Diet and Exercise Plans

I think most people make some sort of diet and exercise resolutions, so I’d like to recommend a couple of web-based programs that I’ve used and really enjoy.

No Excuses Workout

First, the No Excuses Workout system is great for planning workouts, monitoring your weight-loss progress, and motivating you to keep going. The program is easy to use and has helped me a lot.

I use the heart rate monitor all the time now and love it! Using the monitor and the workout plans, I’ve improved my speed and endurance. I used the system’s email notification system to remind me when I hadn’t entered anything in for a week, and you can adjust those settings according to your personal needs.

Although I was rather sporadic about entering my information, I lost 11 pounds this year, and I attribute some of that to this program’s motivating me to keep working out and to keep improving.

You can also earn reward points for entering your workout information and weight, and then you can redeem your points for anything from a water bottle or pair of sunglasses to a personal coaching meeting with the program’s founder. If you’d like to join this program, please let me know first, so I can get the points for recommending you!


Second, I’d like to recommend LIVESTRONG for monitoring calorie intake (you can also use their fitness plans, but I’m partial to No Excuses right now). You can create a login in seconds, and the site is easy to navigate and has tons of cool features.

The MyPlate page keeps track of your calorie count, shows how many calories you have left, and tracks how many calories you’ve burned, and reports the info in cool bar graphs and pie charts. MyPlate has tons of calorie counts in it’s system–way more than CalorieKIng and sites like that–and you can add and store your own recipes or look up recipes that are similar.

I also love the MyMeals tab, which allows you to store combinations of food that you commonly have at one meal; for example, you could enter oatmeal, banana, and milk and save it as “oatmeal breakfast” and then you never have to enter the individual ingredients again. I love the simplicity of this system.

From about Thanksgiving to Christmas, I used CalorieKing and an Excel chart to keep track of my calorie counts (and lost about 5 pounds during that time frame, btw), but I found that system difficult to manage as it required much flipping between web pages and the Excel file. However, I’ve used LIVESTRONG the last few days and love it! I have it as a tab on my menu bar, so I can easily access and update my calorie counts. I’m excited to see if the ease of using LIVESTRONG helps me in the long run more than the Excel version did.


This year, my health and fitness goals are to lose another 15-20 pounds, work out 5 times a week (including the No Excuses strength-training plan at least one day a week), run a 1/2 marathon, improve my 5k time, and earn enough points to get a pair of super-cool sunglasses.

Fiesta Food for Zeke’s Graduation Party

In the style of King Arthur Flour’s website, I’m going to post more pictures and notes of the food I made than you probably care to read. I had never cooked for so many people before, so it was quite an ordeal! We were expecting over 100! Now, I was not solely responsible for the food; the other families provided hot dogs and hamburgers, vegetable trays, coleslaw, and cake and ice cream, too. But I was solely responsible for all of the Chamorro fiesta food. I practiced making the chicken, red rice and pancit before leaving Guam. Earlier this week I created a huge shopping list, comparing all the recipes and double checking to make sure I had everything. Mom did all of the shopping and even enlisted the help of a couple of Asian ladies to find the canton noodles I needed.

The pile of groceries on our counter was quite amazing.

All the soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil. Our kitchen has never seen so much soy sauce!

On Thursday, I spent over 4 hours chopping vegetables and slicing the meat. My wrist got so tired, I had to finish the meat on Friday. I cut 8 1/2 pounds of beef into 1/8 inch strips (or close to 1/8 inch strips–I did not measure!).

This is the cooler full of vegetables. I cut them to specification, split the vegetables for each recipe into bags and labeled them, so I wouldn’t get confused on Friday. This system worked pretty well.

On Friday, I cooked all of the rice, bagogi, and pancit. The links lead to the recipes I used. I also added notes about my variations.

The fried rice turned out great! I had never made it before, but it was really easy and had a nice flavor.

Nate helped me by slicing the chicken and making the marinade for the chicken. (My wrist was still really tired and he was being a gentleman.)

Here’s all of the meat marinating in the refrigerator. For those who cook for a lot of people all the time, it probably doesn’t look like much, but for me, it was pretty impressive. Look at all those onions! Both marinades call for tons of onion.

You can use this marinade for any type of meat, but chicken is probably the most common. You can grill the meat or broil it, as I did, because there wasn’t enough grill space.

The red rice also turned out well. Yum! Note: red rice tastes much better if you cook it on the day you’re going to serve it, instead of cooking it the day before and warming it up; however, the flavor is still pretty bland.

I was really excited about the bagogi–also spelled bulgogi or bulgoki. The flavor is excellent! I especially love the sesame flavoring and the meat is tender. The picture does not do the food justice; bagogi tastes much better than it looks.

The pancit was a little more tricky this time than when I made it the first time. I realized later that we had dried canton noodles made of wheat flour. On Guam, I cooked with fresh egg noodles, which cooked much faster than the dried noodles. If you make the pancit with dried noodles, cook the noodles first before adding them to the vegetables. Speaking of vegetables, I put in quite a bit more than the Guamanian recipes I found. I love the bright colors and felt like part of this meal needed to have some vegetables other than onion in it.

Prize-Winning Peppermint Chocolate Cake

Since posting pictures on facebook of the cake I made for my brother’s birthday, I have received several requests for the recipe (in just one evening!). So, I decided to post the recipe and some instructions on decorating it.

I really did win a prize for this cake (although the winning cake was a slightly different version than what is pictured below). I won 3rd place in the baking contest for the Mother Daughter Extravaganza at Harvest Baptist Church on Mother’s Day weekend. I wonder how the cake would have fared in the current dark chocolate version?

The simple version: Buy a chocolate cake mix and chocolate frosting (I recommend Betty Crocker). Bake the cake. Mix in about 1/2 to 1 tsp of mint extract into the frosting (could be chocolate or vanilla). Frost the cake. I swirl the frosting rather than try to get clean, flat planes (swirled frosting hides a multitude of errors). Decorate the cake with white chocolate curls and chopped up Andes Mints.

The harder version: Bake a chocolate cake from scratch and make frosting from scratch. Then frost and decorate as described above. For Zeke’s cake, I followed the recipe on the back of the Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa container.

Hershey’s “Especially Dark” Chocolate Cake
2 c. sugar
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 c. milk
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. boiling water

Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Poor batter into prepared pans. Bake 30-35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. 10-12 servings.

Especially Dark Chocolate Frosting
1/2 c. butter or margarine
2/3 c. Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa
3 c. powdered sugar
1/3 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount of additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

For mint flavoring, add about 1/2-1 tsp. mint extract (basically, until the frosting tastes minty enough to you).

Tastes great with vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!