Quick trip to St. George – November 5-17, 2017

Since the weather looks pretty fabulous in St. George and we will not be able to sneak in a trip in December, John and I decide on the spur of the moment to make our way to St. George.

I think the biggest difference in this trip is that I am trying Mark Bittman’s Vegan Before Six, a new way of thinking about how you eat and the impact you can have on the environment. So most of this post will be about new dishes I am trying out. In addition to shopping and eating John and I manage to get in some tennis every other day until my back just says, Enough!

First, finding decent vegan food on the road is not an easy task. Using YELP! We stop at Hummus Express in Bakersfield. The food is pretty oily but tasty.

Looking out at the golden hills and aqueduct along I-5. We are eager for rain.

Stopping at Hummus Express in Bakersfield, I order hummus with pita and tabbouleh

Mostly my days in St. George are vegan for breakfast and lunch and whatever for dinner but occasionally I manage to construct an entire vegan day. Some dishes I made –

Lunch – Spaghetti with vegetgables

Lunch – Root vegetable soup with tofu cubes dusted with flaxseed

Dinner – chickpea stew with ditalini and greens

Time for an white egret break!

Cauliflower soup for lunch

The unattractive parsley soup that I tried to make more palatable with the addition of carrots

The days pass by quickly and we need to get home for Thanksgiving so face the challenge of finding better food on the road. Eureka! We find an excellent Mediterrean restaurant, Mr. Kabob, in Barstow. It is kind of a hole in the wall but has some excellent dishes.

At Mr. Kabob’s in Barstow I have excellent eggplant with peppers and onions, roasted tomato, and green rice.



Five years ago John and I started what would ultimately be called “the long diet.” The long diet was very successful with John losing about 45 pounds and me losing about 70. We became fit and healthy and it was all good. The bad thing about being on a long diet or any kind of diet is that you are either on it or you are off. So at the end of the long diet we celebrated for three years enjoying the old unhealthy way we used to eat. Of course we gained back all the weight we had lost. But we did keep exercising so that’s a plus.

So now we are starting the NHLS. That is, the new healthy life style. See, not a diet. And although this is exactly the same thing we did last time, because it is a lifestyle and not a diet when we are slim and healthy again we will just continue to do it. “Yeah, sure,” I can hear you saying. But if you can’t trick yourself into believing that this is the last, last time you will have to deprive yourself of all the things you love to eat, how will you ever accomplish it?

In preparation for the NHLS we have eaten everything that we will never eat again. Well, at least not in the quantities that we would like to eat it. There’s been pizza, margaritas, all kinds of chips, dips, hot dogs, cheese, crackers, potstickers, platesful of spaghetti, just a surfeit of yummy goodies. (As an aside, truly the best potato chips ever are the Cape Cod russets.) It is amazing we have not killed ourselves getting ready.

So how’s it going? This is only day 2 but we are off to a good start. We ate lobster tails last night with snow peas and some rice. We had a little wine at cocktail time with some popcorn. We rode bikes and played tennis. Took a nap. Drank gallons of water. This NHLS is not too bad! And here’s a helpful hint for anyone who starting out on their NHLS, a pickle is like a treat that doesn’t count.

Seize the Size

I think I’ve mentioned this before, never (unless you are really an in-control person) make more than the correct serving sizes for a meal. There are two results – one, you don’t overeat and two, you don’t run into the trauma of someone else eating your stowed away last bite.

Gratuitous Eating

Why is it we eat too much or eat things we don’t really like in social situations? Especially at family gatherings. I think if you’ve grown up in a family where food is a big part of the love equation, it is very difficult to turn down a taste of this, a spoonful of that. Oh, we must have the Cape Cod chips and the Frito scoops and the chopped liver and the fine wines because it will show how much we care about each other. How can you pass these things up? They are especially for you. Hey, I don’t have an answer for this because I’ve just spent a weekend being loved a lot with food and loving it.

A small deception

I know that I will regret admitting this. When I was a little girl, I loved dessert. At our house, we used to have a breadman who came every day or so with a kind of foldout case full of breads and sweets. He worked for a bakery called Dugan’s. They sold these cupcakes that had about a quarter inch of solidified sugary icing on top. Did I eat the cupcake? No, I peeled the icing off and just ate that. When Peggy and I went to Chamber’s Drug Store, I always got a chocolate ice cream cone. At Newberry’s, chocolate milk shakes. At the beach, a bottle of YooHoo.

But if you ask people who know me, they will say, Mary doesn’t like dessert and she doesn’t like chocolate. Well, of course I do. But as an adult and always on a diet, I started telling people that I don’t like dessert or chocolate or anything sweet. I’ve done this for years and years. Now people don’t offer it to me anymore. It makes things so much easier. The strange thing is, though, I’ve sort of convinced myself. Now I just need to start telling people that I don’t like chips.

Not Kevin or Sir Francis

What is more seductive than the smell of bacon? Ah, pork fat. Alas, you sigh, not really a part of a healthy diet. But I’ll bet that just reading these few short sentences have you imagining the aroma and crisp fattiness of bacon. When I was a kid I loved bacon sandwiches on squishy, untoasted white bread. The bread was dotted with clumps of butter which melted very slightly from the heat of the bacon. Stop! Back to diet tips! My point is, that any food can be part of a healthy diet as long as you don’t overdo it. Two slices of bacon are only about 90 calories. Yes, the fat content is high so you probably shouldn’t be eating it every day. I find, though, when I am craving a certain food, it is better to just go ahead and eat it rather than eat ten other things first trying to deny what I really want.


