Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dear Monica

We have never met, yet I must confess I love you.

Well, you and your granola recipe.

Ever since I made this recipe from my friend Karyn's blog, it has become a weekly event, and a staple in my meal planning.

The variations are endless; I always make the "base" the same, but have been changing up the nuts and dried fruits.  I have made craisin/almond, then a deluxe nut blend and fruit blend from Trader Joe's, the deluxe nuts and raisins, and this week I am making slivered almond/cherry.  (Note: I do add a tablespoonful of blackstrap molasses to the liquid ingredients as well from Karyn's recommendation.)

A small amount is great when sprinkled on yogurt.  A large amount is fabulous with yogurt sprinkled on it!  I love it with milk, I love it plain, I will eat it by the handful, I would eat it on the train.

You get the picture.

Ready for my close up. 

 Put your nose really close and sniff; not too close, it is stil warm!

 You little tarts, you.


Maybe a container that my hand doesn't fit in would work better?

Monica, thank you for your recipe, and thank you for sharing it with Karyn!

Off to find my bowl and spoon...

So, How were Last Week's Meals?

Did you notice that after Tuesday I did not share any more of my dinners?


Just not blog-worthy!

Wednesday, while delicious, was actually a repeat.  I was too lazy to make migas, so I ended up with a bowl of greek yogurt, pumpkin and granola.  Always good.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack!

Thursday I did indeed make the Pork and Pepper dish from Cooking Light. It was fine nutritionally, but it was meh.

Friday I made my planned scallops but was left, well, unsatisfied.

I feel like if I am going to share something with all of you, it needs to be something I would serve you if you came to my home.  None of these fit the bill!

A busy day planned for today with a lot of little stuff; running errands, hopefully exercise, make more granola, and attend a party tonight.  Hopefully I can get a picture or two at the party; I have an amazing new pair of jeans from JCrew that are high waisted skinny jeans. Don't panic.  They are not under the boob high waisted, but they are get over your hip bones a little to your normal waist waisted.  When one of your least favorite body parts IS that area, it is nice when the pants keep it all tucked in, ya know?

Just wanted to say hey and let you know I had not dropped off the face of the Blog-Earth.

Happy Saturday!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

If Julia Can Do it...

I remember as a young child watching Julia Child and The Galloping Gourmet with my mother.

As the years passed, cooking shows were often on, mostly on public television.  I loved watching them.

Occasionally, a souffle would be the star of the show.   I recall my dad asking mom to make a cheese souffle.  Too much work she would say. Of course, I am certain she was also thinking how do I feed 8 of us a souffle?  I would be breaking eggs forever!

When I came across this recipe for Amaranth Souffle I was intrigued.  A grain in a souffle?  Heck, it has gouda in it so how bad could it be?

No.  Not bad.  Quite the opposite as a matter of fact.  Very. Very. Gouda.

Sorry, could not resist!

I had planned on a side of sauteed spinach, but was starving after getting home from the gym.  I got the souffle done and into the oven, then decided to make a spinach salad as a side.  I wanted the salad to be the real star, and the souffle as a side dish.

This salad was a great way to hold us over until the souffle was ready.

Bagged spinach, spicy pecans from Trader Joe's (crackalicious) and dried pomegranates from Trader Joe's as well.  This could be an amazing dinner salad with some protein; maybe some garbanzo beans or some goat cheese, or grilled chicken.  Or all of them!

We lessen dishes we have to wash by just sharing the salad off the plate!  

This was half the recipe; designed to feed 3 it fed 2!

Some recipe notes:

I made the amaranth on Sunday and used it cold out of the refrigerator.  No problem.

I grated the cheese on my box grater.  Easy.

I followed the directions exactly.  Don't change a thing.  Don't use Cooking spray instead of butter.  Don't use a low fat cheese.  Don't even think on messing with the eggs.  Yes, the recipe is high in saturated fats, but when you balance out your choices during the rest of the day, you can do it!

nutrition facts

So, the recipe says bake until brown and puffed...never actually giving a time.  It might have been helpful if I had paid attention for you so that I could tell you, but I was busy making and eating the salad!

I loved this one.  Go the the Rancho Gordo site, order some amaranth (and some beans while you are there) and make this.  


Good night!


Monday, January 17, 2011

Ben Stop Eating!

I need a soup picture!

Try it despite the lack of color!

Let me tell you...I am so happy I made this soup yesterday!  I love having dinner ready to go!

Bran biscuits pulled out of the freezer last night made this a perfect winter night meal.

