Monday, June 1, 2020

Around the Kitchen Table: Our Summer Weight Loss Tips & Recipes w/book #giveaway

CLEO COYLE: If you follow this blog, then you know we all enjoy treats. We've blogged beautiful cakes, cookies, and rich desserts. Just for today, however, with summer now upon us, I thought it would be fun to ask my fellow culinary mystery writers to share some ideas for lighter fare, as well as weight loss tips they've found helpful over the years.

I'll go first...

By now, I'm sure most of us have heard about intermittent fasting, though it may not not be the solution for everyone. It has worked for me and my metabolism. I've lost twenty pounds with this method (singing "Hallelujah!" from the chubby girl chorus), although the key for me has been keeping my carb intake low, as well, and that means keeping my cravings under control.

My best tip is: don't fight your cravings, trick yourself into satisfying them. Here is one example. I enjoy pizza, but it's too high in carbs and calories for me when I'm not moving around enough. Instead of eating a New York slice, I'll make my "Pizza Bites" (click here for the recipe or on the photo below). It's just one example of how I'll "trick" my craving monster with a lower carb (and calorie) treat...

Click the photo for Cleo's recipe.

How about you, fellow foodies? 
Do you have any tips or recipes that you
find helpful for weight loss?

(Join us in the comments with your own!)


LESLIE B: Though I've been a Weight Watchers' Lifetime member for more than 30 years, I do occasionally need to take off a few pounds, usually after the holidays. What works best for me is to focus not on what I can't eat, but on making the positive choices that will help me reach my goal. It's starts with planning -- knowing what we'll make for dinner for the next few days, often making a soup or a dish full of vegetables, grains, or beans. Bonus? Plenty of leftovers so it's easy to figure out lunch and avoid being tempted by, say, grilled cheese -- our topic in March! 

Herbs and spices are a great way to make dishes tasty without adding calories. This Greek Chicken with Baby Bell Peppers, Orzo, and Tzatziki is my adaptation of a Weight Watchers recipe that fits the bill perfectly.

And I always save "room" in my plan for dark chocolate or a glass of wine!


DARYL:  My dieting tip is eat less at night and try to eat only protein and vegetables at night.  About a year ago, I cut back to eating "half" what I thought I'd like to eat and that seems to be perfect for maintaining my weight.  Now, don't get me wrong. I like sugar and carbs, and I do eat those in morning, before lunch. I might splurge with a Dove's dark chocolate mid-afternoon. But I find that having my carbs early lets my body burn it off throughout the day. I use protein powder in my milk with fruit breakfast. I like scrambled eggs for lunch.  Like Leslie I think herbs make all the difference in a meal, so use liberally. Also, like Leslie, I do like a glass of wine at night. With a good book? Heaven. 


Lucy's vegetable beef soup
LUCY: This is such an important question, Cleo, with the news out last month that 40% of Americans are obese. 40%! Yikes! Here's my best advice: Don't diet. Eat everything in moderation, except for vegetables--and there the sky is the limit! If I make cookies for example, I then freeze them so I can dole them out one by one. It's harder to eat a lot of cookies if they're frozen. If you eat out one night and order fried chicken and mashed potatoes, maybe the next night a vegetable soup and salad are in order? Here's an easy recipe for creamed vegetable soup, but you'll find lots more on our website!

And plan all this before you're starving--it's so much harder to resist treats when you're hungry. One more tiny tip--make water your drink of choice. It has no calories and it's good for your body.

And finally, exercise. Walk, attend a yoga class, go to a trainer at the gym. You'll feel better and did you know that muscles burn more calories than fat?


MAYA: I agree with Lucy about eating in moderation instead of giving up foods you like. Like her, I freeze cookies to enjoy them one by one. In my case, it's more often two than just one, but they're small cookies :-) and I don't usually have a dessert after dinner unless it's fruit.

