her bare feet. Ninety-five percent (95%) of St. Lucian cocoa is exported to Hershey, Pennsylvania.

This is a raw cashew.....

Island flora....

 The grand finale, Petit Piton and Gross Piton....


Stay tuned for more island adventures as the tropical journey continues!!

+Michelle Morrissette Cucchiaro
+My Baked Stuffed Life