You could put your verification ID in a comment Or, in its own meta tag Or, as one of your keywords Journey to Fabulous and Fifty: February 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tomato rice soup Provencal recipe - This is the food I eat!

I love homemade tomato soup, and surprisingly, it's just as easy to make as opening a can of whatever brand of condensed tomato soup you buy. But....I also like a little more grown up flavor in my tomato soup sometimes!
Tomato rice soup Provencal
I look forward to having a small cup of this delicious AND easy to make tomato rice soup Provencal. I'll probably only put a little bit of rice in mine, or I may even substitute farro or pearl barley to get that extra kick of nutrition and less empty carbohydrates.

Sometimes you need a grown-up, delicious comfort food. Tomato rice soup Provencal will give you the tomato rice soup you loved as a child, but dried and fresh Provencal herbs enhance the tangy tomatoes in this vividly flavored soup. Serve with Croque Monsieur sandwiches and a leafy green salad and a medium-acid red wine. Send the kids to grandma’s, light some candles and enjoy a romantic, gourmet comfort food dinner.

Tomato Rice Soup Provencal

Ingredients for tomato rice soup Provencal:

  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium sized red or Spanish onion, cut into small dice
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 1 rib celery, cut into small dice
  • 1½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1 Tablespoons tomato paste
  •  cups water
  • 1 can (14 to 15 ounces) petite-diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon granulated sugar 
  • ¼ cup medium or long grain white rice
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • ½ cup rice, cooked according to package instructions to make 1 cup cooked rice

How to make tomato rice soup Provencal:

  • In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté onions, carrot, celery, garlic, orange zest, thyme, and fennel seed for 5 minutes, until the vegetables start to become tender.
  • Add tomato paste and water, whisking until the tomato paste is fully incorporated. Stir in canned tomatoes, vegetable stock, salt, pepper, sugar, and rice.
  • Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in parsley and basil. Simmer 5 more minutes on low heat and serve hot.
  •  Yield four 1-cup servings or two 2-cup servings.

Make sure to click the links to get my lower-carb, lower-fat better for you homemade tomato soup recipe and my decadent Croque Monsieur sandwich recipe.

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©Rachael Monaco All Rights Reserved. No part of this recipe/article may be reproduced without prior permissions from the author. The first two sentences may be reposted with a link back to the original recipe/article.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Zucchini noodles and homemade better-for-you pasta sauce -- This is the food I eat!

This is something I look forward to eating again --- Zucchini "noodles"! And homemade better-for-you pasta sauce!

For the four weeks leading up to my surgery I was following a strict South Beach Phase 1 diet. One night "The Hubs" and "Second Son" wanted pasta and I refused to give in and eat it! Not even whole wheat pasta. What did I do? I made zucchini "noodles"!

Zucchini noodles!
Easy enough really! I didn't feel like pulling out the mandolin so I just grabbed my trusty vegetable peeler. I rinsed 3 small zucchini and then I took the vegetable peeler and went to town making thin strips of zucchini!

I put the steamer basket in one of my shallower pots and put water just to the bottom of the pot, turned the burner on high and brought the water to a boil. Then I put the zucchini "noodles" in, covered it and turned off the heat and left it for about 2 to 4 minutes.
Yum! Served with pasta sauce & Italian "sausage" flavored TVP
I came back flipped the "noodles" around a bit and left them covered for another minute. I like mine just barely soft.

Then I tossed them with my homemade better-for-you pasta sauce to which I had added my Italian "sausage" flavored TVP. Put it on the plate and put a little more sauce on it.

Not perfect, but delicious! Until next time...CHEERS!

Rachael Monaco

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Eggplant, chicken and cheese low carb pizza

This recipe was inspired by the low-carb chicken pizza crustrecipe from Yum Eating. The other night I need a mushy smushy way to enjoy pizza. I know I’m only 2 weeks post-op, but damn, I needed something and I am doing wonderfully so I figured I’d make it and see what happens.

Again, DO NOT EAT THIS UNTIL YOUR DOCTOR OR NUTRITIONIST clears you to eat such foods. If you are struggling with problems like foaming, dumping, dehydration, etc. post-op you need to keep to liquids and purees.

I had roasted an eggplant in the oven a few days before. I cut the eggplant into quarters and placed it on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray. I roasted it in the oven at 350*F for about 20 to 30 minutes, until it was really soft. I let it cool then scooped it out of the skin, put it in a container, labeled it and stuck it in the fridge.
My husband had purchased a few cans of white meat chicken so I could quickly puree it for a meal, even just a little at a time. I opened a can of that and dumped it in the colander and rinsed it and let it sit there and let the moisture drain out a bit. It was a 6 ounce can.

