Chicken Mandarin Salad and Spaghetti with Spinach


A spring green salad topped with slices of roast chicken, mandarin oranges, dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds from the deli this afternoon, with balsamic vinaigrette – it was outstanding, and although it’s one of those dishes I’m so familiar with it would never occur to me to actually make it, now that the seed has been planted I might – a good use of leftover roast chicken (or turkey still in the freezer) perhaps with pea pods, asparagus, toasted pecans, chopped iceberg lettuce (along with the greens for extra bulk and crunch) and an Asian dressing made with 3 Tbsp. canola oil, 1 Tbsp. sesame oil, 3 Tbsp. rice vinegar, 1-2 Tbsp. brown sugar and 1 Tbsp. soy sauce. (Those chow mein noodles are a delicious addition because they are deep-fried, so I’d leave them out.)

When we got home I pulled a container of spaghetti sauce with spinach out of the freezer and boiled some pasta. And I’m eating one dark chocolate square while typing this and catching up on Battlestar Galactica. (So many people argue ‘I can’t eat just one!’  Actually, you can. Yes it’s hard and trust me, I know how badly you want to keep going, but it is humanly possible. Although sometimes I find it’s easier to not even start. But when you do stick to one, it’s about as empowering as you can get.)

Good news: went to the gym this morning at the Chateau and spent half an hour on the elliptical trainer. Felt so much better for doing it. (A friend once said ‘I always regret not going to the gym, but I never regret going’.) Also wandered around the hotel with a green tea in hand instead of a latte (the act of carrying around that coffee cup and having something to sip is almost as important as the contents. I said almost.)

Bad news: the gym had a medical scale that’s 6 lbs off my home scale. Not in my favour. Why is it you never discover you’re actually 6 lbs less than you thought? Oh well – I don’t look or feel any different than I did before I weighed myself – interesting how a number can completely change your perspective, so I’m not going to let it.

A few years ago I vowed to go an entire year without weighing myself. Having been overweight since I can remember, it was pretty liberating. Because it really is all about how you feel, and seeing those numbers can totally throw you off. Case in point: About 10 years ago my nephew, around 7 at the time, made the connection between my sister’s mood and the number on her scale. He started adjusting the dial at the base, turning it down just a smidge every morning, so that by the end of the week she was ecstatic over losing howevermany pounds it had amounted to. She was happy, confident – just bursting with general elation. When she figured out what was going on she was completely deflated. Silly, since everything was exactly the same except for a number in her head. (It’s sort of like vanity sizing – clothes sizes are getting smaller and smaller because women are more likely to buy a pair of pants that’s a size 6 than a 10. Have you ever heard that Marilyn Monroe was a size 16? That’s because a size 16 back then is about an 8 today – when has there ever been a size zero? What’s next – minus 2?)

However. I am going to use the scale this time as a tool to help track my progress, but not the only tool – how I feel and how my clothes fit have always been as important a gauge. (Unfortunately not a unit of measure as easily conveyed to y’all.) I don’t want to put too much importance on weight, but I also need a little push out of my comfort zone by putting it out there, which I’m hoping might help some of you who are in the same boat.

The Ski for Heart event was fantastic, by the way – a great family event with tons of activities for kids of all ages (explorer camp, movies, skating parties, cookie baking in the Fairmont kitchens, scavenger hunt, hockey games, horse-drawn sleigh rides around the lake), all to benefit the Alberta Heart & Stroke Foundation. There were a lot of families there who make it a yearly event, raising funds throughout the year and then coming for a fun weekend that might not otherwise be affordable – participants get a steal of a deal on accommodation at the Chateau. I’ll be back next year! Email me or Ski for Heart if you want to get in on the fun. You can cross-country (me) or downhill, or just hang around the hotel, go snowshoeing and skate.


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16 comments on “Chicken Mandarin Salad and Spaghetti with Spinach

  1. maris
    January 12, 2009 at 6:09 am

    This sounds so good! I love your “diet” plan too. For two years I was very careful with what I ate and didn’t really enjoy food. I lived my life by the number and once I was able to break that habit gained almost 15 lbs. I’m trying now to shed a few of those by cutting sweets and exercise but it is a lot easier to put lbs ON then take them off!

  2. Jen C
    January 12, 2009 at 6:02 am

    That salad does sound great! I am the same way, when I do decide to make one I think ‘man this is great’ or ‘why don’t I make these more often’. I have been combining shredded cabbage and even some of that broccoli slaw into my regular romaine salad – adds more fibre and also seems to give it MORE. I also add dried cranberries, snap peas, pumpkin seeds and pretty much anything else that I can find to round it out.
    I share yours and many others participating here, with the weight battles. I’m a yo-yo’er and I don’t own a scale. I go by how I feel and how my clothes fit but also know I’ve let things go since the summer so time to get back to it and make some good changes. I’ve been getting out walking and trying to cut back on portion sizes, food with zero nutrient-value and the wine – that’s my strategy and we’ll see where it leads.
    My dinner last night was homemade pizza – usually I put sausage on it, along with mushrooms and kalamata olives but tonight omitted the sausage and it was still pretty yummy. We do the dough in our bread machine so it was pretty good and you can control what ingredients go into it. Going back a couple of posts, my fave, FAVE wine is Mad Fish from Austrailia – it is soooooooo good.
    Keep up the good work Julie and everyone else who is doing the same thing!

