Friday, March 30, 2007

A new way to make tabbouleh

Traditional tabbouleh, a middle eastern grain salad, is Core in and of itself. Made of bulgur wheat, parsley, tomato, scallion, with lemon juice and olive oil, the salad is perfectly Core. But from my experiences working with bulgur, it's kind of a pain to make. So when I found this recipe for Quinoa Tabbouleh, I was really into it. I had a box of quinoa that I found at Trader Joe's and was looking for a good recipe to use it in.

And this one is a good one. If you count the oil toward your 2 tsp a day and use ff feta it's probably less than a point if you use the raisins. I suggest using them, btw. I do count points for the feta and raisins, though, b/c I won't use ff cheese. Feta is one of those naturally lower in fat cheeses that if used in moderation really doesn't add many points to a dish.

And because it's already happy hour somewhere...

From Cooking Light

3 tablespoons white rum
3 tablespoons Cointreau (orange-flavored liqueur)
3 tablespoons brandy
6 orange slices
6 lemon slices
1 peach, cut into 6 wedges
1 cinnamon stick
1 (750-milliliter) bottle Rioja or other fruity red wine (such as Beaujolais or Zinfandel)
1 cup sparkling water, chilled

Combine all the ingredients except sparkling water in a large pitcher. Chill for 8 hours. Stir in water immediately before serving. Yield: 6 servings

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A leftover I can't wait to eat

Almost every day someone currently doing the Flex program posts on the Core plan board about how they are afraid of Core because they don't think they like any of the foods on the list, or they think it's too restrictive.

I couldn't disagree more. And I think people who have been on Core longer than I have would share my opinion. If anything, I've been eating more interesting meals since on Core. Maybe b/c I'm not bound by point values. I'm free to experiment with Core ingredients.

My dinner this week is a brand new recipe, and a new protein source altogether — Pan-Seared Scallops, Corn, and Tomato from Gourmet. I had to cut the amount of oil by a little, and if using center cut bacon, it's only about 1/2 a point per serving. And it's deliciousness on a plate. Orzo would have been a better side dish, though. I just couldn't find it in whole wheat.

Try not to drool.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Obsessed with polenta...and breakfast

Those who know me well, know that I heart breakfast. It's easily my favorite meal of the day, and I enjoy breakfast foods at every meal. Pancakes for dinner? Sure. A ham and cheese omelet as a midnight snack? Absolutely, in my pre-WW days at least.

Another obsession of mine is polenta. I love the stuff to death. So why not combine the two?

Brilliant. And thanks to the NY Times food section, I got the fantastic pairing of an egg fried in evoo on top of polenta. Served with fruit and a glass of milk, and this breakfast will last for hours. Yum!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Veering off track

I'll be honest. I was completely off plan this weekend. But, I don't think it's all that bad. Maybe?

Friday night, DBF and I made a cheese plate for dessert with St. Andre that we found in the Whole Foods cheese case. Our friends decided not to come out because it was raining.. so we opted for a night in with cheese :)

Then Saturday I drank too much and was thus sick that night.. so the calories don't count — right? And as a side note: NEVER and I repeat NEVER drink two big glasses of wine and then follow it up with two pints of beer. It's a bad idea. Sunday was a recovery day from Saturday.. and I woke up sick with newly aquired allergies yesterday. So today is Day One back on track.

Maybe some day I'll learn, but I doubt it.

Friday, March 23, 2007

It's happy hour somewhere

Tonight, I'm not cooking. We're going out for Mexican, then out to play video games at Gameworks, and then probably somewhere for less expensive beer and drunken debauchery. Hopefully we'll make it to my favorite bar that offers a good oatmeal stout for the tough price of $3. It might be a quarter or two more than that, but you still can't beat that with a stick.

I have to admit, my brain is already on "weekend mode" and I can't wait to get that sweet booze and tortilla chips in my little paws. I've been looking forward to it all week, and it has been the carrot in front of my nose.. taunting me all week and motivating me to work out like I planned to and stay out of the little chocolate Easter eggs in my kitchen cabinet. I want to save all my WPA for this.

And for those with WPA (or Flex) to burn.. let me suggest a martini that after two.. will flatten you. I think I had two or three of these on New Years and I certainly wasn't feeling any pain—at least until the next day :)

Pomegranate Cosmos
From Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network

2 cups (16 ounces) good vodka
1 cup (8 ounces) orange liqueur (recommended: Cointreau)
1 cup (8 ounces) pomegranate juice
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
Lime peel strips, to garnish

Combine the vodka, orange liqueur, pomegranate juice, and lime juice in a pitcher and refrigerate until ready to use. Pour the mixture into frozen martini glasses with a twist of lime peel and serve immediately.

