Half Diet Strawberry Blueberry Cobbler

28493532896_77d3ecffc9_zThis recipe is fairly indulgent but loaded with fresh fruit. I enjoy making variations of this recipe whenever berries are in season and cheaply priced. This is the richest version I have made. Sometimes I just make the filling by itself, which is a great treat nutrition-wise unless you’re avoiding artificial sweeteners. Other times I have baked the filling topped with an eyeballed combination of oats, cinnamon and brown sugar.

There is room to reduce the calories in this recipe if you’d like. It is forgiving of experimentation. It is also great with raspberries or blackberries. It all starts with filling a glass baking dish with berries and tossing with sweetener and corn starch.

  • 3 pints blueberries
  • 1 lb strawberries, sliced
  • 1 cup Splenda for baking
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 2 cups Bisquick baking mix
  • 3 T Butter, softened
  • 3 T sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss berries with Splenda and corn starch in a large rectangular glass dish. Microwave berries on high for 7-10 minutes, stopping and stirring as berries release their juice.

Combine the baking mix, sugar and butter in a medium bowl until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Stir in milk until just combined. Mixture will be thick. Drop mixture in small scraps over the hot fruit filling. Sprinkle the dough with small amounts of sugar.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until dough is golden brown.

Serves 12

cobbler nutrition facts

A Caveat on Genealogical DNA Testing

I have had the rare privilege of having four generations of family tested through AncestryDNA. I have no regrets at all about this testing, and I am grateful to all my family members who tested. It’s been fascinating to see the numbers behind our relatedness, and our participation in this test helped draw my family closer. Our test results also helped confirm the identity of one of my paternal great grandfathers, which sparked a family reunion eighty years in the making. While I would not want to discourage anyone from taking the test, I also want others to know that there are significant limits to the precision of matching. I hope that the science behind matching improves over time, but there will necessarily be limits to the matching of distant relations, no matter how accurate a company’s matching algorithm may become. At the level of third cousin and beyond, there is a 10% and growing chance that you may not share enough DNA with a relative to be matched to him or her.

After both of my parents had been tested, my confidence in AncestryDNA’s matching declined. I have 240 high confidence matches and more than 7,000 matches overall. Ancestry does not provide shared match information beyond the high confidence range (“4th cousins or closer”). All of my high confidence matches should be shared with my mom or my dad. There would be the rare possibility that a few could be closely matched to both of them, i.e. distant double cousins to me. I have been disappointed to discover that 31% of my close matches aren’t matched to either of my parents. I have also noticed that there have been some matches shared between one of my parents and my daughter, where I am “skipped” as a match. In a few cases I have found that a close match to me is only a distant match to one of my parents. While there is a remote possibility that a close match to me is distantly related to both of my parents, it seems impossible for example that one of my maternal relatives would actually have more DNA in common with me than with my mother. Overall, I’m seeing significant amounts of missed and coincidental matches.

This test can help confirm close family relations, second cousins and closer. For more distant connections, I suggest that such a test be used for leads for further traditional research instead of proof alone of relatedness.

Loose Cannons Among Us

I don’t like Internet shame culture. I figure that everyone has bad days, and I hope that none of mine ever become viral. Because of this, I will not name specific locations of the incidents I am about to mention. In the past twenty-four hours, I have twice witnessed adults scolding elderly people as if they were reprimanding misbehaving children. I feel that this a new low, and I sure hope it doesn’t become acceptable. It seems that fuses everywhere are growing shorter, but this is a brand of loose cannon I don’t want anywhere. These confrontations I saw were over trivial things, battles not worth choosing at all. The first happened in an art gallery. An attendant yelled at an elderly woman for signing the wrong guest register. Then this morning I saw a woman grocery shopping and heard her yell, “I SAID EXCUSE ME!” to elderly couple choosing canned vegetables. What in the world is going on here? I don’t know how to react, and I feel bad for saying nothing at the time. The incidents were momentary, and I was afraid that joining the fray would be like throwing a lit match on a pile of kindling.

The Appetite Control Snack Trio

When I am trying to lose weight, as opposed to maintaining my weight, there are three snacks I try to eat every day. All three have good nutrients and help me control my appetite:

  • An ounce of nuts
  • An ounce of cheese
  • A serving of whole grain crackers

Typically I choose six Triscuit crackers, twenty-three almonds and a slice of cheese. I usually stagger them though my work day, but I sometimes eat two of them at once. These snacks are in addition to usual meals.

I think that these snacks help me because the three together have a good amount of fat, protein and fiber. I do not avoid high fat foods in moderation. If I do, I have a much harder time controlling my appetite. My health “numbers” have been good as well. I have had the opportunity for cholesterol screening and the like on a yearly basis. My total cholesterol has ranged from 135-166, and my triglycerides have been >50.