My work is easy tonight; the recipe for this Clam Chowder can be found here!

I think it is better tasting today than if we had it yesterday.  

Here are the stats:

nutrition facts

After I had recorded the recipe. I had to go back and check my entries.  Look at that iron content!  It is the clams!

I am concerned about the entry I had made for the clams; I wish after I had drained them that I had weighed them.  I had not done so, so I used the weights from the cans.  You do realize that they include the liquid as part of the weight, just like tuna does.  As a result, I may have overstated the clams.

Any way you calculate it, though, it was delicious!

Have a good night!  I am making mine an early one!


p.s. Guess I will enjoy this for lunch tomorrow...or maybe last night's dinner.

Love the options.  I always make more than one meal's worth so that we have leftovers!

P.p.s I just remembered; while I did use the bacon grease for the veggies, I did not use the bacon as a garnish. The 2 slices of bacon are not included in the stats!

Sunday, January 16, 2011


I even managed a shower AND make up today!

Okay, one item left on the list!  I have a couple of hours left before bed, so I will definitely get a start on it.

Wait, I didn't finish my list, yet I am calling myself an over-achiever?  Heck yes I am.

I made pea soup today as well as everything else!

Friends had given me the ham bone from Christmas, and I had enough of moving it around in the refrigerator.  As long as I was chopping onions and celery for tomorrow's Clam Chowder, I might as well chop some for pea soup too!

I am feeling well prepared for meals this week.  Lunches are done.  There are enough leftovers from a soup I made yesterday, tonight's dinner and tomorrow's dinner, it will be a matter of packing them in my favorite to-go containers and heading out the door!  If you are like me, and need your morning coffee to do anything, prepacked lunches are key to a balanced life!

On to tonight's dinner.  I love this stuff!  Delicious, colorful, and nutritious.  Might as well add simple to the description as well.

Let's start with the stats.  These do not include the beans.

nutrition facts

Here is the recipe; I got this from the Rancho Gordo newsletter I receive on a monthly basis.

Recipe notes:  I used only 1/4 cup olive oil, and 1 tea kosher salt.  It was plenty!

Tomatoes and Fennel with White Beans
This is an easy to make dish, adapted from Bon Appetit magazine. The slow cook shows off both the tomatoes and the fennel at their best.
Prep 35 minutes
Total 1 hour 10 minutes
6 servings
2 large fennel bulbs with fronds attached
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt, divided
2 pints grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
4 large fresh oregano sprigs
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups cooked Runner Cannellini or Flageolet Beans

Preheat oven to 425 deg.F. Chop enough fennel fronds to measure 1/2 cup. Trim fennel bulbs and cut in half vertically. Cut each bulb half into 1/2-inch-wide wedges, leaving some core attached to each wedge.
Heat oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until very hot, about 3 minutes. Add fennel wedges in single layer; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon coarse salt. Cook until fennel begins to brown and soften, turning occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes. Add tomatoes, oregano, garlic, and crushed red pepper; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Fold together gently.
Transfer skillet to oven. Bake fennel and tomatoes until soft, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Mix in beans and 6 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds. Bake 5 minutes longer to heat through. Transfer mixture to large shallow bowl. Sprinkle with remaining chopped fronds. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The fennel getting browned.  A great way to guarantee your stove top is cleaned.  This spatters everywhere!

The tomatoes, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper have been added.  Ready for the oven!

After about 20 minutes and a couple of stirs.  Smells so good!

Easy and delicious!

Think about serving this the next time you are having guests over for dinner.  Vegetarians?  No problem!

Now I wished I had added make cookies to my list today...


What NEEDS to Get Done Today

I woke up with thoughts and words swimming through my head; thoughts of what to have for breakfast were in there too.

Breakfast was easy; oatmeal with banana, pumpkin, granola and almond butter.  Theoretically, I should now have enough energy to move a mountain.

I think I slept okay, but these words were bouncing around.  I have a presentation to give, and was working last night on memorizing it.  Thus all the noise.

So, I am going to use you all today to make my list of things I need to do today.