Into the food processor went half the roasted eggplant (about ½ to ¾ cup), half the can of chicken and about 2 ounces of shredded, part-skim mozzarella cheese. Hit the button and whipped it till it was a soft and looked pretty mushy. I tested it and it was definitely something that I would call a cross between pureed and soft food.

I sprayed an 8-inch (could have been 9-inc) glass pie pan with cooking spray and patted the eggplant/chicken/cheese mixture into the bottom. I baked it for about 15 to 20 minutes at 350, but it wasn’t quite as done as I would have liked it to be, so back in it went for another 15 to 20 minutes.
After removing the “crust” from the oven I let it cool a bit, and then I topped it with a bunch of mushy or soft vegetables that were easy to chew. Steamed zucchini, then some homemade pasta sauce, some sliced black olives, some mozzarella cheese, and some canned mushrooms. And yes, I snuck in a pinch of red & yellow bell peppers. 

I put the whole thing back in the oven and baked it another 10 or 15 minutes until the cheese was complete melted. Pulled it out, let it cool a bit and kind of cut it into 8 pieces. It was still pretty soft, so it did not cut like a traditional pizza. I removed a small piece from the pie pan using a rubber/silicone spatula. DELICIOUS!!

All always...CHEERS!
Rachael Monaco

©Rachael Monaco All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without prior permissions from the author. Partial reposting is permitted with a link back to the original recipe/article.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Not your average weight loss surgery patient?

It is no secret I love food...duh! That's how I ended up getting as big as I did and needing to have weight loss surgery. But, due to a series of horrendous and life-threatening threatening illness last year I had to change my ways, lose weight and exercise. There were no if ands or buts about it. So began my journey, which started on January 13, 2013 when my husband almost died.
This is us on August 29, 2013
You never realize how ingrained food is in your head until you quit eating something cold turkey. For me it was potato chips, soda, beef jerky, ice cream and candy. I gave them up, cold. If I didn't I wouldn't. The soda, beef jerky, ice cream and candy weren't as difficult as I thought they would be. But the potato chips were a nightmare. It was six months before I stopped hearing potato chips calling my name, even in my sleep. But eventually it stopped. But, along the way I picked up another bad food habit -- pretzels.

Pretzels aren't bad for you, if you eat the recommended serving amount and scrap off all the salt. But eating half a bag of pretzels is not a good thing. So, I had to give up pretzels too.

Then I started switching over to a more plant based diet. I ate more beans and legumes, discovered a soy meat substitute, started finding plant based proteins. I still ate chicken, eggs, cheese, yogurt, fish, pork and beef, just less and less of them. Eventually I took pork out of my diet all together, simply because is wreaked havoc with my digestive system. Red meat eventually sort of disappeared also, I think I probably was eating it maybe twice a month at most.

By mid-June 2013 I had lost 67 pounds and couldn't move the scale any further. My doctor would not clear me for any exercise other than walking a little bit because of a slight enlargement in the lower tricuspid of my heart and a slightly abnormal stress test. I got my blood pressure down with medication and diet and barely squeaked by with another stress test. EKG and carotid dopplers were clear too. But I still couldn't budge that scale. It was time to take more action. I had also brought my A1c (an indicator for diabetes) down to 4.9 with diet, no medication.

I went to my first weight loss surgery seminar on September 5, 2013 and heard about the gastric sleeve. I did my first intake and got my base weight. I followed the diet but as plant-based as I could. There was a lot of arguing along the way until the assigned a WLS nutritionist who understood my concerns and needs to have a plant-based diet. Before my surgery I had dropped a total of 72 pounds.

Finally on December 17, 2013 I was given a date for my surgery. I started drinking one protein drink a day to get myself into the habit. I stuck to a strict plant-based South Beach phase one diet. I had blood work done, an EKG and a chest x-ray and they all came back clear. I breezed through my medical clearance and my final weigh in and had my surgery on February 10, 2014. I lost 14.1 pounds in one week.

And I feel amazing! By the fifth day post-op I was up and all over the place. I did (and still do) tire easily, but that is getting better. Plus, I am finding that I CAN eat foods already that are further down the line. I eat very very very slowly. Sometimes it takes me 1 to 2 hours to finish a meal. But that's okay. I'm eating healthy, the same way I did before surgery. There some foods I ate post-op that I do not ever wish to reintroduce into my diet because I do not think they are worth the calories or carbohydrates. I may eat them from time to time, but they are not something I will incorporate on a regular basis.