My best tip for weight loss: Fish rather than fast. Fish can be a leaner and lower-calorie source of protein than meat, and it doesn't take long to cook or require elaborate preparation. I shared one of my favorite fish recipes on Mystery Lovers' Kitchen a few weeks ago: Parmesan Halibut Steak. It has only five ingredients and takes barely 15 minutes to prepare. While it's cooking, you can make a salad to go with it. Fresh Alaskan halibut is readily available during the spring months, but you can also use this recipe for any firm-flesh fish like mahi or swordfish. 

Maya's halibut steak with a side salad


PEG: I recently lost 20 lbs. using the Weight Watcher blue plan--you've probably seen some of the WW friendly recipes I've been posting. I do what a lot of other MLK folk do--I eat fewer carbs.  I've found substitutes like these pancakes made with bananas and eggs.   I measure the carbs I do occasionally eat like rice to keep me honest and I also measure the oil I cook with.  I've found you usually don't need anywhere near the amount in so many recipes! Luckily I don't have much of a sweet tooth--I'd rather have a glass of wine.  Like Lucy, if we go out to dinner or a party, I allow myself to indulge in whatever I want--but I eat a light breakfast and lunch beforehand and also cut back the next day. That way I don't feel deprived.  Plus hubby and I have started to take a short walk (just shy of a mile) with our coffee in the mornings and then a longer "power" walk in the afternoons.

ESSIE LANG:   Honestly, the only weight-reducing solution in my house would be to lock up the kitchen cabinets with timed releases on them, only at mealtime. It's just too, too easy to stop and pull open a cabinet door, rummage around and pop something into my mouth - every time I walk past. Especially when I'm writing. I love what Daryl does and may try to switch to that. Carbs aren't difficult for me to give up, except for pasta, and sweet potato fries, and potato salad. Okay, it will be a work-in-progress.  What I seriously try to do is drink as much water as I possibly can and stock up on baby carrots. Often I'll add a delicious green dip from a local restaurant -- I'm not totally sure what all is in it but I know there are few calories and lots of goodness. I also like Peg's walking program but for now, will stick to my early morning power walks.


LESLIE K: With a metabolism that wants to conserve fat as if I were stranded in an arid desert with only grass and radishes to eat, I’ve spent most of my adult life watching my calories. And what I’ve learned is that it’s best if I stick to a regimen on a daily basis (the French word for a “a diet” is “un régime,” after all)—generally something light like a salad or cottage cheese and tomatoes for lunch. But I try to make the lunch colorful and artfully arranged—it tastes better that way!

I then allow myself a normal (though moderately-sized) dinner, since to deny that to this food lover would be torture. As many of us MLKers have already said, it’s all about moderation. Allow yourself that treat from time-to-time; just keep it small.


MADDIE: I'm right there with Leslie K, both in stature (those calories have nowhere to go...) and metabolism. That salad looks yummy, my friend. I learned a delicious cucumber soup recipe from a woman I cleaned house for when I was a southern California college student many (many) years ago. It's tasty, refreshing, and fills you up with veggies and low-fat dairy. What's not to like, especially mid-summer? Thank you, Mrs. Schwartz!

I included the Cucumber-Dill Soup recipe in Strangled Eggs and Ham, which takes place during a steamy southern Indiana August, and Brooke Blogs featured it. (Note: the giveaway has been over for most of a year.) It's best when you can use locally (or home) grown cukes and dill, but if you're not a gardener or don't have a farm stand nearby, don't let that stop you. For me, I have cukes AND dill in my little organic garden, and I can't wait for them to be ready to harvest. Gardening burns calories, too - and I always save room for wine.

VICKI: Sorry, no weight loss tips from me. I lost 55 pounds about 2 -3 years ago, and I'd like to say it was hard, but it wasn't.  I had several gall bladder attacks and had to be very strict about my diet for two months before I had the pesky thing removed. And I quite simply lost a lot of my appetite over those months and it never came back. One thing I have been aware of since then though, is not letting the weight creep up.  I weigh myself every day and once it creeps over the number I've set as unacceptable, I cut back for a few days.