  • Cook the beans to go with dinner.  That one was a little too easy to put on the list and cross off, as the beans are already cooking on the stove.
  • Cook the amaranth for the amaranth souffle on Tuesday.  Not familiar with amaranth?  Check it out here.  (My friend Lynn makes a delicious breakfast with amaranth. This is the reason I had it in the house in the first place.  Check out her recipe, but come back, ok?)
  • Make the Clam Chowder for Monday's dinner. Wow, is THAT going to be good tomorrow night!
  • Make the Fennel and tomatoes for tonight's dinner.
  • Keep memorizing, memorizing, memorizing.
  • Go to the grocery store. Stuck to the list and the budget!
  • Write an outline for another project I am working on.
For now, I am going to finish my second cup of coffee.  I am going to check back throughout the day, and, hopefully, keep crossing things off the list!

Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

This Week's Specials Are...!

I want a chalkboard in my kitchen.

I want to write on it what we are having each night that week.  I am so excited about this week's plan, I want to be able to look at it every day, and cross off items after they have been consumed and enjoyed.

Until then, this will serve as my virtual chalkboard.

The Magazine Roulette was actually not roulette.  Sitting on my coffee table, untouched, was my latest Cooking Light Jan/Feb 2011.

I had a goal in mind as a reviewed recipes this week.  Keep the shopping list small, and use items I already had in my freezer and pantry.  I had a few ideas already in mind; I have a long list of recipes already bookmarked from my cruising on tastespotting.

I proudly present to you this week's chalkboard, without the chalk dust.

Sunday: Remember the fennel I ended up not using last week?  It is going into  Tomatoes and Fennel with White Beans.  I have made and enjoyed this recipe before.  I had purchased some Rancho Gordo 
Flageolet beans this week at one of my favorite shops.  I had gotten this recipe from a Rancho Gordo news letter, and they recommended these beans to go with it.  I am already drooling!

Monday:  I am keeping in mind that on Mondays, I seem to be dragging my butt a little more than any other night of the week.  With that thought, I am going to keep Monday really easy!  How?  By making Monday's dinner tomorrow.  

I had seen the recipe for Simple Clam Chowder on Kath, but I am going to use the original recipe she had adapted.   I already have all the ingredients, except for one additional potato.  

Tuesday: Amaranth Souffle.  This could be interesting!  Again, I already have all of the ingredients.  Doesn't everyone have amaranth in their pantry?  I will cook the amaranth tomorrow in anticipation of Tuesday.

Wednesday: Migas.  So easy, so delicious.  Remember, it is dinner for one night.  This is a quick combination of basically a corn tortilla, a scrambled egg, cheese, jalapeno, tomato and I add some black beans.  I need to buy the cheese and jalapeno.  Hopefully I can find an avocado that is not rotten because it is awesome with this.

Thursday: Finally, using the Cooking Light for a meal.  I barely read the magazine.  Once I found this recipe, I figured I would stop looking until next weekend!  Pork Tenderloin with Red and Yellow Peppers; this recipe was part of their 20 minute Cooking Series.  Let's see if I can do it!  I need most of the ingredients, but it looked too good to pass up.

Friday: Baked Scallops Gratin.  I had purchased scallops last week at Trader Joes.  No additional ingredient needed!

A few items are on the list, and other than those, I just need the usual suspects; bananas, skim milk, apples, veggies for side dishes, grapefruit (I have had one every day this week!) and sugar.  Yep.  I did a lot of baking in December and I am now out!

Hope you are excited about your meals for the week!

I think we will hold off on a picnic for now!



A Workout Inspiring Breakfast

Sometimes you need a little high calorie, perhaps too little fiber breakfast to get you motivated.

After recording my 689 calorie breakfast today, I know I am well fueled for a workout!

I am not sure if I want to head out to the gym or bundle up and just walk outside.  I am a little scared of this:

It's not the cold; it's the wind that scares me!

I know, not much colder than when I headed out last week.  I have enough layers, I just need to do it!

I am really trying to approach exercise in a way that it is just something that is done, not just something to be able to eat more.  But today's breakfast?  I kind of feel like I need to earn it!

The menu for today:
Buttermilk pancakes with granola (can't forget the butter and syrup!)
Mmmm bacon

Here is the recipe for the pancakes.  Everyone tells you their buttermilk pancake recipe is the best.   I won't flatter myself that much.  We do love it, however.  For the granola recipe, you will have to visit my friend Karyn over at SerenitySwamp.  I make a batch of her granola every week!

Buttermilk Pancakes
Fine Cooking Magazine, Dec 09

3 Tbsp unsalted butter
9 oz (2 cups) flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tea baking soda
1/2 tea kosher salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs

1. Melt the butter.  (Don't you love when the recipe tells you how to melt  butter?  I will give you enough credit to assume that you won't try to melt on a bunsen burner or with a lighter.) Set aside to cool briefly.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda,  and salt.  In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk and eggs.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Whisk gently until the dry ingredients are almost incorporated; stop before the batter is evenly moistened.  Add the cooled melted butter and mix just until the batter is evenly moistened (there will be lumps).  Let the batter rest while you heat the griddle.