I do know I have to go slow and I am, but I am also going at *my* pace and what feels right for *me*. I have one or two instances where I felt I pushed it a wee bit and I could feel myself getting to the limit, but not quite there and definitely not over it. A tiny bit of discomfort now and then, but nothing that does not go away fairly quickly.

You need to know that if you decide to go ahead with weight loss surgery you have to change your life BEFORE you have it. If you do not you will have a much more difficult time adjusting to our post-op life. No two patients are alike and you need to listen to your doctor AND your body. Go to support group meetings and here all the different stories. You can go to support group meetings pre-op, not just after you have gone through weight loss surgery.

As always...CHEERS!
Rachael Monaco

Friday, February 21, 2014

Lentils - how do you cook them and why do you eat them?

I love lentils…they’re packed with nutrition and…they’re easy to make. I even have eaten them for breakfast. I’ve even read that lentils are the healthiest food on earth.

My husband was not that thrilled about eating lentils. But I did find a way he will eat them. Actually a couple of ways, but his favorite seems to be spicy lentils with spinach. Not only is this cheap to make, it’s delicious…and to boot – it’s good for you. And easy.
Buy a bag of dried lentils – they’re right in the bean aisle at the grocery store. They’re brown and look a little like split peas and come in a one pound bag. If you prefer, you can buy them in the bulks section, if they carry them.

A pound of lentils makes a lot – you may want to start by measuring out one cup and cooking that first to see if you like them. Make sure to rinse the lentils with cold water. Place them in a colander or mesh strainer and rinse them. Pick through and remove any stones.
Brown lentils are inexpensive, easy to cook and taste delicious
If cooking 1 cup of dried lentils at a time, take a stock pot or Dutch oven and add 3 cups of water. Add the lentils. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low or medium-low to keep the lentils at a simmer. Cook for approximately 30 to 40 minutes, until lentils are cooked. Some people like them mushy, some like them a bit firm. My husband likes them a bit on the al dente side so I don’t cook them too long, maybe only 20 to 30 minutes.

When cooking only 1 cup dried lentils at a time I add only about ¼ of a 10 ounce package of frozen spinach. I thaw the spinach first then squeeze out most of the water. Then I add it to the lentils. This should thicken them up. If there is a lot of water left in the pot I may drain it out before adding the spinach.
At this point I add whatever spices I want. Usually salt, pepper and some Frank’s hot sauce. Other times I’ll use Garam masala, curry powder, paprika, turmeric and salt.
I serve the lentils in a bowl with toasted pita bread and a big leafy green salad with homemade Greek dressing or just olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

©Rachael Monaco All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without prior permissions from the author. Partial reposting is permitted with a link back to the original article. 

Applesauce cookies -- how can I make them a bit healthier?

I am feeling better, so much better! Even 10 days post-op weight loss surgery I do not feel that food is my enemy. I am even starting to think about the things I want to cook again and how can I make them healthier so that I can enjoy them in moderation at some point.

Applesauce cookies - how can I make them a little healthier
With the exception of the brown sugar and the vegetable oil Applesauce cookies are much healthier oatmeal cookies I used to make many moons ago. I'm going to need to experiment a bit to figure out if I can replace the oil with all applesauce or if I can use egg whites instead. Not sure how I'll deal with the brown sugar. I may go with a combination of molasses or raw honey and raw sugar.

Does anyone have any ideas? I'd love to hear your ideas on how to make them healthier, especially so I can enjoy one eventually!

These cookies come out chewy and delicious, and you can whip them together in an instant. What's even better, they don't require any flour. If you have homemade applesauce, by all means use that, but don't hesitate to use store-bought unsweetened applesauce.

Applesauce cookies recipe
This version created by: Rachael
  • Ingredients for applesauce cookies
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ¼ tsp. salt, optional
  • 1 cup applesauce, unsweetened preferably
  • ½ cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
  • 4 cups quick-cooking oats
  • ½ cup dates, chopped

How to make applesauce cookies:
  • Preheat the oven to 350*F. Prepare two cookie sheets by spraying with nonstick cooking spray or with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl, beat together the brown sugar, oil, vanilla, and salt. Mix in the applesauce, pecans, oats, and dates.
  • Drop cookies, the size of which is your choice, onto cookie sheets approximately 2-inches apart.  I usually use a rounded tablespoonful. Bake the cookies at 375*F until they lightly golden brown. Allow to cool but not too long and enjoy!

