Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A New Year & A New Tool

FitBit is a tiny semi-permanent companion that’s meant to track your every step, calorie, activity and even your sleep. I've been virtually stalking the fitbit since they came onto the market in beta phase around 2007. I love tech-geeky gadgets and it's even better if they come with statistics and charts and graphs. I debated with myself… it was expensive, at $100 for the fancy tracker, so I waited and talked about it for 2 Christmases and low and behold It was gifted to me.

The device itself has little to see it’s a  featureless clip that you attach to your clothing. It has ONE button. Which you press to rotate between steps taken, calories burned, distance walked, flights of stairs taken, the current time, and your overall daily activity as evidenced by a flower of varying length. It’s cute and dead simple.  There is no confusion.

Originally part of my hesitation on the device was that I was tracking but I didn't understand much of what calorie counting meant. The pretty charts and graphs that site gave me did'nt mean much to me. That is until I joined the WW Points Plus program and learned that tracking your both your food and activity points lead to big losses on the scale.

Since i'm already tracking my food and activity points, with WW - using the fitbit tracker in conjunction is second nature. While it is a pain to have to enter my stats in two places, i find that the fitbit gives me tighter tracking on the kinds of activity and sedentary moments I have through out the day. This allows me to see what i'm eating and at what time of day? Am I eating because i'm bored, am I hungry and crabby after a work out (the answer is yes). What are my sugar spikes and falls throughout the day. Does this make me eat food differently. Also, the fitbit has a sleep tracker, which actually calculates the amount of movement you do in your sleep. This also, is allowing me to think about my movements thoughout the day - and set goals towards calories burned vs. calorie intake.

You maybe thinking SO WHAT? Using a fitbit allows you to know when your tired, and hungry.

Its more then that. Using a fitbit in conjunction to fitness monitoring is helping me make more rational and less emotional food choices throughout the day. They also have a great interface for adding foods and seeing your caloric intake, and encourage you to make goals for yourself and hit them. Also realize i'm competitive and I love a challenge and the fitbit allows me to set and see my stats in one pretty long running graph to help me reach my goals.

There’s something surreal and interestingly futuristic about the whole experience. You might be saying that you already have a pedometer, or that your phone can track a lot of this information. But at this level of detail, reliability and great interface in the forefront, there is nothing on the market that compares.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Rum Spiced Cupcakes

These special little cupcakes taste sooo good and are guilt free! Finally eat an entire cupcake frosting included for only 3pp or 115 calories. I was inspired by all of the wonderful delights from Dashing Dish and this cupcake is the fantastic base for many flavors. With a few sprinkles of my own creativity this cupcake was a hit several holiday parties.

Inspired by Dashing Dish Egg Nogg Cupcakes


For the Cupcakes:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup of sugar substitute (I used Splenda)
1 tablespoon baking powder
5 egg beaters whites
1/3 cup plain fat free greek yogart
1 cup water
1 1/2 tbs rum extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp of orange zest 


1 cup cold fat free milk (or milk alternative)
1 small package sugar free vanilla pudding mix
1 (8oz) container fat free cool whip
1/2 tbs rum extract
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or a pinch of nutmeg)

And cinnamon for dusting!


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 (12 count) muffin tins with cupcake liners, or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients for the cake, and whisk until batter is smooth. Divide the batter evenly between the 24 muffin tins. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the milk and pudding mix until smooth. Fold in cool whip, rum extract, and nutmeg. Chill frosting in the fridge until the cupcakes are completely cooled, and ready to be frosted.

4. When cupcakes are ready to frost, place whipped frosting in a large ziplock bag. Cut the tip off a corner of the bag, and squeeze frosting down to the cut corner. Squeeze frosting out while making a swirling/upward motion and lift at the peak! Dust with cinnamon if desired. Store cupcakes in fridge until ready to serve.

