Zero-Point Taco Soup

The weather has turned cooler, and I saw something on Facebook about Zero-Point Taco Soup. I didn’t need persuading – that immediately became what I would make for dinner. I didn’t have taco seasoning on hand, and so I made a quick trip to Kroger to get some.

Within ten minutes of getting home, the soup was simmering on the stove. What could be simpler than opening a bunch of cans, a package of chicken breasts, and some seasoning, and dump it all in the cooking pot! The only other step was to shred the chicken after it had cooked.

I served it with a dollop of nonfat Greek yogurt (instead of sour cream) and a little grated Cabot 75% Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese. Both of those are 0-points, too. If I used more (half ounce +) of the Cabot cheese, it would move to a point, but I kept it under 1/2 ounce. It was both tasty and filling. It tasted so good, I had a second bowl – and I counted the cheese as 1 point since I had two helpings of it!

The soup freezes well. So I will put some in the refrigerator to eat over the next couple days, and I will put some in the freezer to enjoy again in a few weeks.

Here is how I made it:

Zero-Point Taco Soup

  • 4 cans beans (black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, great northern beans – whatever kind you like or a combination of beans. I used Kroger’s Tri-Bean Blend)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 large can tomato sauce OR pureed tomatoes
  • 1 qt. chicken broth (you can use less if you want your soup to be thicker)
  • 2 Tablespoons taco seasoning (add more or less, depending on your taste)
  • 1 lb. boneless/skinless chicken breasts
  • diced onion, peppers, garlic – to taste (can use fresh or dehydrated)
  • salt/pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Dump everything into a large saucepan (or crockpot)
  2. Bring to a simmer
  3. Once chicken is cooked through, take it out, shred it, and add it back into the soup.
  4. To serve, you can top with sour cream or Greek yogurt, grated cheese, corn chips – whatever toppings you like

Zero Points on WW Blue Plan. Be sure to add points for any toppings you choose.

Get Outside! An Atomic Habit

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by [James Clear]Sometimes we come across a book that actually changes our lives. That happened to me a couple years ago when I read a book titled Atomic Habits by James Clear.  The basic premise is that if we set big goals, we often set ourselves up for defeat since big and perfect goals take so much time and effort. However, if we work on small habits – 3 minutes of exercise each morning, cutting out one teaspoon of sugar in our coffee, writing one thank you note each week, making two business calls before lunch – then it becomes like compound interest. The benefits snowball over time.

Back in March when this pandemic isolation began, I decided that one atomic habit I wanted to develop was getting outside for just a few minutes each day.  Here is a video I made on today’s walk. Excuse the breathlessness! I had just walked up a hill. I could’ve waited till I caught my breath to start the video, but this is calling “Living Real with Carol!” and the reality was that I was a little breathless at the moment.

7-Point Pizza (WW Blue)

I made personal pizzas tonight – one for my husband and one for me.  Pizza is one of my all time favorite dishes!  The last time we had pizza was during the summer when I ordered one from Domino’s Pizza, and it was less than delicious. It was so bad, in fact, that it turned me off from wanting pizza for a couple months.  However, lately after eating so much chicken and tuna and lean beef, I have yearned for something a little more indulgent.

After reading about 2-ingredient dough, and then researching and finding an even better (supposedly) dough recipe, I decided to give home-made pizza another try.

First the dough. I got the recipe from My Bizzy Kitchen. Here’s that recipe:

Dough:

2 cups self-rising flour

1 teaspoon yeast

1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup Fage Fat Free Greek Yogurt

1/2 – 3/4 cup warm water

  • Heat oven to 450 (see notes).
  • In a bowl, mix the flour, salt and yeast together. Stir in the yogurt and mix until it starts to combine. Start with 1/2 a cup of water and see how the dough comes together. If there is still a bit of loose flour in the bowl, add a couple tablespoons of water at a time, until it forms a ball.
  • This dough can be used within an hour of making, but truth be told, I normally don’t use it until day 2 or 3. On the first day I let it rise in my microwave all day, then store it in a ziplock bag.
  • On the day of baking, add a tablespoon of flour on your counter. Wet your hands and grab desired amount of dough for your pizza. Most of my individual pizzas are 5 ounces. Top with desired toppings and bake for 10 minutes, or until desired doneness.