3. I am not going to tell you how to cook your pancakes.  If you have gotten this far, I am again going to assume you know how to cook.  I will tell you that if you want to add something, when you first pour the pancake batter onto your griddle, this is the time to add it.

The Russian judge won't be giving me any points for perfectly round pancakes today.

These pancakes were part of this complete breakfast.  (Had to sound like a Kelloggs ad.  Couldn't resist.)

Prior to the butter and syrup appearing on the scene.  

Ben sections the grapefruit and removes all the pith.  Love that guy!

Later today, I will be sharing what I decided to make for meals for the upcoming week. I loved having it all planned out last week, so I am doing it again.  I have decided that what I did last week, digging out an old magazine, is now called Magazine Roulette.  It needs to be a weekly feature, don't you think?

Oh, before I forget, here are the stats for the pancakes.  I will leave you with that!  See ya!

nutrition facts

Friday, January 14, 2011

Guns and Ammo

Here are the guns:

Here is when my brain gets me in trouble.  I want to say the camera angle is making my muscles look bigger than they are.

Here is the ammo!

 Before heading into the oven.
 I wish you could smell this!
I was tempted to video tape this so you could see the bubbling when it came out of the oven!

I could tell you this pizza was good because anything tastes good when you are hungry enough.

I could tell you this pizza was good because I earned it from a hard workout.

I could tell you this pizza was good because I had a beer (or two) with it.

But I am not going to do that.  Nope.

I am just going to tell you, beg you, command you to make this pizza because it is bleeping good!

There were a lot of steps here, and if you are not used to rolling out dough, this may take some practice.  You need to start learning sometime, right?

So so good!

Okay, here is the recipe, again from Clean Eating, March/April 2010

Windy City Pie
Deep Dish Pizza

1 8-oz fresh, all natural extra lean turkey sausage
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 each small red and green sweet bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/8 tea sea salt and fresh ground pepper (oops I forgot that!)
2 tsp cornmeal (fine, not coarse)
1 1-lb  store bought package whole wheat pizza dough (I used Trader Joe's.  The magazine did have a recipe for their own crust.  Maybe on a weekend I will do that...)
6 oz low-fat mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided
1 cup simple tomato sauce or your favorite jarred sauce (I went again with Trader Joe's...this time the Italian Starter Sauce.  I will try their simple tomato sauce recipe the same day I make my own dough!)
1 tbsp fresh oregano sprigs (I skipped it.)

12 inch deep dish pizza pan or nonstick cake pan

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. In a medium saute pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion and saute for 2 minutes, until tender.  Add bell peppers and mushrooms and cook for an additional 3 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper (oops forgot) and transfer veggie mixture to a bowl. Set aside.

3. Return pan to burner over medium-high heat.  Add sausage meat and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon. (Why a wooden spoon?)  Cook until firm, opaque and fully cooked, about 4 minutes.  Pour sausage meat into a paper-towel lined bowl to drain excess fat.

4. Brush inside of pizza pan with the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with cornmeal.  Roll out dough to about 14 inches in diameter.  (They have online instructions for this if you need at  Place rolled dough directly into pan.  Press dough into the bottom and sides of pan gently, carefully stretching the dough about 1 1/2 inches up the side of the pan.

5. Sprinkle half the cheese over bottom of crust.  Evenly layer sausage meat, then sauteed veggies onto crust.  Pour tomato sauce evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

6. Place pan into over and bake for 20-25 minutes or until crust is golden brown, cheese is bubbling and filling is hot throughout.  Remove oven and let rest for 5 minutes for filling to set.  Cut into twelve wedges.  Sprinkle with oregano (if you plan to use it!).

Ben and I LOVE anchovies on our pizza, so we added them before baking.  So good and wonderfully fishy and salty.

Here are the stats, without the anchovies:

nutrition facts

Really.  Nothing more to say than #$^@*+! good!!



Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Gyro Verdict

Delicious and worth the effort.

What effort?

Note to self: read the directions ahead of time - a couple of times.  When I had read the recipe the first time, I thought, oh, I can do that Wednesday night.  Did I remember to do it Wednesday night?  Not from the looks of this.