You seriously don't want to know the Points® value for these.. just enjoy them. And keep in mind.. pomegranates are nutritional powerhouses, so they're GOOD for you!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Great grains!

One part of being on the CORE® plan is that you should be trying new grains. They have a lot to choose from: quinoa, bulgur, barley, whole wheat couscous, polenta, wheat berries, millet, etc. I've always been a fan of couscous. I even opted for whole wheat over the plain variety....even before I chose the CORE plan. I used to eat it for lunch (as a part of a grain salad) and for dinner (as a side dish) but I've never had it for breakfast. So, in the spirit of trying new things, I've been eating it for breakfast with Bird's Eye Pepper Stirfry mix and two overeasy eggs. Ignore the egg on the left. I was in a hurry this morning and busted the yolk. Oops!

Any other creative ways of using grains for breakfast are greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Why blog?

I was lurking on a food-related message board yesterday afternoon and came across a thread on food blogs. People were discussing whether it was just a passing craze of if some people were in it for the long haul. Not every blog gets a ton of hits and most don't get paid to do it, so why blog?

I created a food blog to combine two of my passions in life. Writing and food. I'm a professional writer and I love food. My love for food in all of its forms is what brought me to WW in the first place. I love food a little too much and it didn't really love me back. Or more accurately, it picked a fight with my pants. And of course, my pants won because, above all, I'd like them fit. Muffin tops are so 10 years ago.

The other reason? To maybe show some that being on a "diet" doesn't have to mean 100-calorie packs, light bread, fat-free cheese, and products with artificial sweeteners. I saw one poster on the WW boards say that dieting isn't exciting and that boring is OK. I beg to differ. I constantly challenge myself to recreate old favorites, change up my menus, and experiment with new vegetables. WW is about learning a better way to eat for life. So if you lose by eating boring foods, you'll just gain the weight back when you start incorporating "exciting" foods again. Every meal should be delicious and fulfilling. Because no matter how you try to ignore it, food is more than fuel and always will be. It should as good tasting as it is good for you.

And as for trying new veggies — I tried my hand at Curried Squash and Apple Soup. Although super easy (it's a slow cooker recipe), the flavor seems slightly off. And I put too much curry in it. Maybe it's not that the flavor is so much off as it is that I might not be a fan of butternut squash in general. I made a pasta dish with it a couple of years ago and I didn't really care for that either.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I laugh in the face of E. coli

A few weeks ago I went to Sam's Club and bought more meat and seafood than I can ever hope to consume in my lifetime. I am now the proud owner of 3 pounds of flank steak, 2 pounds of raw shrimp, 2 pounds of scallops, and 6.5 pounds of individually frozen chicken breast (boneless and skinless of course). That my friends and neighbors, is a lot of meat. My freezer is overflowing. Every time I open it I duck to avoid the frozen block of tofu falling from the top of the heap and quickly push the steak back in to its proper resting place. As an unmarried gal living on my own, my freezer is full of random items that I can't seem to consume a whole package of. Half a loaf of bread, some tortillas, leftover homemade chicken stock, half a block of tofu, 1/4 of a bag of peas.

I'm so frustrated with the freezer and totally afraid that one day that chicken hind quarter is going to knock me out cold and I'll by lying unconscious on my kitchen floor for days and no one will know, that I have made it my life's mission to find recipes to cook this stuff.

So last night I cracked open the gigantic bag o' shrimp and made Orange Ginger Shrimp Skewers. I had brown rice with it, and because I'm not frightened in the least by gastrointestinal distress related to E. coli — I sauteed spinach in olive oil and garlic to go with it. It's good, but it'd be better on the grill rather than a grill pan. Unfortunately I don't own a grill, and I think they would frown upon setting up a hibachi in my living room.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

That was then.. this is now

Sometimes I think people look at the stats I have posted in my WW message board signature and think I'm there trying to lose only 20 pounds. Or, think I'm a newbie because I have only lost 10 pounds from my "start" weight. My start weight was acutally somewhere in the 160s, close to the 170s, I think. It's been so long it's hard to remember.

It's kind of hard to tell from the pictures, but I can see the weight loss in my face.. and maybe arms. Here are two of me from October 2001. I joined WW for the first time in January 2002, back when it was winning points.

Here's one of me from when I was 150ish. Just about when I started WW in 2005, I was up from 128, which is where I stopped in March 2004.

The reason I went back to WW in 2005? Among others, it was because the then-DBF's ex called me fat.