I didn’t  put my dough in the microwave to rise. As a matter of fact, I didn’t let it rise at all because we were making pizza right away.

I divided the dough into four equal parts. We used two of those for our two individual pizzas tonight. I put the other two parts in a Ziplock bag in the refrigerator for pizza later this week. (Note added: We used the extra dough three days later for another two pizzas, and it was perfect! So it keeps well in the fridge for at least three days). The flour is the only ingredient with points. So each of the four parts contain 1/2 cup self-rising flour – which is 5 points on WW Blue Plan.

The photo above shows our two pizzas ready to go in the oven. That’s mine on the bottom – and Ron’s at the top. He added additional sauce on top of his other ingredients. It looks like a barbecue pizza, but it isn’t – just lots of pizza sauce! That’s because he doesn’t usually each much pizza crust because of his blood sugar. Thus, he wanted to be sure he had plenty of the toppings.

In the photo above, the pizzas are on a pizza stone that I bought from Pampered Chef years ago. I had put the pizza stone in the oven while I made the dough. So it was piping hot when we put the dough on it.

I sprayed my hands with butter flavored Pam to smooth out the dough on the pizza stone. Then once we had it spread out, my husband and I added our favorite toppings.

Toppings

These are the toppings I put on my pizza:

Onion, finely chopped (0 points)

fresh spinach, torn into small pieces (0 points)

fresh chopped tomatoes (0 points)

Ragu Homemade style Pizza Sauce (1 point for 1/4 cup)

Sargento Light mozzarella string cheese (1 point per stick), cut crossways into thin circles. In the photo above, you can see the small circles of mozzarella.

3/8 oz Cabot Cheese, Sharp Cheddar, 75% Reduced Fat (0 points for 3/8 oz.)

At the top of this post is a photo of my baked and ready-to-eat pizza. I forgot to take a photo until I had cut it and put the pieces on a plate.  It was delicious! The crust has a little bit of a tangy taste from the yogurt. I really liked it. One great thing about this recipe is that the dough took only a few minutes to put together. And, of course, the toppings were delicious.

And the best thing of all is that the whole pizza is only 7 points. My first pizza in over two months. And I still have 5 points left for today!

My mother – my role model for good health

My mother is 97 years old. She still lives on her own, although she is able to do that only because I have 3 siblings who live in her town and can check on her daily. My mother has been on her own since my father died in 1986.. Over the years she has developed some habits of good health. Here are some of them:

(1) Walk with purpose. She has always walked briskly in order to get a little more benefit for her health. Although she frequently uses a walker now, until the last few years, she was always a quick walker. How much better for our general sense of well being to walk briskly as much as possible. She still walks out to the mailbox to get her newspaper and mail each day, and she bustles around the house doing daily chores. She wears a Fitbit and keeps track of her steps.

(2) Eat an apple, a banana, and half an orange every day. She says the apple is important for regularity, the banana helps with leg cramps, and the orange is for vitamin C.

(3) Keep the refrigerator and pantry stocked with foods that build health: apples, bananas, oranges, low-fat milk, cheese, eggs, whole wheat bread, carrots, potatoes, butter, honey.

(4) She doesn’t have anything against pork, but she doesn’t eat it unless there isn’t another choice. She prefers beef over chicken or turkey because she remembers the days when chickens and turkeys were sold alive, and the housewife was the one who had to dispatch it and clean it before cooking it. I recall, as a young child, watching my mother kill and clean chickens that parishioners gave our family. She eats both chicken and turkey, but she prefers beef. Of course, if she had to butcher a cow or observe one being butchered, she probably would decide she didn’t care for beef either.

(5) Natural foods are the best. She doesn’t count points. As a matter of fact, I don’t recall her ever dieting. She eats whole wheat bread only, lots and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and small portions of meat. She drizzles local honey on her toast at breakfast.

(6) Use very little salt or sweeteners. When my father had a heart attack, my mother stopped using salt almost entirely. I complained at the lack of flavor in many of the foods she made, and I would sneak in a few shakes of salt whenever I could. However, in terms of health, my mother was right. We should enjoy the natural flavor of foods rather than depending on so much salt. Still, I like a little salt.