Had I prepped the meat last night, and made the tatziki too, tonight's dinner would have been much easier for a weeknight.  I would not have been famished by the time dinner was ready, and probably would not have had the serving of chips while cooking.  No worries, all a part of a balanced day!

Anyways, here is a lousy picture of the gyros with the tatziki sauce:

 Honestly it tasted really good!

You have been so patient.  I reward your patience with the recipe.

Gyros with Tatziki Sauce from Clean Eating  Magazine, March/April 2010

1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped, or 1 tsp dried leaves
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp olive oil, divided
1 lb eye round beef steak, trimmed of visible fat and sliced into 4-4 oz lean beef tenderloins
olive oil cooking spray (optional)
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 medium sweet peppers (red, green, or combination)
4 whole-wheat pitas (6 1/2 inch diameter rounds)
2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 cup tatziki (see below)

1. In a small bowl, mix together oregano, cumin, paprika, black pepper, garlic, lemon juice and 1 tsp oil.  Rub mixture onto steaks, place in a zip-top bag and let marinate for 30 minutes or overnight in refrigerator.

2. Preheat broiler to high.  Place steaks on a foil-lined baking sheet misted with cooking spray and broil for 7-10 minutes.  When done, remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes; slice thinly.  Intermittently fan the smoke detector if your smoke detector is sensitive like mine.

3. Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tsp olive oil in a small saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add onion and sweet peppers and cook until soft, about 7 to 10 minutes.  Set aside.

4. To assemble, cut pitas in half, open pocket and place 2 ounces steak, 1/2 cup sweet pepper-onion mixture and 1/2 cup tomatoes in each pita half.  Top with 2 tbsp tatziki.

I had purchased smaller pitas from Trader Joes.  Do not go smaller! It was hard to fit enough good stuff in these smaller ones!

nutrition facts

Tatziki (Cucumber Yogurt)

2 medium cucumber, peeled and seeded
2 cups nonfat plain greek-style yogurt
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 tbsp fresh dill, finely minced
1 tbsp fresh mint, finely minced
1/8 tea sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp red wine vinegar

Finely grate cucumbers and place in the center of a clean cloth dishtowel.  Gather up ends and twist to wring out liquid over sink or bowl.  Cucumbers will release about 2/3 cup liquid.

In a large bowl, gently fold cucumbers into yogurt.  Mix in remaining ingredients.  Chill for 1 hour (or say to heck with that, I am hungry!)

Dip will keep for 2 days in refrigerator.

nutrition facts

Delicious and nutritious.  That's how I roll!



Wednesday, January 12, 2011

TV Dinner

Wednesday is the night of the week when Ben works late.  Dinner for one, a glass of wine, and the remote.

Better than the TV dinners I grew up on.  

I plan the most simple of dinners, yet still desire for it to taste great.

Great Harvest High 5 Fiber bread toasted with a layer of sauteed spinach with a poached egg.  Fresh ground pepper completed this dinner.

So. Freaking. Easy.  So. Damn. Delicious.

Hard work is done.  Feet are going up, Top Chef All-Stars is on, and I am vegging for the night!


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

When Reality is Better than Your Dreams

I have a quotation from Dr. Seuss that sits framed on my desk at work.

You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.

It is just after midnight here Central Time.  I am never awake this late.  I barely greeted 2011 at this hour.  It may have had something to do with a cup of coffee at 3pm.  Just sayin'.

It may also have something to do with the wheels in my head that won't stop.  I got word of a really good opportunity today, and it is something I am pursuing.  Not anything I can discuss at this point.  Just keep those positive vibes coming, would you?

I lay there thinking about all of the great things in my life, and wonder if it can get better.  I think about my friends and how lucky I am.  I hear Ben sleeping, and am so grateful that he is in my life.  Ben is the reason I was given that framed Dr. Seuss quotation in the first place.  Better than I could have dreamed.  Dreamed? Dreamt?  Which one is it Karyn?

Instead of laying there, I thought I would check in with blog world.

Today, that would be the day I am leaving, not the day entering as I sit here and type, was a rather typical day.

Well, except that it took 2 hours to get to work due to an inch of snow.  I am not kidding.  Yes, you would think Minnesotans would be able to drive in this.  They are not.

I had a few meetings, but most of the day was head down at my desk, getting some documentation complete that I have postponed way too long.  It was a productive use of desk time.

Ben and I headed to the Y after work, and it was an okay workout.  15 minutes on the track to warm up, then 40 minutes or so of leg exercises and ab work.  Enough to work up a sweat.