Fitbit Hack

I started using a Fitbit back in November of 2015. Prior to that, I had been logging exercise online, which I found tedious. Curious to see how much such a device could encourage me toward consistent exercise, I bought the starter device Fitbit Zip. I appreciated its flexibility in recording both steps and exercise bike workouts. All I had to do to record a bike workout was clip the Zip to my shoes. After a few months, I was curious to see if I’d benefit from having heart rate tracking, so I moved up to a Fitbit Charge HR. I’ve enjoyed seeing all of the data generated by the Charge HR. It’s been encouraging at times to scroll through months of my activity, seeing that there is good likelihood I can sustain that level of activity in the future. My sole frustration with the newer device was low to no recording of steps taken when my arm is stationary, such as when pushing a shopping cart or riding a bike. This week I tried a different placement of the Charge HR to remedy this problem while maintaining heart rate tracking. I placed it inside the band of my socks while riding an exercise bike, and the HR recorded my workout as accurately as it does when I wear it on my wrist. I also went grocery shopping with it inside my sock band. This also worked well. Once I find a way to reliably fasten the HR to the inside of my sock band, I will regularly change its position to my ankle as needed.

Success is a Point of View

Recently I wrote about my success in keeping off 115 pounds for three years. Looking back, I’ve held that weight at bay for nearly four years. In the interest of full disclosure, I will reveal that I haven’t been absolutely successful in this battle. Who has been?  I actually lost 135 pounds originally, and I have reached a turning point where I know I must be positive or I will eventually gain back more weight. Now is the time to refocus my efforts and to get back closer to my goal. If I had consistently followed the tips I outlined in the above link, I believe that I would not have slowly gained back twenty pounds over this time. My weak link is being honest with myself about how much I eat. This kind of self deception can grow slowly, where I start eyeballing servings to create larger portions and so on. This week I am trying to “get real” about what I eat and more accurately record my intake in my food diary. I don’t watch what I eat on holidays, and back when I was losing weight, that meant actual holidays. I have created a few too many extra food holidays during my weight maintenance.

I don’t have nearly as much struggle with exercise. I think this is because it is easier to record activity honestly, especially with my use of a Fitbit.I’ve also made exercise convenient by putting a TV in front of my elliptical machine. I can slowly binge watch series on Netflix and the like while getting in a work out. While I was saving up for an elliptical, I wore out an exercise bike in front of the TV.

One motivation I had in maintaining a 100+lb weight loss was the fear that I didn’t have it in me to do that again. That concern has served it purpose, and I think I do have the strength to lose those twenty pounds again. Even if I do not succeed in that venture, I still have maintained a 115 pound weight loss.


I have yet to infect anyone with my enthusiasm for Thin Lizzy. I suppose this affinity is like my passion for barley, something that happens spontaneously and cannot be taught. I had heard “Jailbreak” many times while growing up and found it merely tolerable. It was one of those songs that would not compel me to change the radio station to avoid it. Sometime around the two hundredth time I heard it, it suddenly captured my attention as if I were hearing it for the first time, and I was impressed enough to check out the band’s back catalog. Soon their songs became a regular sonic thunder that helped propel me through my awkward spell in retail after dropping out of college back in the 90’s.

My fascination with Thin Lizzy was no exception to my tendency to ask myself oddball questions. How many other people read the Bible story about Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana and wonder whose wedding it was? With Thin Lizzy, I speculated whether “Jailbreak” and “The Boys Are Back in Town” referred to the same people but from different points of view. Was the jailbreak successful and the second song the celebration of it?

“Cowboy Song” made me wonder how many Irish artists explored themes of the American West. Both Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott and Irish author Flann O’Brien imagined life in the Wild West in some of their work. This inquiry is one of many unanswered questions from my youth. Why would an Irish artist feel drawn to those themes? Did they find a small of measure of release from their postcolonial tensions in recreating the American frontier?

Southbound” is the Thin Lizzy song that I enjoy most. Outside the realm of alternative music, their are few songs that embrace failure and depression that don’t mention romantic loss. In the song, the lyrics tell of a man who cuts his proverbial losses and disappears, “taking only what I need before my head explodes.” Having quit and departed many circumstances in my past, I know exactly what that feels like, and I listened to this song many, many times in my younger days because it was a relief to hear that someone else had felt that way, too.  I feel that I have grown past my tendency to escape, except when I feel trapped if I spend more than an hour at time shopping. When I hear this song now, I do not feel tempted to bail out of situations, but it does inspire compassion for the quitter I once was.