(7) Probably my mother’s only “weakness” when it comes to food is ice cream. She loves it. She keeps a couple of cartons of black walnut ice cream on hand at all times.

(8) She enjoys coffee – and she seems to especially enjoy the vanilla lattes I make for her when I visit. I used to go to Starbucks each morning to get them, but now I make them myself. She always drinks every drop and talks about how good it is. When she is on her own, she usually drinks a very weak cup of coffee with milk in it. She talks about how she and my father would always end a meal by sitting at the table, sipping coffee, and talking.

(9) She keeps her mind busy. She has always read a lot. Right now she is reading through the Bible again. When I talked with her yesterday, she said she was into the Psalms. She underlines as she reads.

(10) Last of all, she drinks lots of water. She takes TWO glasses of water back to her bedroom each evening to get her through the night, and she keeps a glass of water next to her during the day. Thanks to my sister, Janice, and my niece, Amanda, for reminding me about how my mother always drinks plenty of water and encourages all of us to do likewise.

That’s about it as far as the habits that I want to emulate. Just think, though, about how we could build our own health by following the 10 guidelines above.

Weekly Weigh-In – 9/4/2020

9/4/2020

I’m pleased with this. I used all my weeklies in addition to my dailies this week. However I logged every single thing I ate.

My goals for this next week is to continue logging everything, drink more water, and to be more active.

I’m in Georgia right now visiting my mother. My weight was done on her scales, which has always matched my own scales.

Recipe: Pumpkin Muffins (3 points each)

I made these pumpkin muffins tonight because I happened to have the ingredients already on hand – and, more importantly, I had exactly 3 points left and I wanted something sweet and baked. These were REALLY good. The batter is very thick so it doesn’t spread out in the cupcake liner. You have to take the spoon and kinda spread it out.

The recipe that is shared so much on the WW Facebook pages just has the pumpkin and cake mix. However, I had a large can of pumpkin – so I added a little extra pumpkin and put the rest in the refrigerator for something else. I decided to add an egg (since that is a zero point WW food) to help the muffins rise better since I added extra pumpkin. I also wanted to make the batter a little less thick.

Pumpkin Muffins (3 WW blue points each) *****

1 can pure pumpkin (15 oz.)

1 Pillsbury sugar-free yellow cake mix

1 egg

optional: Spices, to taste (cinnamon, allspice, cloves) 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 12-count muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Dump all ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mix well.

Divide batter evenly between the 12 muffins.

Bake for about 25 minutes.

So now I have 11 muffins left over. I plan to put a couple in the refrigerator for tomorrow and Saturday. Then I will individually freeze the others for a quick and sweet treat in the coming week or two. Ron may want to try them out, too.

I give this recipe 5 stars. Now I’m anxious to try it with a chocolate cake mix. Supposedly it ends up being almost brownie-like – and that sounds wonderful to me.  

Small Steps

I wanted a way to look at my goals as a “big picture” thing rather than getting hung up on whether or not I lose weight in my weekly weigh-ins. I thought a monthly tracker would be good. So I found this graphic that I liked. I love the colors and the soft and simple look of it. The first of each month, I will publish a post with my monthly and cumulative totals. I started WW on July 19, 2020. So the July total is for a week and 5 days.


I want to give myself a year to lose the weight I need to lose. No rush. It’s about making healthy eating and living a HABIT.

The new Weight Watchers plan – Green, Blue, and Purple plans – seems so much easier than before. I’m on the Blue plan. WW matched me with the Green plan, but after just a couple days, I knew that Blue was a better fit and switched to it.

A couple years ago, I read a booked titled Atomic Habits. It made a big impression on me. The book showed how developing small habits have a cumulative effect over time – like compound interest on money. So I’ve been trying to develop some healthy atomic habits.

About Living Real With Carol

July 2020: I will be 71 years old next month. Seventy-one! I have to say that time has gone into overdrive since 50. Suddenly I’m undeniably a senior citizen, and yet, I don’t feel any different than I did 20, 30 or even 50 years ago. I’m still Carol. I still have that young student, wife, mother, and teacher in me. Now I’ve added mother-in-law, grandmother, artist, writer, and retiree to the list – and so much more. Each person has many facets and wears so many different hats throughout life. Despite changes, we never lose the people we were earlier.