As planned, we had leftover chili for dinner. Best. Chili. Ever.  Cannot be emphasized enough.

There is someone else in my life making reality better than dreams for a lot of people.

My sister Kim is training with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training.  

You can read her story here.    Yes, it is a shameless request on my part to ask if you have $5.00 that needs donating that you consider donating it to a very worthy cause.  By going to her site, you will see that she is walking in memory of my Mom.  It, therefore, makes it my effort too to make sure she reaches her fundraising goal.

Kim doesn't go into a ton of detail, but I have to tell you, I did not like being an orphan at the age of 31. Renal cell cancer took my Mom's life a month shy of her 70th birthday.  I had a lot more conversations I wanted to have with her.  I wish I could show her the healthy person that I am today, the motivation she gave me to ensure that I would be around long past my own 70th birthday.  You just don't get more special than her.  I hope she is proud of me, as I am now healthy because of her.  Any donation to Kim's effort is appreciated more than I can say.

Speaking of health, trying to get a little more upbeat, I think this scale challenge is working out nicely. Part of my commitment for this year is to make sure I am accurately recording my meals, exercising with a focus on strength training and interval training rather than steady state cardio, and to accurately record that too.  In doing so, I stay healthy, if not get healthier, without me worrying what the scale says.

Yesterday, I put on a skirt that had been snug.  It zipped beautifully.

Today, I put on a pair of pants that fit well a month ago.  Now, they are just a tad loose.  

I can see the muscle definition returning in my arms, and the strength work I have been doing on my core is paying off.  It is quite possible, if not likely, that the scale is actually UP instead of down.  Here is the win.  A month ago if I saw any increase in the scale, I would be re-evaluating all of my choices and perhaps course correcting where it was not necessary.  Now, I can objectively assess where I am based on how I feel (really good) and how I look.  

I am eating when I am hungry, and have been making some really good decisions.  Those chocolate chip crack cookies from Sunday?  I had one half of one yesterday.  It was good, but that was enough.

Going to try and get some sleep now.  6am comes far too early.  



Monday, January 10, 2011

Italian Shrimp Salad

As I mentioned on Saturday, I had planned my meals for the week.

Here is the Italian Shrimp Salad from Clean Eating Magazine March/April 2010.

It was very easy, basically just requiring the shrimp to be cooked.  I will list the recipe as is, and then the changes I made.  The nutritional statistics are based on the recipe, without the dressing, and with the changes I made.

12 ounces fresh or frozen raw medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (If frozen, no need to thaw)
1/2 cup shelled fava beans ( I used frozen shelled edamame)
1 6-ounce jar artichoke hearts, quartered, drained and rinsed (I used frozen)
1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced (I sliced a piece, tried it and decided fennel is meant for me to enjoy it cooked! It got cut from the recipe!)
1/2 cup red grape tomatoes, halved
3 cups romaine lettuce leaves, shredded
1 recipe Honey & White Balsamic Vinaigrette (following, and NOT part of the nutritional stats)
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste (skipped it)
2 tbsp unsalted pine nuts (have you seen the price of pine nuts?  Skipped them)

1. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan (3-4 qt) over medium-high heat.  Add shrimp and cook for approx. 2 minutes, until shrimp turns pink. Remove shrimp from water with a slotted spoon and rinse in cold water, then set aside. (This step could easily have been done ahead of time, cutting prep time even more.)
2. Using the same boiling water, add beans and cook for 3 minutes.  Drain beans and rinse with cold water. (I did this with the edamame.)
3. In a large mixing bowl, place shrimp, beans, artichokes, green pepper, fennel (yuck), tomatoes and lettuce.  Add honey and white balsamic vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper, tossing gently to combine.  (I didn't add the salad to the whole thing, as I expect leftovers, and do not like salad with leftover dressing on it.)
4.  Divide among four plates and just before serving, top with 1/2 tbsp nuts.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  (Again, I skipped the pine nuts.)

Some nice salad stats!

nutrition facts

Now for your salad dressing!

Honey and White Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp raw organic honey
1/4 tea mustard seeds, ground (I used the back of a spoon and crushed them!)
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients.  Refrigerate until serving or use immediately.  Store in a sealed container in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Here are the stats, and I used balsamic vinegar from the database.  Close is indeed good enough!

nutrition facts

Pretty and nutritious!  Did I mention tasty?