Oh well. Here's This one from a couple of months ago, I am about 136ish right now. I would like to be in the 120s again. I realize it doesn't look that much different.. again, you kind of have to see me in person to see it, I suppose. I notice it in photos, and people who haven't seen me since 2005 notice it, but that's about it.

Me and my DBF, who I like a whole of a lot better than the last one :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Dinner tonight was Flank Steak Fajitas with Garden Vegetables, well, minus the bell pepper because I was out. I had chili lime corn on the cob and black beans that I seasoned with garlic, cumin, and cilantro. It was really good. The flank steak is so lean that it's a little tough. So I don't nearly need to cook it as long as they suggest. But other than that.. it was good.

The polenta lasagna is good as well. Better than I expected judging by the smell of the faux meat cooking in the pan. It's not only edible, but pretty darn good, especially considering it didn't take much effort to make.

A note on what I eat: I'm not afraid to use my APs and WPA for things. I don't typically try to save them, I don't make a point to eat every single last one, but I don't fret about eating a slice of bread, non-Core item, etc. In fact, last week I went horribly over and still lost. This morning the peek said 135.4, which I actually haven't seen since Christmas. So eating them must not be hurting my weight loss at all.

That being said, this week I plan to spend most of them on an entire non-core meal. Sunday, because DBF and I can't actually go for St. Patrick's Day, we'll have a Irish-inspired meal. Well, maybe not. But the Monte Cristo sandwiches I plan to make are what he always gets at Claddagh's Irish Pub. The place is OK. I've been there once with him. It's a chain and I don't really care much for chain restaurants in general. It's usually predictable food laden with unnecessary fat and calories. How do these restaurants make a chicken dish more than 1,000 calories? I don't really understand how they do that.. besides maybe rubbing the meat down with lard before cooking it, which I doubt they actually do.

Anyhow, with the Monte Cristos I'll make fries and wash it all down with a Guinness. That's what I call a non-core meal.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Polenta masquerades as noodles

Last night about 10 p.m. I remembered I was supposed to make a polenta lasagna for today. I almost forgot. Good thing it didn't take long to prepare — less than 45 minutes. It has premade polenta as it's noodles and a faux sausage, zucchini, red bell pepper, and onion as it's filling. It was supposed to have mushrooms, but meh, I forgot to buy them and blew my food budget this week. And, if I was buying anything in between trips, it would be batteries for my camera.. not measly old mushrooms.

I will give you a warning though, that faux meat smells nasty cooking in the pan. Seriously kinda gross. I had to plug my nose. I think if I do this again I'll just use ground turkey or maybe some lean ground beef. I should like how it smells while cooking. I just knew there was a reason I didn't like faux meat products — besides of course, that they are processed and unnatural.

Tomorrow I'm making steak fajitas and I'm so excited for them I could pee myself. I heart Mexican food.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Salmon patties.. two ways

Here I go again, eating the same thing twice in one day. Sometimes, I really hate living alone. I just don't like to waste food. Food costs a lot and I spend a fair amount of my budget on food. So, I try to get the stated number of servings out of each recipe, and actually eat them. I don't like to toss food out, if I don't have to. So yesterday, I was supposed to take the salmon patties to work for dinner. But, I was running late and had to eat out instead.

So, in the interest of nothing going bad, I present salmon patties, two ways. Lunch was a salmon pattie with the cilantro endamame pesto, with couscous and a salad. Dinner will be this:

I will eat more fries than that, yes. The photo only has a few b/c when I made them on Saturday I was picking at the fries while I waiting for the "burgers" to be done.

Good thing is I get to have Polenta Lasagna for lunch tomorrow. :)

Friday, March 9, 2007

A glimpse of spring

Today almost feels like spring. It's sunny and actually kind of warm. It made me crave a salad. A nice big one, too. Luckily, that was in the plan for today. It was romaine lettuce, red pepper, green pepper, carrots, and alfalfa sprouts with jerk grilled chicken with a balsamic dressing.

The chicken is rubbed with a jerk spice blend leftover from when I made the jerk pork tenderloin. I just rubbed it on boneless, skinless chicken and grilled it in the grill pan. Yum.

The dressing is one of my favorites from the Cooking Light Complete Cookbook.

Balsamic Dressing
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup minced green onion (I sometimes sub dried chives if I don't have these on hand)
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp fresh or 2 tsp dried parsley
1 tbsp fresh or 1 tsp dried tarragon
1 tbsp water
1/8 tsp black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced (I use the garlic press)

Whisk together all of the ingredients in a small bowl and chill.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Owwww.. my legs

My legs are sore from my jog on the treadmill last night. Very sore. So sore I'm thinking of taking something. I've been stalling b/c I hate medicine. I also need a decongestant to stop this post-nasal drip, too, but that always makes me loopy and disconnected feeling. But that's neither here nor there.