KRISTA: Ouch, Vicki. That's a very hard way to lose weight. I'm always having to lose weight. In fact, I am probably the very worst person to give advice on this topic. However, I do have one trick that helps and that's limiting dinner to soup. It works very well for me. The hardest part is convincing myself to do it! Pass the Krispy Kremes, please.


Now it's YOUR turn! 

Do you have weight loss tips or recipes to share? 
Join us in the comments...

This giveaway is now over.
Congrats to our
winner, Sheryl Sens!

and join in our table talk to win these 3 books.
Remember to leave your email address 
so we can contact you if you win!

The Diva Spicees it Up, by Krista Davis
Murder at the Taffy Shop, by Maddie Day
Shredding the Evidence, by Daryl Wood Gerber


  1. Helena Georgette BrownJune 1, 2020 at 1:20 AM

    This is a Great & Timely post for me. Thank you! When I was in losing weight mode I ate 3 meals a day, did not eat after a certain time at night, loaded up on vegetables, walked 5 days a week & tracked what I ate. I did allow myself 1 small chocolate on occasion as well as a homemade hot chocolate that was low in sugar & dairy. I would also eat nuts, raisins & carrots as snacks. Thanks again for the motivation!

    1. Helena - You've mentioned a key word (at least for me): motivation! With the pandemic shutdown lifting and summer weather here, this is a good time to lighten up and move around. Thanks for your comment. Be well and stay safe and that goes for everyone. ~ Cleo

  2. I go to my bedroom at 7 pm so I dont eat anything. I usually read. I also Journal my calories and drink Herbalife shakes.

    1. Hoosier, good plan! Do you have a lock and key? LOL ~ Daryl

  3. Some very sensible ideas. I am a big believer in breakfast to start the day and you have more time to move sroundvandvrev up your body. Thanks for the tips and chance to win.

  4. I have been on WW and now refer to it as lifestyle change since July 2019. I have lost 60lbs and am keeping it off. We love dessert and I make an easy 5 ingredient cheesecake. I also make bagels, pizza crust and pretzels using a two ingredient dough. I plan all my meals out for the week. While there are a lot of times I may not follow it I always find something to make in its place. Another thing to stay on track is we stopped ordering out!

    Cheesecake Recipe:

    3 cups nonfat greek yogurt
    3 eggs
    1 tbl vanilla
    1 package instant sugar free pudding mix (any flavor)
    2 tbl sugar (I use a sugar substitute.

    Combine eggs, vanilla and sugar with a whisk. Add in the pudding mix then the yogurt. Mix well. Pour into a prepared pie plate or spring form pan, bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. It will be a little jiggly in the center. Let cool for 30 minutes. cover with paper towel and chill.

    I just make apple cinnamon bagels that were delish.

    1. I began WW in April of 2019 and lost the 20 lbs. I needed to get rid of. I make those 2 ingredient bagels, too. Even hubby, who doesn't need to lose weight, likes them. WW is definitely a lifestyle change and not a "diet."

    2. I lost over 40 pounds via Weight Watchers back in the late 1980s, and it changed my life as well--teaching me how to eat in a healthy but doable way. And I'm happy to say I've kept the weight off since then! That cheesecake sounds fab!

  5. I am only 5'. A few years ago I realized I weighed more than I ever had and became determined to lose weight and keep it off. It's not that easy because my husband and I enjoying cooking and consuming the product. My job kept me a my desk, but my hours were flexible. I realized I could skip lunch and finish my day's work early. Skipping one meal a day for about six months did the trick. I lost about 20 pounds. We have few "keep the weight down" rules: no second helpings, dessert only after dinner and only on days that have a "u" in them, and occasionally an only cereal and skim milk day.