Yield: approximately 1½ to 2 dozen cookies depending on size

©Rachael Monaco All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without prior permissions from the author. Partial reposting is permitted with a link back to the original recipe/article.

Here we go...some update photos - pre-op weight loss surgery and post-op 10 days

I don't know how I feel about sharing these photos, but I promised you the truth, nothing but the truth good bad ugly and whatever. Let me know if you think you see any difference in 10 days. I look at myself all the time and I don't see it. I know it's happening because my clothes are huge and my measurements are shrinking, but it's frustrating when you can't see it.

So without further ado, here is the photo taken on 2/10/14 the day I had gastric sleeve surgery. Grumpy, hungry and tired but ready to go!
Surgery day 2/10/14
And this is me 10 days later -- 2/20/14 and down 15 pounds in 10 days
Not seeing much difference yet 2/20/14
Maybe a small difference? 2/20/14
You can kind of see a change in my neck 2/20/14

Not much more to update as far as photos. I feel great though I did tire out yesterday and need to take a break. I think all running around I did the 2 days prior caught up with me. And of course, the vertigo is never quite far from my head...but getting better every day

One more 2/20/14 - can you see a difference?

As always...Cheers!
Rachael Monaco

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Power of Maybe -- Think about it

Last year my husband got very very sick and was in the hospital for 11 days on IV antibiotics in January. In April 2013 he had an operation to remove 25% of his large intestine. He's fine now, very healthy, but it threw me off completely.

I was already in therapy for an unrelated issue due to my health problems but after that scare I had severe anxiety about leaving him alone. I was home for 2 week on FMLA to care for him and when I went back I was worried about his wound dressing, would he eat properly, could he get to the bathroom, would he need help in the bathroom...all kinds of things.

I expressed all these concerns to my therapist and she gave me a hand-out called "The Power of Maybe" and in a nutshell it says when you start to get all riled up and anxious about something, stop and think. Ask yourself, "This could happen" (the bad thing) but MAYBE "That could happen instead" (the good thing). 

"The Power of Maybe" has proven to work for me on the majority of occasions when I find myself getting anxious or ready to have a full on panic attack.

Next time you feel overwhelmed, stressed, anxious try sitting down and using "The Power of Maybe"

As always...CHEERS!
Rachael Monaco

Gastric Sleeve surgery - one week post-discharge from the hospital

I fussed, I fretted, I worried, I obsessed -- it's my nature and yes, I'm OCD. So, what happened at my first visit with the doctor after gastric sleeve surgery? Please note: this is not an endorsement for gastric sleeve surgery, no one is paying me to write this blog and no two patients are the same and everyone's experience with the surgery is different. That being said!

I lost 14.1 pounds in the first week -- now, I don't think this is typical because when I was discharged the doctor said he wanted me to lose 10 pounds THIS month -- from 2-10-14 through 2-28-14. I'm not sure if 2 pounds a day is what happens with everyone.

I loaded up on protein drinks. Well, not loaded up. The post-op instructions for the first two weeks say to get 60g to 80g (for females) from your protein drinks each day. So, I had 4 a day. One powder s 25g protein per scoop, the other is 20g. I alternated them and came up with 100g of protein per day. Plus low sodium V8, watered down apple juice, clear broth, strained cream soups, sugar-free popsicles and sugar-free Jell-O. You sip all day long starting with 1 ounce. They want you to be able to get down 6 ounces an hour. By the middle of week one I was able to do that and by the first post-discharge I was able to do 8 ounces.

Week 2 -- it's almost over! I'm on mainly liquids still with a mix of pureed foods and a smidgen of soft foods. I'm doing well! I even went to the "Y" yesterday and walked on the treadmill for 10 minutes at a low-moderate speed, but no incline. I walked all over Walmart too!

Week 3 will continue with some liquids -- Protein drinks, V8, watered down apple juice (gotta get your veggies and fruits some way!) pureed food (so far I like sweet potato and avocado and cream of wheat) and soft foods (cottage cheese, scrambled egg or egg whites).

Week 4 continue pretty much week 3 then I see the doctor again to see if I can progress to some chicken, tuna and fish. Ham and pork are on the list, but I don't eat those. I'll probably reintroduce beans like chickpeas and pink beans because I see refried beans on that list. I make all my own bean things from dried beans, nothing canned.