Servings: 24 cupcakes
Calories: 115 calories per cupcake (includes frosting!)
Weight Watchers Points Plus Value: 3 pp per cupcake

Friday, December 9, 2011

Beautiful Slimming (and Bra Friendly Tops)

If your like me - you love your jeans, but changing up your tops can be a daunting task. You want to look professional, unique, chic, and most of all comfortable. Besides going with a basic t-shirt EVERY-day here are some beautiful tops to accompany your denim (or any bottom really) that are slimming, chic, and bra-friendly!

Use these tops as inspiration for shapes and colors, while remembering a few of these basic rules.

Neckline - having an interesting neckline draws attention towards your face. Some of the best shapes for slimming include, v-neck, crew neck, or a scoop neck. These shirts also can bring you from the office to the evening.

Color - Keeping a monochromatic color palette helps gives the appearance of a slimmer figure by not focusing the eye on a wide stripe or busy print. Adding a skinny belt or having a shirt that color blocks vertically (like row 1, top 3) is slimming and sexy. Use accessories, like a skinny belt to make these tops work hard for your wardrobe and give each outfit more versatility.

Mind Your Waist Line - Your waist is the thinnest part of your mid-section, by finding a top that cinches in towards the center of your waist gives a sexy hour glass figure and also a wonderful girlie touch. Don't have a waist line? Fake it! - adding a ribbon or a skinny belt to your waist just above your belly button, will take a flowy top in and also make your waistline look long and lean. Do you have a short waist? Look for a slightly longer top with a lower flair, this will elongate your waistline and draw attention to long legs.

1st Row (from the left)
1. Mayra Silk Sleeveless Top With Belt
2. Nina Ricci Gathered Cashmere-Silk Tank Top
3. John Lewis, Oasis Colour Block Ponte Top, Black/White
4. Milly Beaded Shell Top

2nd Row (from the left)
1. Vivienne Westwood Anglomania - Marghi Blouse
2. Mullbery Pleat Front Top
3. Matches-MAXMARA - Folco Top
4. Dorothy Perkins - Magenta pleat top

Puff Pastry Hero

I've been featured on how2heroes!

Being seasonally appropriate I made puff pastry swans, as a lovely light dessert, for the wonderful cooking website how2heroes. It was such an honor to be featured on the homepage as well as in their 12 dishes to christmas newsletter. You can also view my bio video here: http://how2heroes.com/videos/profiles/about-amber-wilkins.

Visit www.how2heroes.com and enjoy many dishes accompanied by full recipes and videos of chef's and home cooks making delicious meals.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mocktail Cocktail Time!

If you know me - you know I love a yummy cocktail. In fact we collect vintage cocktail shakers, and are constantly thumbing through vintage books and looking for wicked way to make delicious concoctions. However those yummy drinks come with a price - a high calorie - easy to gain - price.

During the holiday season, it can be easy to avoid an extra dessert, or a second helping of mashed potatoes, but what about an extra glass of wine or champagne? Instead of giving up your glass and feeling like an outcast, I propose you mix in a mocktail, between your cocktails. You will still feel very much a part of the party, yet you'll consume half the calories and less guilt, and avoid a hang-over!

1. Mocktini – Add 3 ounces of diet tonic water, 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice and 1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice to a shaker with ice. Strain into a martini glass. PP Count: 0, Calories (virtually 0!)

2. Coconut Cooler – In a cocktail shaker add 4 fl oz of organic light coconut milk and 4 fl oz of fresh lime juice and shake well. Pour into a glass with ice and top off with sparkling water. Garnish with a sprig of mint. Calorie Count: 122 calories. PP Count: 1

3. Cape Cod – Combine 8 fl oz of 100% organic cranberry juice and 4 fl oz fresh lime juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a tall glass and garnish with a slice of lime. Calorie Count: 112 calories. PP Count: 1

4. The Caribbean – In a blender add 1/4 banana, 1/4 mango, the juice of an orange and a squeeze of lime. Blend well and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Calorie Count: 170 calories. PP Count: 2