    1. "Not easy" is the truth when you love food. You're so right about that. I know everyone has good methods that work for them, and I'm so happy to see everyone sharing them today. Mine is close to yours. Skipping a meal (that is, having a window of hours to eat and a period of hours to *not* eat) allows insulin in the body to finally drop (reducing carbs helps with lowering insulin in the body, as well) and it has worked very well for me in losing excess weight. Experts say this is especially helpful for metabolic syndrome because (essentially) lowering insulin for a period of hours every day gives the body a chance to tap into and burn stored fat. Thanks for sharing today. Be well and stay safe and that goes for everyone. ~ Cleo

  6. The old joke was to put splits on your elbows so you couldn't bend your wrist to your mouth. However, that never worked for me because my mouth, like a chicken getting into the hen house, would find a way. :)

    Some times I have that I learned over the years (and still try to listen to but fail from time to time) are:
    Stick to meal times and nothing after supper. Due to medical reasons, I now have to eat smaller portions and more often. So I consider what my "regular" meal would be and save a portion of it for the next little meal. That way I'm not eating not only more often, but more food.

    Don't deprive yourself because it will only lead to binge eating. Instead, take what you love and find new ways to fix it that are lower in calories. Once again, it's portion that is the culprit so eat one piece instead of 3.

    I find that a set of scales helps me greatly. Believe me what you "think" is a portion isn't most times. Our stomachs try to make our minds thing this huge piece of meat is a portion when usually 3 ounces is more like it. Even eyeballing it for an old time dieter can be way off.

    Use variety in your diet. Try something new or add spice to a dish so you don't think you are eating the same low calorie thing over and over.

    And the last trip from me, is you have to put exercise in a diet to make it work or last. Exercise doesn't mean doing jumping jacks (unless that's your thing). It just means moving. Find ways to move that you enjoy. If it's gardening, place your garden supplies a far away from the garden as possible making you make more trip and then get back and forth by picking up the pace. I use to love to walk, but due to medical issues walking is more difficult for me now that when I was younger. However, I love photography and it's amazing how far I will suffer the discomfort to get that perfect shot at a state park or even on our property. Either way you are moving burning calories, helping the heart and your well being, but you are also helping with your diet.

    So basically, it's use common sense, develop a will power, set small goals and one you achieve that set another and remember set backs are only a slight detour and once back on the right path you can choose to go forward or retreat to bad habits - it's you choice.

    Are these tips foolproof - NO. I've been up and down the scales way too many times in my life. But I will tell you this from experience, there is no fast fix, no special diet and no surgery that will take it all away. I can also tell you the older we get the harder it is.

    Thank you for the fabulous opportunity to win three amazing books!

    Have a great week and remember to be safe, stay healthy and have a little adventure along the way - even if it's in the pages of a great book.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Great advice, Kay! And I agree about the variety, as well as the exercise. The main reason I took up cycling again in my 40s was to help keep my weight down.

    2. Kay, fabulous tips. And yes, nothing is foolproof, but where there's a will, there's a way! :) ~ Daryl

  7. I try to eat more protein and vegetables. And I use the Put Some Back method. If there's something I want that's high calorie, I don't tell myself I can't have it. I think how much I'd like to have and then put some back. ckmbeg (at) gmail (dot) com

    1. That's sort of how I pack for a trip! :) ~ Daryl

  8. I don't have any very good tips but what works for me is continue to eat what you like,in moderation. Trying to eat "diet" foods, I would eat them and then eat what I really wanted. I usually stay a healthy weight. Doing yoga helps also. The South Beach diet will really flatten your stomach but I couldn't maintain it.

  9. Thanks for this excellent and timely topic today which resonates with me. Sitting at home and eating at this point in time is nor advisable. Get out and walk, bike, hike and enjoy the sunshine, fresh air and it will life your spirits. Eat health and well balanced meals. Plenty of veggies and protein. For me that is fish. Roasted salmon is my favorite. Try to avoid sweets and instead substitute fruit. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

    1. When I do get a sweet craving, I find that fruit is the best choice!

  10. Twice daily long walks are so invigorating and important for me. With no other method that is suitable for me to exercise this fits the bill. I indulge in sparkling water and salads with light vinaigrette dressings for lunch or supper and have sardines, eggplant and or tuna with it. Yummy and filling. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

    1. And having a dog really helps motivate you to take those walks, lol! Sounds like you've spent some time in the south of France--that salad sounds délicieuse!