For the record, this would make a great summer salad.  In the middle of a cold January?  Where are those chili leftovers?...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sundays are for cooking

Perhaps it was my upbringing; there was generally football on the television (Mom, not Dad!), and there was something always bubbling away on the stove.  With a family of 8, Mom had to be creative and have enough to, well, feed a small army!

This chili recipe would be good for a tiny army.  The portion is a good bowlful, but just so you understand proportions, this bowl fits comfortably in my hand.  I realize that not everyone weighs their food out, but this was just under 9 ounces per serving.

nutrition facts

As the recipe states, this is the Best. Chili. Ever.  If you are a bean lover, this is not your chili.  It is, however, a wonderful chili full of tender beef.  Sometimes a girl has to have some beef!

This smelled so good all afternoon, bubbling away on the stove.

A couple of sides completed this dinner, and I have to tell you, I am stuffed!

There were cornbread muffins; I will admit, I cheated.  It was a box mix I got from Costco.  It is a great mix, with whole corn kernels running though it.  I enjoyed it sans butter.  

The other item almost  stole the show!  I had purchased a bag o' southern greens at Trader Joe's yesterday.  It was a mix of mustard greens, turnip greens, collards and spinach.  I chopped an onion and a clove of garlic.  I sauteed them in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  After a few minutes, I added 2 cups of low sodium chicken stock.  After that started boiling, I added the bag o' greens.  It simmered for almost an hour.  (This is different than the directions on the bag, so I decided I would share my creation!)  I am excited we had leftovers because tomorrow for lunch I am going to add some cannellini beans.  It will be delicious!

nutrition facts

For dessert?  A lovely brew.  Fat Tire completed the meal, and the night!

Good night!  See you tomorrow!  Italian Shrimp Salad is on the menu!


Disclaimer: I do not use drugs.  I only refer to some food choices as crack.  May also be referred to as crack-a-licious.

Now that I have the legal stuff out of the way, here is a recipe for Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Disclaimer: There is not a darned thing healthy about these cookies.

They can, however, be fit into a balanced day.  I am choosing to not have one of these today.  I am making most of them for some coworkers that have been working really hard on my project.  They all sit in a small conference room together for hours on end.  I figured the appearance of some cookies might brighten their day a little.  Plus, it will get the majority of these cookies out of the house.  I will likely have one tomorrow, but today, I really wanted to have corn bread and beer with my chili.  Choices, my friends, it is all about choices.

This is based upon a recipe from my friend Jennifer.  The original recipe called for a cup of shortening. I missed the flavor of butter, so I have tried several iterations of these cookies; butter flavored Crisco, margarine (gasp!) and finally I settled on a combination of the fats.  You see, the fats in this cookie are what make them so good!  I have never tried to make them healthier.  This is a cookie. I do not believe in taking a food that is a treat and try and make it healthier. I think when you do that, you end up eating more with the misguided belief that they are a "health food" or they are just a little shy of what it is you really want.   You will never see me use plastic, artificial sugars in any recipe.  Don't get me started. I will sub applesauce when it was part of the original recipe, but these cookies must have the fat!

Okay, here goes.  One last disclaimer:
Disclaimer: Proceed with caution.  If you are someone that cannot stop at one cookie, this may not be the recipe for you! 

Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 48-52 cookies (depending on how much dough gets snagged...)

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, room temp
1/2 cup Crisco shortening
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tea vanilla
1 tablespoon milk
1 egg
1 tea salt
1 tea baking soda
1 tea cream of tartar
3 to 4 cups of flour  (I would not normally have a range of flour, but with these cookies, a more humid day requires more flour.  Generally I just split it and use 3 1/2 cups)
1 bag chocolate chunks
1/2 bag of mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In your mixer, add the butter, shortening, oil and your sugars.

Now, beat the hell heck out of it.  I am not kidding.  You are not only trying to cream the butters and sugars, you want it almost white and fluffy, like this:

When you are making a chewy cookie, like an oatmeal cookie, don't mix the heck out of it.  When making a crispy cookie, mix the heck out of your fats and sugars.

Add your milk, egg, and vanilla.  Mix until combined.

Add the salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar.  Mix until combined.

Okay, turn off the mixer.  Add your flour.  Now is NOT the time to beat the heck out of it. You do not want to mix it like crazy after your flour, or you will get a crisp hockey puck.  Mix gently, and only until combined.

Add the chocolate chunks and mini chips, taking care to not have a few fall into your awaiting hand.

Again, mix until combined.  Use your rubber spatula now, to ensure it is all mixed completely and you don't have any chips that are not married with dough.