5. Pomegranate Princess – In a cocktail shaker add 2 fl oz pomegranate juice, 2 ½ fl oz grapefruit juice, 1 fl oz freshly squeezed lime juice, and 1 tbsp honey (dissolved in a little hot water). Shake well and garnish with mint sprigs. Calorie Count: 163 calories. PP Count: 2

6. Grape Juice Mimosa – Fill half a champagne flute with freshly squeezed orange juice and top with sparkling white grape juice. Calorie Count: approximately 130 calories.  PP Count: 1

7. Sparkling Mango – Pour 2 fl oz of high quality 100% mango juice into a champagne flute and top off with diet tonic water. Garnish with a slice of mango. Calorie Count: 37 calories. PP Count: 0

8. Mock Champagne - 2 (2 liter) bottles ginger ale, chilled, 1 (46 fluid ounce) can pineapple juice, chilled, 1 (64 fluid ounce) bottle white grape juice, chilled. To make Ice ring: Fill a ring-shaped cake pan to 1/2 with ginger ale. Freeze until partially frozen. At this stage you can place edible flowers, or pieces of fruit around the ring. Fill pan with ginger ale and freeze until solid. Place in punch bowl just before serving.In a large punch bowl, combine 1 bottle ginger ale, pineapple juice and white grape juice.

9. Cherry Fizz - 1/2 cup frozen cherry juice concentrate, thawed. 1/2 cup ginger ale. Place cherry concentrate in a glass. Slowly stir in ginger ale.

10. Citrus Mint Cooler - 1 cup fresh lemon juice. 1 cup fresh orange juice. 2 cups sugar. 2 1/2 cups water. 10 sprigs mint. 32 fluid ounces ginger ale. water. Place first five ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cover; remove from heat and let steep until cool. Strain. Cover and refrigerate. To serve, fill glasses or a pitcher with equal amounts of fruit juice, ginger ale and water. Add ice and serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New Points Plus 2012!

Its been awhile, but i'm working up a storm on new recipes and weigh-in updates. So far i've lost a total of 38lbs and counting and I can't believe how close i am to hitting the big 40. That being said - this has been a slow and un easy road. Perfect timing for the New Points Plus 2012!

Unlike last year when, around the time that i joined, ww is not doing a complete re-haul of their program. Rather, they are making mind or "tweaks" to the program for people like me to be more successful!

Lowering My Own Points: For the last few months I have been creeping very slowly down the weight loss road, and have found myself a little frustrated with the rate at which i'm loosing. The New Points Plus 2012 program is designed to help me control my own points. Now I can lower them weekly, and really put a focus on eating more Points Plus Foods. Also, having control over my own points means that I no longer will have the 2 week learning curve of trying to figure out how to adjust to my new lower points target. Now I have more control, which leaves me feeling like lowering or raising my points is up to me, and not up to the WW points gods.

Jump Starting Your Program: The New PP 2012 plan also gives new and old members a chance to "jump start" yourself into the new plan. This week we talked about managing our environment, and how to make smarter choices, by controlling (yourself) in the environments your in. For me my biggest challenge is going out to eat, and making smart choices. One thing I will strive to do this week, is manage the amount of cocktails or wine I have when i go to restaurants, by watching the amount of water i'm intaking and maybe changing my drinks out with a few "mock-tails" in between, so I can still feel like i'm part of the bar/party but i'm drinking less and taking on less points.

They also outfitted us with a new tracker that made suggestions on meals to eat for the week. While I primarily track everything via their website and apps, I think this recipe suggestion book will come in handy when i'm looking for something to eat thats low points and satisfying.

Everyone's Getting More Active: Now to accelerate weight loss and get everyone moving, WW is putting a weekly 15 activity points a week target into their program. Since I clear this target a few fold a week (i'm usually between in the 30's-80's in activity points) this part of the program for me is a no brainer. I actually think it will help me, stay on target and push myself further. Weight watchers gives some great tips on Everyday ways to get moving here.