Remember this, PLEASE! No two patients are the same! EVERY doctor has their own protocol! They are similar but each doctor will make determinations of how you will progress based on YOU and YOUR recovery and the type of surgery the perform! This is NOT medical advice, it is simply MY experience!

As always...CHEERS!!!
Rachael Monaco

Protein, protein, protein -- It *is* your friend

Protein. We hear the debates all over the place. High protein? High carb? Good carbs? Bad carbs? Good protein? Bad protein? Supplement? No supplement?

Let me tell you my experience, maybe that will help. Going into weight loss surgery I knew I was going to have to drink protein drinks post-op for the rest of my life. I started drinking one or two a day as a replacement for snacks. I replaced skim milk with unsweetened, unflavored almond milk, There are more advantages to almond milk than skim milk, but that's just my opinion.

I bought the ARO black series natural vanilla from Vitacost. I always have purchased my vitamins from them and their brand is of high quality and very affordable. Plus, buy $25 of their brand of any combo and you get free shipping. NO ONE has paid me to endorse these products! I think they are of good quality and reasonably priced. You can register at Vitacost and receive $10 off your first $30 -- if you buy $30 of Vitacost vitamins or products you get free shipping. That's how I got hooked!

I like the ARO black series. I only tried the vanilla and it has a nice creamy texture and it's not gritty at all. Post-op I make mine with 4 ounces unsweetened, unflavored almond milk and 4 ounces of water. The ARO vanilla has 200 calories per scoop and 20 grams of protein and 7 carbs. It's not PERFECT for a post-op patient, gets the protein in me and the "extra" carbs IMHO are negligible.
You can add anything you want to the powder. Pre-op I once combined strawberries, grape tomatoes and a teaspoon or two of unsweetened cocoa powder. I buy Hersey since I use so little of it and it's high quality. That was a really delicious drink and it wasn't super sweet with the tomatoes.

I also tried the GNC 100% soy isolate Pro Performance powder. Umm...yeah, not my thing. I am mixing it with the ARO. IMHO the GNC is really for athletes or people who exercise/work out a lot. No matter how much I blend it I always seem to get a gritty taste.
GNC Pro Performance Vanilla -- 25g protein

GNC Pro Performance Vanilla - 25g protein
Post-op I added nothing -- and I drank 4 a day, alternating them. A post-op weight loss surgery femald needs to get 60g to 80g protein every day JUST from their protein supplement. Well, since your drinking liquids: low sodium V-8, watered down apple juice, water, sugar-free Jell-O, sugar-free popcicles, clear broth and strained cream soups you have got to drink at least 3 a day. I drank four. Two ARO and two GNC. That gave me 100g - MORE than enough.

The initial price tag for protein powder can cause sticker shock. Let me assure you, it's worth it. Get the best you can afford in the 20g to 25g range and try to make sure the carbs are 5g or less per scoop. Read your labels carefully. Some are made with milk and sucralose (Splenda) -- like the Vitacost. If you have milk allergies, look for a 100% SOY isolate powder. If you have soy issues and milk issues consult your doctor or dietitian for help.

So, that's it about protein. Protein drinks are NOT to be used WITH a meal. You can't make them with ice cream -- they are not meant to be a milk shake. They are meant to BE a meal. You can make them into smoothies with fruits and veggies. Kale and spinach are good things to throw into you protein drinks. Not post-op for at least 4 months, but if you're not a WLS (weight loss surgery) patient put a pinch of fresh spinach or kale in with your strawberries or blueberries. 

There are many flavors of protein powders out there but I intend to try an unflavored one and add pure vanilla extract or instant coffee or unsweetened cocoa powder to mine, for now. Later I can add fruits and veggies. Also one note to end my rant on protein -- if you have a blender strong enough to crush ice, using a little ice will thicken up any protein drink and make it LIKE a milkshake. But DO NOT USE ICE CREAM!

As always -- CHEERS!
Rachael Monaco

Monday, February 17, 2014

Had gastric sleeve surgery a week ago today -- update

One week ago today I had gastric sleeve surgery, aka weight loss surgery. How do I feel? Surprisingly I feel amazing.

I'm a little tired of the liquid diet and on Saturday I was miserable and went on a 60 minute crying jag. But I have no pain left, occasional discomfort but that's about it. I have my one week follow up with my doctor tomorrow.