Beat anyone that tries to eat your dough.

I really like to use a cookie scoop for nice, round cookies.  It is certainly not required.

You know the drill here.  Scoop, cookie sheet, yadda yadda yadda.  Here they are, waiting for me to close the over door!

Bake for around 12 minutes. You know your oven better than I do!

Just slightly browned on the edges.  So good!

My personal opinion is that these are best when consumed within 3 days.  And with a glass of milk!

Okay, you asked, (no you didn't but I feel a little obligated to share):

nutrition facts

A Compromise

I didn't go to the gym today.

Here is why:

When you live in Minnesota, you live for days like this.  Well, at least I do.  It was warm enough to take a run outside, rather than heading to the gym.  I do like to get as much natural sunlight as possible, and this was a great day to do it.  

Did you know that they sunny days are the colder days?  Yep, random fact for you.

We set out running on a new path that Ben discovered.  It was discovered somewhat out of desperation; heavy snowfall in recent weeks caused our favorite trail to be snowed-in.  Apparently this one is maintained by someone else, and was plowed.  It is a 1.4 mile loop.

Here is where my brain starts to work overtime.  Run 1.4/2.8/4.2?  See how you feel after 1.4, after the 2.8, etc.  There is way too much chatter in my head when I run.  Even The Black-Eyed Peas can't shut it up.

It is a nice hilly path, with no hill being too steep, but enough to get my heart rate up.  Just cardio for me as a workout is not enough.  I have gotten fit enough that a run doesn't burn a ton of calories.  I need something to affect the intensity of the run; I need to have hills, increase my speed, perform some intervals, something rather than just running along at an even pace.

1.4 miles down.  Way too early to stop. 

The second lap was okay, but I really wanted to start walking.  I walked a few hundred feet, then started running again.

2.8 miles down.  Now what.  I want to stop.   No, you don't want to stop.  You feel fine. Push yourself.

So I didn't stop.  I did, however, stop running.  I figured I am out here, I am still moving.  This is progress.

4.2 miles done, 507 calories burned, and I feel good.

The chili has been started, as well as some chocolate chip crack cookies.  You will see them later!

Sunday Breakfast

I love Sunday breakfast, rather Sunday mornings in general.  They are very lazy mornings.  I believed this recipe for Baked Oatmeal would fit in quite nicely with my Sunday morning. It is prepared the night before, then you just pop it in the oven that morning.

Okay, here was my first mistake.  You have to wait 40 minutes.  So, do I get up earlier than normal so that it is ready when I am truly ready to get up?  Do I get up, put it in the oven and go back to bed?  Or, get up, then wait impatiently for breakfast to be ready, in the meantime consuming what would amount to breakfast anyways.

I ended up waking at the normal time, which on Sundays is a rather late 9am by many peoples' standards.  I scurried downstairs, got it in the oven, set my phone as a timer, and went back to bed. I was feeling lazy, and it is cold here, so I simply was not ready to be out of bed!

Timer goes off, and I now eagerly bound down the stairs to examine my creation.

Are you as underwhelmed as I was?

I am not sure what I was expecting, but this was not it.  After I tasted it, I knew it wasn't it.  That is about the time that I told myself that if you expected brown sugar cinnamony goodness, perhaps you should have put some in the recipe?  

Don't get me wrong.  It was not inedible.  It simply was not what I had dreamt of waking to this morning.  I made the best of it.

Topping it with greek yogurt, blackberries and honey took it from "meh" to "not too bad!"

When Ben sat down with his, I giggled because it looked nothing like mine.  He basically used his as a base for, what did I call it? A porridge.  He had his broken up into bits, and added dried fruit, granola, honey and almond breeze.  I have to tell you - his was good!

Here are the nutritional stats.  When I calculated the serving size, the original recipe had said 9-12 servings.  I said yeah, right because she obviously does not know how much I like breakfast!  6 servings come to:

nutrition facts
Courtesy of my friends at Nutrimirror

Considering I struggle often with getting enough calcium and iron in my day, this was a good way to start.  Hmmm. That's an idea.  Next time I am adding blackstrap molasses.  That will bump the nutritional stats even higher!

As for the rest of my morning, I will be sitting here on the couch, convincing myself that I need to go to the gym.  Considering that my planned dinner of chili, cornbread and southern greens is quite calorically dense (nutritionally too) I won't have to work too hard to convince myself to go.

Ben just brought me a second cup of coffee.  He knows how lazy I like to be too!

Will check in with chili later. Can't wait!