Supper Club 600: Italy

Heidi, a beauty in blue by her buffet

One of the great things about this blog is that it’s helped me make some new friends, like the lovely Heidi, from Finishing the Hat! Heidi has lost over 60 pounds and hosts dinner parties with her husband Tom called “Supper Club 600” – where every course totalled equals less than 600 calories! As a foodie and someone who loves to cook, I was very excited to be invited to Heidi’s last fete, Supper Club 600 -Italy!

A Fantastic Feast

Heidi served eight dishes, which is no small feat when you’re cooking for a crowd of over 15 people. Some of the delicious offerings for the evening included bruschetta caprese, spaghetti aglio olio and pollo marsala. As someone who happily tried every dish, I can see that Heidi has a real talent for cooking and I will gladly attend any upcoming supper clubs. Because I’d rather have you hear about the awesomeness of Supper Club 600 straight from the source, please read this interview with none other than the chef herself, Heidi!

1) How or why did you start the Supper Club?

When we started our weight loss journey, Tom and I were not sure how to translate our love for food into healthy daily habits.  As we worked with Richard Simmons’ meal plan (called the Food Mover) we started to observe portions closely, and focus on finding a balance between protein, carbohydrates, fats, veggies and fruit.  The more we put our love of food into building healthy meals, the more we realized that it would be possible to remain “foodies” while overcoming food addiction, because when we ate a good balance – and especially when we put care into the ingredients – we were never hungry the way we expected to be while losing weight.  Instead, we were satisfied, nourished, and fueled.Richard reviewed our food log each week, giving us support and feedback.  And each week, he’d make a point of teasing us about how much we are able to eat for the calories we were eating.  “Everyone should see Heidi and Tom’s food log. You guys eat better than ME,” he’d tell our class.  People would ask us frequently: “what is it that you’re eating!?”  So we decided to host a dinner party for some of our Slimmons friends, to show them some of the recipes we’d discovered (or tweaked, or created from scratch.)  It was a hit, and soon we found ourselves dreaming up themes for future dinners… and coming up with an official name: Supper Club 600.

Amazing Bruschetta

2) How do you think up the menu for your Supper Club 600?

It depends on the theme!  At first, we were just putting together menus, but now we’ve progressed to full themes.  Once we have a theme (say, BBQ, springtime, or Indian) we think about all the foods we’d enjoy within that particular cuisine or season.  What kind of meal would we plan if we were hosting a meal with unlimited calories?  Those dishes are our usual jumping-off point, and we use it as a challenge to build new kinds of healthy meals around favorite dishes.  Sometimes, as in the case of our Indian theme, we don’t know much about cooking the food and we have to do a lot of practice.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of coming up with unusual ingredients to swap into recipes to help reduce calories.  Once we have a couple of great recipes, we build in sides, desserts and beverages depending upon how many calories are left.  We haven’t topped 600 yet, and we don’t plan to!

Alyssa's Heaping but Healthy Plate at Supper Club 600

3) How do you calculate the nutritional information for the dishes?
Tom and I are both avid users of LiveStrong.com.  Their “My Daily Plate” function is very helpful in calculating the nutritionals.  We add a new recipe by ingredients, and it automatically calculates the information per serving.  (This is also helpful in determining what serving sizes fit into the meal.)

Spaghetti Squash, Carbonara Style!

4) What has been your favorite supper club “theme” thus far?
My favorite one was definitely B-Movie BBQ at the Drive-In.  I’m a movie buff (that’s putting it mildly) and it was great fun to put together the decorations and the movie snack bags.  Plus, the food was some of my favorite.  You can’t beat BBQ jackfruit for a dinner that tastes delicious and feels like the opposite of dieting.  (I am, in fact, not dieting per se, just eating healthfully and overcoming food addiction.) (See Heidi’s recipe and post about BBQ Jackfruit here!)