Interestingly enough another health condition I have isn't so well managed right now. I suffer from Meniere's disease. It's not so much a disease as a syndrome or a chronic condition. For me, its managed with a delicate balance of medication, diet, exercise, medication and fluid intake. Stress plays a huge factor in Meniere's and that causes panic attacks which only makes the flare ups worse. 

Well, my diet is off, I can't exercise yet, I have to take my medications in steps so it's taking time for them to work as a cohesive unit. And yes, having panic attacks for a variety of reasons. It's not pleasant and I battle it every day. 

I promise to get some recipes up soon. I'm still on liquids and looking at food isn't high on my priority list right now! I hope this post finds YOU happy and healthy!

As always...cheers!
Rachael Monaco

Friday, February 14, 2014

Life after weight loss surgery -- Day 4

It's Friday, Feb. 14, 2014 -- I like those numbers 2-14-14 -- they just look so pleasant! Another morning when I was woken up before 6am by a cat trying to get something (like my glasses) out of my jewelry cabinet. Gotta love them!
Fred -- the troublemaker -- and what he thinks is HIS desk chair!
I feel good! I honestly physically feel good! Except for some balance issues (which have to do with my Meniere's syndrome and not my surgery), I feel as if I could take on the world. I was able to get down 60g of protein yesterday just from my protein drinks! Yeah! I'm using the Vitacost Aro Black Series vanilla. It's not perfect, but I can get it down without gagging. I'm getting down darn close to the 6 ounces per hour they want you to get down and not feeling any back up or heaviness. I try to get as much of my protein down in the early part of the day as I can and then sip on water, tomato juice and apple juice/water the rest of the day, then more protein in the evening. Even some broth and a little of a cream soup the other day.

I am even thinking that I may go to the "Y" today and/or tomorrow and just do a little light walking on the treadmill. Yes, the doctor said that was fine. I'll just put my protein drink in my travel mug and lug it along. I'm sure I'll only get 10 or 15 minutes in. If the weather would cooperate I'd just take a walk outside.'s not, so the "Y" it is! I can't lift anything heavy yet, which is fine. And though I don't have any pain from the tiny incision in my chest, I do feel "tugging" on my abdomen on those incisions. It's not painful, but it is uncomfortable at times. Nothing a little Tylenol and rest doesn't fix. And I do tire easily. But, I only took two naps yesterday instead of four!

I would post photos of my incisions but I think they'd get pulled down for some kind of violation of terms of service. Let me just say this, they are not ugly and I expect to have little to no scarring. Amazing, huh?

Except for Meniere's, which sucks and I hope NO ONE ever gets that, I'm doing well. I've noticed more hearing loss in my right ear and I've had some balance issues, which are nothing new. That all has to do with getting the right amount of fluids in my body at the right time. That's ever changing and probably will be an issue for the rest of my life.

More observations to come! Hope you have a wonderful day!

Rachael Monaco

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Day Two and Three post op -- what a difference 24 hours makes!

Yesterday (Wednesday) was my first full day home from the hospital post gastric sleeve surgery. It was a mixed bag day -- good, bad, ugly. Some pain but I had my trusty liquid Loratab to keep that at bay. Surprisingly, I only needed two doses (15mL each). One when I woke up in pain at 3am and one at bed time at 10pm -- which was more preemptive than actual pain.
Harley Doodle Big Cat
This guy kept me company a lot yesterday. This is my baby -- a 6 year old, 20 pound rag doll named Harley. Yeah, he's that big. Stretched out he's about 2 feet tall from tail to nose. Of course, he thinks he's a lap cat. Tuesday and Wednesday he wasn't happy with me. When I got home Tuesday he pretty much ignored me for a couple hours then came sniffing around to find out what was up. Then he tried to crawl in my lap.

After pleading and begging and gently pushing him off he finally got the hint and settled into the chair next to me and let me rub his tummy and pet him. All is good between mommy and Harley. And so Tuesday went. Pain, gagging down the protein drink, keeping Harley off my lap.

Wednesday was my first full day home and it kind of sucked. I won't lie to you, weight loss surgery is no joke. I'm not going to run around advocating it, but...and this is a big but, much like my butt, if it's a choice between your life and death, I recommend speaking to your doctor and doing your homework. It took me 10 years to come to a decision -- and I finally did it only because the gastric sleeve was the least invasive. I have one small cut in my chest (and I mean TINY) and three small cuts on my abdomen. Not even stitched, just surgical glue. 