One way to make food exciting and even exotic is to use herbs. Buying herbs at the supermarket is often expensive. Growing your own is fun and much cheaper too. Even if you live in an apartment, you can put pots of herbs in the window. Although my backyard is fairly dark, I have oregano, mint, chives, sage and thyme growing. Ryan and Jonathan’s garden is out in the full sun and they have an amazing array of giant herbs. Jon makes excellent pesto with his basil. It’s good in Thai dishes as well. You can use Italian parsley with almost anything. A buttery sage sauce is a northern Italian delight. Mint for couscous. And I could go on and on. Really, there is nothing fresher and more satisfying than herbs you grow yourself.


What’s a really good way to help you stay on a diet? Write it down! During the eighty weeks I was on the “long diet,” I wrote everything I ate down. Even the bad stuff. I printed out a sheet today which has boxes for each meal, a snack, water and exercise. And so far so good. Excellent breakfast, in control lunch with the excellent null soup of an earlier post, and an hour and a half of singles tennis. Of course, it’s only 4:45pm and that means that the dreaded munchie time is near. Followed by the usually overindulgent dinner. We’ll see.

Beware the Dollar Menu

In our travels, John and I usually stop at McDonald’s for breakfast. The other day we stopped at the one in Primm, Nevada. Typically, we each get an Egg McMuffin with no cheese and coffee. But, at this McDonald’s, the Sausage McMuffin with Egg was on the dollar menu. Hmmmm, $2.19 for the Egg McMuffin and $1 for the Sausage one. I stuck to the Egg McMuffin and John got the sausage one. In looking at the nutritional information, this is what I found. If you have an Egg McMuffin with no cheese, the values are 240 calories, about 7 grams of fat and 2 grams of fiber. Not the best but not a terrible breakfast on the road. The Sausage McMuffin with Egg (which also includes cheese) is a whopping 450 calories, 26 grams of fat and 2 of fiber. I think spending the extra $1.19 is worth it. Another tip, carry a little plastic knife with you and cut anything you get at a fast food place in half. It makes it last longer and is tidier to eat.

Wonton wrappers

Yesterday I made butternut squash raviolis using wonton wrappers. You peel and chop the butternut squash, toss it with some salt, olive oil and maple syrup and bake it until it’s soft. In the meantime, you saute some shallots and add some pecans and sage at the end of the saute. Then you mash up the squash and mix in the shallot mixture. It is really yummy. But when I made the raviolis and cooked them, the wonton wrappers were really flabby and really didn’t add anything to dish. I guess it would have been better to make actual pasta but this seemed easier. I know this isn’t really a diet tip but this is quite a good, not-too-high in calories, vegetarian dish. I served it with a wild mushroom ragu and garlicky greens.

Whole Wheat Pasta

Last night I decided to try a recipe from Vegetarian Times called “Pasta with garlicky white beans and Swiss chard.” I thought it was pretty healthy sounding but I had never tried whole wheat pasta. I figured it would taste like some nasty imitation of the real thing. But it didn’t. It tasted just like regular pasta. Here’s the important point, though, regular pasta has 210 calories and 2 grams of fiber per two ounce serving and whole wheat pasta has 180 calories and 5 grams of fiber per two ounce serving. This is an easy switch to make which will reduce calories and increase fiber.

Reality Check

I admit I’ve been whining over the last few days about the whole diet thing. Sometimes it just doesn’t seem worth the sacrifices, especially when you are a bit over the hill and are never going to look great again anyway. But, John told me yesterday that a business colleague of his, whom I knew and liked a lot, was out riding her bike, had a massive heart attack and died. She was 51. So, you know, it’s not really about whom you are trying to impress, it’s about being healthy and having a long and wonderful life.


One thing they always tell you when you are trying to lose weight, is to drink a lot of water. In fact, here in my diet tips even I have suggested drinking water if you are hungry because maybe you are just thirsty. But, here is my dilemma about water ala Dr. Seuss –

Water Is A Paean

I do not like it in a jar,
I do not like it in a car,
I do not like it by my bed,
I do not like it blue or red,
I will not drink it in a park,
I will not drink it as a lark,
I don’t have it instead of food,
because it does not help my mood.
I don’t like water you can see.
Do you have a tip for me?

Pick Up Sticks

The other day we had lunch at the Mongolian Barbecue in St. George, Utah. We don’t dine out much here due to the lack of quality restaurants but we like the Mongolian Barbecue because you can see that you are getting fresh ingredients, you choose the flavorings you want and watch the cooks cook your food. It’s kind of personal quality control. I got the smallest bowl and filled it with vegetables only and no noodles since I knew that they would be serving rice. John got the middle size bowl (this is starting to sound like Goldilocks). So the problem here is, I would get finished way faster than he would and then wish I had gotten the middle size bowl too. Solution? Chopsticks. If you want to slow down and you haven’t grown up eating with chopsticks, they are a great way to make you pause between bites.