50 Calorie Tiramisu? Yes, Please!

5) Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to start their own supper club?
Yes!  DO IT!  It takes a lot of prep work, but what you invest in healthy cooking will pay off in spades.  By planning these every other month, it gives me an area to focus on, so that my list of healthy recipes grows, and I never get stuck in boredom.  (Boredom is one of the reasons I used to eat unhealthfully.) Think of a supper club you’d like to throw, and then practice with recipes and ideas.  Or take some inspiration from one of my themes!  Sharing food with friends and loved ones is so fun – and when it’s healthy food, it’s such a positive jumping-off point for discussion and understanding.  I highly recommend it!

Laura, Me, Alexa (The Curvy Nerd) and Heidi

Sweatin’ it, Simmons Style

When I found out that Richard Simmons teaches classes at his studio, Slimmons in Beverly Hills, that are open to the public for $12, I knew I had to go. Not only would it be a great blog post and an excellent workout, but it would fulfill a dream of my grandmother’s, as she always loved his buoyant personality, dolfin shorts and puffy fro of reddish-brown curls. I was lucky enough to be accompanied on this journey by my friends Merrie and Hilda, two lovely ladies whom I work with and work out with! In addition, some wonderful blogger ladies and gents like All The Weigh, The Curvy Nerd, Finishing the Hat and Keep It Up David were there, too! (They’re regulars!)

Me, Richard and Hilda. Yes, he's eating her hair!

As soon as Richard came in, that Southern sense of hospitality kicked in. He flitted around the room like a butterfly, greeting everybody with hugs and kisses. I was wearing pigtails and he walked right up to me, gave my pigtails a gentle yank, and embraced me in a big hug. It was surreal. (Hilda is blessed with a lovely svelte figure – Richard told her he’d eaten ribs bigger than her! LOL)

As the music kicked in, Richard screamed that it was Beatles night! His tank top bedazzled with colorful busts of Ringo and Paul should have clued me in, but I was psyched as techno versions of “Hello” blared through the speakers. The first few songs were SO FUN, as Richard bounced around the room shouting praise and encouragement as we marched and kicked and squatted. I had a big goofy smile on my face at the silliness of it all – me, in Los Angeles, a girl from the suburbs of Chicago, working out with a major fitness star, Richard Simmons! I also was mildly star-struck when I learned I was working out next to Ellen Degeneres’ Mom, another regular.

We proceeded to bounce and jump and jiggle through an hour of cardio. Near the end, Richard created a huge circle and started picking sets of two to go in the middle of the circle and do the moves with him. Merrie and I were “summoned by Simmons” and laughed as we did arm thrusts, knee kicks and other moves in front of 50 people, alongside Richard Simmons. (Rumor has it he posts videos online – as soon as I see it I’ll share!)

After cardio, we did thirty minutes of weights and then sit ups and push-ups. I was quite proud of how well I kept up through out the class. Other than the usual disorientation about following aerobic patterns, I used five pound weights for all the reps and didn’t need to take any breaks. I remember distinctly thinking, “Yes! Finally! All this exercise is catching up with me!” It as an awesome workout – I was drenched!

Check out his Beatles shirt!

The cool thing about Richard Simmons is that he’s not just a “personality”. You can tell in his classes that he’s the real deal, and he honest to God cares about what he’s doing and teaching. When I worked out alongside him in the circle, he looked me square in the eye as we trotted across the studio, and he had this passionate intensity coming directly from his pupils – the kind of self-confidence and drive that looks at you dead-center and says “This is all me, and it’s AWESOME.” He’s also freakin’ hilarious and had many dirty quips and jokes. I think what I really liked about his class was that it took the SERIOUSNESS out of exercise. Exercise is serious business, and I get it, just like being obese – but I’ve always been the type of person to try and find something to laugh about, to have fun with, which is where this blog’s name came from. It’s all about taking something difficult or hard and learning to find the light side, and Richard does that so well.

He graciously stuck around after class to take pictures, and when it was my turn to pose with him, he again yanked my pigtails and said “Well, aren’t you just the cutest thing?” I have to admit – that was cool to hear from a celebrity, albeit someone as effervescent and sparkly as Richard Simmons.

I can’t wait to go back, and Merrie and I are thinking we’ll try and make it a monthly goal to trek to Slimmons and sweat it out with Simmons. Now – Next time, who’s coming with me?