  3. pauline
    January 12, 2009 at 7:17 am

    Yes the number on the scale, that horrible little thing that sits in the bathroom, can alter my mood too. I don’t use it now no thats a lie once a week. Yesterday was my last day of eating whatever I felt like I probably gained 10 lbs . Its over now and I will be strong and sensible. getting out there for a long walk today and portion control. Good luck to everyone struggling with weight, it is a never ending battle.

  4. sue.d
    January 12, 2009 at 7:32 am

    Salad looks gorgeous! I’d tuck into to one of those anyday, yet why do I not think to make my own? Maybe tonight, now that it’s been brought to my attention.

    The Lake sounds SO fun! How far ahead does a person book for next year?

  5. elektra
    January 12, 2009 at 8:10 am

    weight is a number and it’s necessary to track without resorting to weighing oneself every day. it is a physical manifestation of one’s size although not necessarily one’s well being.

    i can think back to a (younger) time when i weighed 140 and felt unwell (controlled weight with food and no exercise) AND a time when I weighed 160 and felt so healthy and well (controlled weight with exercise and food). at my age (44), i’m looking for feeling well and so 160 is my goal and i know i have to weigh myself in order to achieve that goal.

  6. Barb
    January 12, 2009 at 9:37 am

    I have started pushing harder at my exercise and , you’re right, it feels so good. Getting at it is the hardest part.

  7. Dana
    January 12, 2009 at 11:23 am

    After all the root veggies and such of the holiday season, I’ve been really enjoying salads again. Mostly mine have had homemade miso dressing tossed with frisee and mache. Yum!

    Here’s my miso dressing recipe if anyone needs one:

  8. liza
    January 12, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    ahoy matey! we are on the same boat.
    i am really liking this new year of your blog.

  9. Ethel
    January 12, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Hand me a paddle – I’m in your boat also. I have been trying to get back into the swing of things but this winter has been the hardest yet. Lots of snow and lots of cold. But I think tommorrow will be the day to start (again). For the record I am 199 and only 5’4″ certainly not where I should be. Thanks for the inspiration – I will keep you posted on how things work out.

  10. claire
    January 12, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Hey Julie,

    Whoa! I use Starting Out regularly and have even bought it for friends as a gift, and also occasionally peruse your blog, but only today made the connection between the two! I am a college student with a history of extreme yo-yo dieting (you know, bingeing on pizza and beer and then living off the cafeteria salad bar for three days to compensate). I am currently not overweight (though I have been obese in the past) mostly thanks to eating whole foods and learning to cook and trying to avoid typical crappy student fare, aided by cookbooks like yours. Thank you!

  11. Nancy Gibson
    January 12, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Thanks for the great salad idea–sounds easy and delicious.
    Did you enjoy the workout on the elliptical? With 3 kids an a busy work and family life, my husband and I are not getting out to exercise nearly as much as we would like and have contemplated buying a piece of exercise equipment. The elliptical has me intrigued…would I use it or would it sit and stare at me while I snack on the couch?! You are motivating me to find out though 🙂

  12. Lisa
    January 12, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    I told my Mike that you watched “Battlestar Galactica”. He said you have very good taste. 😉 Looking forward to hearing you on Tues morning!

  13. JulieVR
    January 12, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Battlestar Galactica is AWESOME. You need to watch them all though. Not Star Trekky at all.

    Re the elliptical: It’s by far my favourite piece of exercise equipment – it’s low-impact, uses my own body weight (unlike something like the bike where I’m sitting down and not carrying my own weight) and gets my heart rate up for the least amount of effort (or so it seems!) The only reason I don’t own one is because I know if I only do one thing every day it will eventually start to lose its effectiveness…

  14. Nancy Gibson
    January 13, 2009 at 5:15 am

    Julie thanks for the info on the elliptical –you are probably right about one piece of equipment losing it’s effectiveness. I have been excited about my new workout routines before and never stick with any one thing for too long but I’m going to give it a try on a week trial pass at the gym and see if I can kick start my new year workouts (which have not started yet 🙂 )

  15. Taffy Cass
    January 17, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Hi Julie –

    Saw the article in the Post today. Have lost track of Meg. Any chance that we can communicate privately? Taffy (Formerly of Briar Hill, mother of Neil & Aaron)

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