This blog is about my 70s. I’m almost a year into them. I breezed through my 30th, 40th, 50th, and even 60th birthdays. However, 70 hit me hard. I could pretend that 60 was still fairly young. I can’t do that anymore.  As I get older, I also get more real. There’s no longer time to appease and “fit in.” The “age of wisdom” is a time to be real because there is no reason to be anything other than myself.

As I type this post, I’m sitting in a recliner with an orthopedic boot on my elevated left foot. Last week my foot started hurting. I have NO idea why. I didn’t turn it, didn’t stumble, didn’t drop anything on it. It felt normal in the morning, and by evening I could hardly walk. Very painful. So my daughter let me borrow an orthopedic boot to see if that helps. I will give it a few days and see.  Looking at my foot makes me feel my age: Unexplained aches and pains – a sign of aging. 

One focus of this blog will be my health – especially my weight. Since my childhood, I’ve obsessed about my weight. I don’t make that statement lightly. Truly, my weight and wanting to lose weight has been almost constantly on my mind since I was 10 years old and someone remarked that I was chubby. Over the years, I’ve tried every diet imaginable – Weight Watchers, Keto, Whole 30, Atkins, Nutrisystem, Phen-Fen, Jenny Craig, Low Fat, Counting Calories, Counting Macros, Fasting, Daniel Fast . . . . That’s all I can think of offhand.  What they all have in common is that I didn’t stick with them. It was always a “diet” – not a change in attitude. My thinking was that once I lost the extra weight, I could maintain it easily. However, the weight will always come back unless eating habits have changed.

The Phen-Fen diet was the easiest. I did it during the 90s. I lost the most weight and felt wonderful. It was illegal in Tennessee, and so once a month I’d drive to Huntsville, AL where a “doctor” had rented an office and dispensed Phen-Fen. It was such a farce! The office had a scale for weighing people, and there was one medical book sitting on an otherwise empty desk. That was it. However, the Phen-Fen worked. When I took it, I simply didn’t think about eating. It is fascinating to me that a couple of small pills can have such a big effect!

However, Phen-Fen is now illegal everywhere because of serious side effects. I learned that just the “Fen” part of it was illegal, and so I took the Phentermine part for several years (got it from questionable online sources), and it helped me maintain a lower weight for a those years, but then I started having heart palpitations and headaches and decided I didn’t want to cause irreparable harm to my body, and so I stopped taking it. It was definitely the easiest weight loss plan, though.

Weight Watchers is the diet that seems most healthy to me. If you look at the other diets I listed, you will see that each of the others are restrictive or unbalanced in some way. I DO truly believe in eating natural and whole foods. My mother is 97, and she has always believed in the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables. Although I’ve tried them, I can’t do Atkins or Keto or Macros because I’ve always felt that fruits and vegetables should be the cornerstone of a healthy diet. I remember when I was counting macros, and I couldn’t have a small apple because it was too many carbs, I knew that wasn’t the plan for me.

I have always done a lot of my own cooking, and since the pandemic, I’ve cooked 99% of my meals. It’s the end of July, and I haven’t eaten in a restaurant since mid-March. I sure miss that!

What motivated me to change my way of eating was our family vacation a couple weeks ago – July 11-18. We rented a beautiful beach house and had our children and grandchildren with us. We had a private pool and were right on the beach. I LOVE swimming, and yet I didn’t put my swimsuit on a single time because I was embarrassed by my out-of-shape body. I sat there, watched everyone else enjoying the water, sun, and sand, and I decided NEVER AGAIN. I got online and joined Weight Watchers while we were still at the beach. And I began tracking the morning after we returned – July 19th.

I chose Weight Watchers because it allows me to eats lots of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins – along with some special treats – which I feel is the healthiest diet – balanced, not restrictive. It helps to encourage and develop moderation. So I have a new resolve to make it a lifelong healthy eating change – not a diet.  I’ve completed two weeks, and here are my results:

Week 1, July 24, 2020: -2 lbs.

Week 2, July 31, 2020: – 1.8 lbs.

Total loss: 3.8 lbs.

I want to lose about 65 pounds. So I’ve got a solid start.  I’m perfectly happy to take a year or more to reach my goal because I’m concentrating on making this a new way of life – not a diet.

There will be other focuses as time passes, but that’s good enough for a beginning.