I am, however, proud of myself for even going to the gym. I haven't been particularly motivated lately. I walked in last night and it felt like I hadn't been there in years. Or was that just my slow pace and the huffing and puffing talking? I'm on my feet for my second job 3+ days per week, and on Saturdays I'm moving nonstop from the moment I arrive to the moment I leave, so I didn't expect to be that out of shape. Sure, I haven't exactly seen a treadmill since December, but really? I lost that much of my cardiovascular abilities? Apparently so. I'm back to square one.

Unfortunately, nothing exciting to take pictures of today. Cottage cheese is not photogenic and the oatmeal looks like, well, I'm not sure what it looks like but it doesn't exactly look scrumptious sitting in its bowl. I will, however, share my method for apple oatmeal. Maybe not as "good" as the instant Quaker oatmeal packets, but it's Core-friendly and fresh. It's not 100% core, because I hate artificial sweeteners and diet-y products in general. It's 1 pt. for the recipe if on Core. If using a small apple it would be 6 pts. on Flex. Fills me up all morning long.

Cinnamon Apple Oatmeal
1 cup fat-free milk
1 Granny Smith or Yellow Delicious Apple (best for baking imho) peeled and diced
Apple Pie spice to taste
cinnamon to taste
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup old fashioned oats

I put the milk, apple, sugar and spices in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Add rolled oats and cook according to package directions by bringing the burner down to medium and cooking 5 minutes. Take off heat, cover, and let sit for 3 minutes and serve.

By the end the apples are soft and cooked and yummy. If you ever try it let me know if you have any ideas to make it better.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

A disclaimer about this blog...

I feel as though I should provide a disclaimer. It's apparent from the Core Tip Exchange that there is a lot of disagreement over the new Core snack rule. Generally, I haven't been following it. So, if I were to post my menu in future posts, please keep that in mind.

I don't believe that everyone should disregard the rules. I just feel that I have a handle on snacking. It's quite possible that what I'm really doing falls under the mini-meal rule, but I don't think a bowl of soup, a salad, and an apple qualifies as a mini meal. But I do know that I can't just nibble on fruit, popcorn and milk in the afternoon. For one, I don't like to be hungry every two hours. And there are plenty of nutritionists, and reputable ones at that, who say if you won't be eating again for more than two hours, it's a good idea to have something more substantial. So, I generally have yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit to tie me over. I eat lunch between noon and 1 p.m., have a snack between 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. and then eat dinner between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. on most nights.

And after 5 years on WW and sustaining a 30 pound loss, I feel as though I understand what a snack is and is not.

Plus, sometimes WW is wrong. Yes, Core is a sensible way of learning to eat better. But should it be the ONLY nutritional advice we seek? Probably not. WW is a good plan, but isn't infallible. I know that I'm staying in my calorie limit and that folks, is what weight loss is all about. Not the foods you eat and don't eat. It's calories in vs. calories out.

End of disclaimer. Ha. So now on to my feast this week: Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs served with brown rice and sugar snap peas tossed in 1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil. The chicken, by my calculations should be 2 pts. by the Core plan. The NI info is, of course, on the recipe if you are counting on the Flex plan. The chicken is super easy, and really, really good. I highly recommend it. Yum!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Stepping away from the Girl Scout cookies

I haven't posted much because I haven't been cooking. Instead, I seem to be subsisting on Girl Scout cookies alone. And the occaisonal fried egg, because they're yummy. I told DBF last night (as I scarfed a sleeve.. yes.. a SLEEVE of shortbread cookies) that I really should stop buying my favorite Girl Scout cookies. He says, "As opposed to what, buying ones you don't like?" I bet he thought there wasn't such a cookie. But really, I don't care for Tagalongs much. I used to have a deep-seated hatred for peanut butter. Especially peanut butter cookies. Go figure. Anyhow. He wanted to know the point in buying a kind I don't like. Reason being, I'm a sucker for a cause. I am, afterall, a lifetime Girl Scout (no joke, I paid the dues) and who am I to deny those cute little girls a trip to summer camp? So that's it. Next year I'm totally buying Tagalongs. Only those and nothing else. But I'll probably find a way to down those as well. Sigh.

So now I'm disgusted with my cookie eating behavior and back to the old CORE® bandwagon. My lunch this week: Summer Corn and White Bean Soup. And yes, I know it's not summer. But frozen corn works just as well. Seriously. Not a fantastic soup, but it fills up my stomach and tastes good. Nothing to gush over, but good nonetheless. And of course my lunch is never complete without two cups of romaine lettuce and piece of fruit.