Most of the pain came in the form of a "chest heaviness" where my stomach is and the line of staples. I have been putting ice packs on that and the pain has reduced to mild discomfort. I've been resting and not doing much (as you can see!) but all in all, God bless! I'm doing pretty damn good. 

While I was a patient on the surgical floor I did see, and hear, a lot of patients in much more pain than I. This makes me feel bad to say this, but an observation I made was that of six or seven of us on the floor I was the "smallest" patient. I was also the only on out of bed within 6 hours (like you're supposed to be) and walking. And I was the only one discharged the next day. Most of my comrades-in-arms were still in bed and in severe pain. It made me sad.

Gagging down the God awful protein powder has been a challenge. I bought two kinds and only one I am able to use. The other, no matter how much milk and water I add to's gritty and it's just not nice. So, I switched back to the one that isn't all that bad. It's only 20g protein vs. 25g protein per scoop, but I can actually get down a couple of ounces an hour 3 days post op. The other one I was lucky to get an ounce down -- and that was with a considerable amount of gagging. So....better to use the one I can get down than the one I can't right?

Enough for now! I have so much more to share and I promise to share the good, bad and the downright ugly! So far the ugliest was my reaction to the anesthesia (UGH!!!) and the pain, which on a scale from one to ten for me was at it's worst a seven, and that wasn't for very long. Generally it was around a 2 or 3 -- and that was just pretty much discomfort, not actual pain.

Until next time....CHEERS!
Rachael Monaco

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Day One post op -- Anesthesia reaction

Hello all!!! I got through my surgery well, but I will tell you this. It's definitely the option of last resort. Don't get me wrong, I'm not sorry went through it, but if you can do it on your own, do it.

Everything went very smoothly the day of surgery and the entire procedure took 28 minutes. I was in PACU for about 2 hours. The anesthesia made me pretty sick. I had never had an operation before so, of course, no one knew what to expect. But after trying a few medications the doctor prescribed a patch to put behind my ear and t worked perfectly.

As for pain, yes...there's pain. Everyone's tolerance for pain is different, and I think the worst mine got was a 6 out of 10. I went home the next day, leaving the hospital about noon time.

The overnight stay in the hospital went fine. I had a private room, thank goodness. I used my ice chips and drank my half water/half apple juice as instructed. I had an IV keeping me hydrated as well. My oxygen levels stayed excellent all night and the only time my blood pressure went up was when in pain.

I'm home now and I'll write about day two (today Wednesday 2/12/14) a bit tomorrow.

As always, Cheers!
Rachael Monaco

Sunday, February 9, 2014

This is it for a few days...maybe longer

Tomorrow I need to be at the hospital at 7:30am -- my surgery is at 10:30am -- I don't expect to be able to post anything more today and maybe not until next week.

Nov. 2, 2013
That photo was taken right before going to our niece's wedding. I haven't lost any weight since then so that will serve...pretty much as my full length before photo.
Nov. 2, 2013

One more -- just my face!

And this was taken on Dec. 22, 2013 at the Monaco Christmas Cookie Baking Day Event -- nothing lost since Nov. 2, 2013 -- my weight has stayed pretty much the same since October 2013
Dec. 22, 2013
This is not a cure, a miracle and it's not the end of the road. This is merely a stepping stone to help me get where I need to be. It's not going to be easy and I bet some days are not going to be very fun at all! But, I'm ready. I've been eating healthier for 13 months and exercising (finally cleared!) for almost 2 months. I know I have to keep that up! I know it's going to take months of liquid and pureed foods to get back to "normal" but I'm ready! Ready! Set? GO! See you soon!

Rachael Monaco

Friday, February 7, 2014

Lower Fat Macaroni Salad - This Is The Food I Eat

I don't eat a lot of pasta or macaroni these days, but "The Hubs" does like a little pasta or macaroni from time to time.
On the night we decided we weren't going to go out for the deep-fried, calorie-loaded Western NY fish fry and went home and made baked salmon with lemon and dill and oil & vinegar coleslaw instead, "The Hubs" wanted macaroni salad. I can't say I blame him, he hadn't had it in quite some time!
cooked elbow macaroni -- used 1 cup dry
It was easy enough to make -- I just had to come up with a way to replace the mayonnaise. Since "The Hubs" likes whipped salad dressing (Miracle Whip) more than mayo anyway, that was half the battle.