  11. I don't have any tips but I have been working on portion sizeasize eating a more balanced diet with protein, veggies , and carbs.

  12. I switched to stuffed peppers with mushrooms brown rice and quinoa and that is helped fill me up and reduce the calories.
    thanks for the chance
    maceoindo (at) yahoo (dot) com

  13. I just eat smaller portions and exercise more.
    sgiden at verizon(.)net

  14. I'm a diabetic and the vegetables and soups recipes are wonderful, I hope I win so I can try these recipes out! Thank you for the chance to enter!

  15. Everything in moderation, including moderation. (Any one know who that quote is from?)
    If you deprive yourself with strict limitations, you will fight back and go on a binge.
    libbydodd at comcast dot net

    1. I recall Julia Child saying that, Libby.

    2. Libby, I'm a big believer in moderation with moderation, too. If you deny yourself completely, all you can think about is whatever you're denying yourself. ~ Daryl

  16. Thanks for your tips. I find that the Keto method works for me. Limiting the carbs and eating more protein seems to be an easier way for me to diet. Thanks for the awesome giveaway.

  17. These are all wonderful ideas for weight loss. For me, it is low carbs, low dairy and low sugar. Lots of water and exercise.
    Thank you for the generous give a way.
    quilting lady 2 at comcast dot net

  18. It was last year that I found my blood labs showing that my blood sugar levels were too high. I was able to decrease that to normal range by eating a low carb diet. This, however, made for discomfort from too little fiber intake. I was able to surmount that problem by making a blended greens drink once daily. It can be fair bunch of kale and dandelion leaves or other leafy greens, a celery stalk, half a green apple, one third a lemon, an inch or so of ginger, and a few mint leaves, all blended together with water to thin it to palatable consistency (I also add tumeric and black pepper for anti-inflammatory affect). Works like a charm.
    little lamb lst at yahoo dot com

  19. I drink a lot of water all day long which helps make me feel fuller so I won't eat as much at my meals. I found that dieting doesn't work for me & it's better to cut back on the portion size except for adding more veggies.
    turtle6422 at gmail dot com

  20. Lots of water, salad and vegetables.

    jtcgc at yahoo dot com

  21. I really don't have specific tips other than if necessary, avoid the three whites: white flour, sugar, and less salt. Increase vegetable portions. Try cooking from scratch rather than buy processed food. Drink water; no sodas. Move around often during the way. Portions control. Do enjoy what you eat. It's a lot of do as I say, not as I do. LOL I could follow the above tips daily to be successful. bluedawn95864 at gmail dot com

  22. I've heard it works to eat several small meals throughout the day, rather than a couple huge meals. I also had a friend cut out pop, nothing else, and just that made a huge difference.

  23. Writing everything down helps me.

  24. I definitely need to get back to my healthier way of eating. Carbs are my biggest downfalls, along with "midnight snacking". In the past I've done various diets, like Atkins and South Beach, and lost an average of 18-22 lbs. each time, but felt deprived. So I concocted my own way of life/eating habits that I called "At the Beach", where I ate healthier but had a piece of dark chocolate after dinner on Fri., Sat. & Sun. and had a couple of glasses of wine each night. Took a bit longer, but I still lost inches and pounds that way, along with using the treadmill, which is great because it allowed me to walk even in inclimate weather, and we put it in the den, where we could read or watch tv while burning calories. Unfortunately I'm in quarantine away from home, and have to feed 5 people so it's been more difficult to maintain our usual way of living. But I'll be starting back ASAP. Thanks for everyone's tips!

  25. I think that this a great topic &so interesting to see what has brought each person weight-loss success. Summer is great time to make some healthier choices with all the great summer fruit & vegetable..thank you for the recipe to try. Also, I would love to win some summertime reading!

    1. I find summer great for weight loss because like you said--lots of fruit and veggies available. Plus you can grill and everything tastes better on a grill!