I chopped up some celery
Chopped celery -- I like to use some of the leaves too
I chopped up some onion
chopped white onion - but I also like red or Vidalia

Then I pulled out some of the strained plain yogurt I keep in the fridge for smoothies and to use as sour cream or to make tzatziki. I mixed half strained plain yogurt and half whipped salad dressing and mixed it up with the cooked elbow macaroni. I only used a cup of dry elbow macaroni and it made enough for the two of us to have 1/4 cup serving -- and some left for the next day.
The finished product!

I didn't add tuna that night, but you could add some canned, drained tuna if you wanted to do so. "The Hubs" declared it great the way it was!

Enjoy and Cheers!
Rachael Monaco

Baked Salmon with Dill -- This is the Food I Eat

Ever since I started really losing weight in January 2013 people started asking me, "What diet are you on?" or "What do you eat?" Sometimes when you tell people or you show them you lunch (when you're at work) they just don't seem to get it. But the truth of it is, once you get into it the healthier for you food tastes better than the not so healthy for you food.

When we were at the YMCA a few days ago several of the older members were talking about going for a fish fry. Not sure if that's the same thing everywhere, but here in Western NY, it means a big old hunk of cod or haddock, usually beer-battered, and deep fried. It's usually served with fries, coleslaw and/or potato salad and/or macaroni salad and either dinner rolls or a thick slice of rye bread with butter. 

Here I am, doing my 60 minutes on the treadmill and 30 minutes of water jogging and I can't get the words "FISH FRY" out of my head! When "The Hubs" and I met up in the member meeting room after out workouts he asked me what I wanted for dinner. I said..."A FISH FRY!!!" He said, "I KNEW you were going to say that!" But alas, we did not go for a fish fry. We decided to go home and have baked salmon but we still wanted coleslaw and tuna macaroni salad. So, we had to come up with something better than all that mayonnaise.

We headed home and I made oil and vinegar coleslaw to go with our fish
"The Hubs" baked salmon in the oven with some lemon and dried dill. Baking salmon is fairly easy, you just want to make sure you do not over cook it. Salmon gets dry and icky when you over cook it. We buy frozen salmon at both Save-A-Lot and PriceRite. Defrost the salmon n the fridge overnight.

To cook the salmon:
Preheat the oven to 350*F (ovens vary so you may need to set yours higher or lower)
Spray a cookie sheet with some non-stick cooking spray.
Place the salmon fillets on the prepared cookie sheet.
Drizzle with lemon juice, to taste. Sprinkle with dried dill weed, salt and pepper, to taste.
Bake the salmon for about 10 minutes and then check it. Poke it with a fork. If it flakes a little and is just about cooked through, it's done. Take it out and let it rest on the cookie sheet for about 3 minutes to allow the fish to finish cooking on the hot cookie sheet.
If the salmon is not done, rotate the cookie sheet and let cook another 3 to 5 minutes.

We served this with a modified, lower fat version of tuna macaroni salad. We put the salmon fillet on a bed of greens drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and a side of steamed broccoli.

I'll post the lower fat tuna macaroni salad recipe later! Until then...
Rachael Monaco

Only 3 more days until weight loss surgery!

Today is February 7, 2014 -- and I am 3 days away from my weight loss surgery. I am excited and scared all at the same time. I had my final weigh in at the office on Monday, Feb. 3 and it's been a whirlwind since!

The Berries are hiding something!
There were a few items I had to pick up and food I had to buy for the 2 weeks post-op --- if you can call juice and broth and sugar-free gelatin food. I'll be on all liquids and whey protein powder for 2 weeks. Good think I started getting used to the protein drinks 2 weeks ago! I bought an ebook -- Do Anything with Protein Powder that I found on YUM Eating and I'm loving it. Of course, post-op my protein drinks will be 4 ounces of unflavored, unsweetened almond milk and just protein powder, but let me tell you -- the book is worth having -- and it's a steal at 99¢!

This was not an easy choice to make and it's not a miracle cure. This weight loss surgery is merely a stepping stone to a better life. After surgery the rest is up to me. I need to keep eating healthy, I need to keep exercising, I need to keep positive and banish the negative from my life as much as possible. I know there are foods I will need to avoid, probably forever, but I choose to see it as "I choose not to eat...." rather than "I can't eat...."

I'll be in the hospital overnight -- some people end up staying for 3 days, but I plan on being a good girl and getting out of there ASAP! I'll be up and walking around 6 hours after surgery, or so I'm told -- which is fine with me!

I may not get another chance to post anything past today, but as soon as I am able I will let you know how things went and how I'm doing!

Until then...CHEERS!
Rachael Monaco