Monday, June 29, 2009

BBQ Tofu with Sauteed Veggies

BBQ Tofu and Sauteed Veggies

It's been a while since I've posted last. I've been so busy at work that I mostly just crashed when I came home. And, you know, I don't even think I made anything really great last week. I don't know which is better — disappearing for a week or posting boring food?

Tonight's dinner was excellent and completely recipe free. I thawed out some extra firm tofu from the freezer and slapped it on the grill. Cooked it a bit on both sides, slathered it with BBQ sauce and grilled it some more. Perfection.

On the side is a mixture of fresh corn cut off the cob, zucchini, and grape tomatoes sauteed in olive oil and minced garlic and garnished with green onion. Not show is roasted asparagus that I bought on a whim because it was only $1.99 a pound.

Sometimes, the simplest meals are the best.

On a completely unrelated note, yesterday was a big day for me. I bought shorts. I can't remember the last time I bought a pair of shorts. I think it's been at least seven years.

It's not that I hate my legs. I don't. In fact, it's one thing I've always been OK with. It's that I'm pale. I'm talking practically see-through.

I'm so fair-skinned that I have trouble even finding makeup that's not too dark for my face. At the makeup counter the salesperson asks about what type my skin is, etc. trying to match me with a foundation.

"It doesn't matter," I always say. "It's not about my skin type, it's about what foundation comes in extra pale."

And my face gets sun. My legs, which haven't seen the sun since at least 2005, are even more white. Day-glo even. But, you know, I'm tired of trying to hide my pasty skin because in 90+ heat plus humidity, it's just too damned hot for jeans. So lookout world hear comes my pale legs.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Steak with Parsley Sauce and Chili-Rubbed Oven Roasted Potatoes

Steak with Parsley Sauce
Steak with Parsley Sauce

This morning after having a late-ish breakfast of cinnamon raisin french toast and grapes, I headed to the gym for another Couch to 5K workout. It was either too hot or I was a little dehydrated because the 30 minutes were TORTURE. And I caught a glimpse of myself as I was leaving and I looked like hell, which wasn't too far from how I felt. I let my breakfast settle before leaving, so it wasn't that. Maybe it was also because I took the week off last week.

Cinnamon Raisin French Toast
Cinnamon Raisin French Toast

I came home, slugged water like it was my job, and did a 25 minute yoga download to stretch out. By that time I was starving so I repurposed some leftovers in to this salad. The salad had leftover grilled steak, leftover oven roasted potatoes, carrots, cukes, tomatoes, red onion, a little blue cheese and some Good Seasons Italian dressing. It was the packet kind you mix yourself (I used half the oil it called for). I forgot how much I love that dressing.

Leftovers, reinvented
Leftovers, reinvented

The original meal was Steak with Parsley Sauce and Chili-Rubbed Oven Roasted Potatoes. The potatoes were supposed to be more like french fries, but I only had baby red potatoes, so they were more like a roasted potato. Tasted just like the fries usually do, actually.

I made this meal for the first time a while time ago when I was still with the ex. His friend came dinner and I figured it would be something he'd like. His friend's parents had just moved out of state, he was a recent grad working at a coffee shop, and after he paid the rent I think he had just enough money for Ramen and gas to get to work. So, I invited him to dinner whenever we had extra food, figuring he could always use a good home-cooked meal. Plus, he seemed enthusiastic about dinner, which was always better than the "it's OK" that I usually got from the ex.

I put this on my menu plan this week after I leveled my parsley over weekend. I needed something to use up a boat load of parsley, fast. This is really just a parsley pesto sauce, simple but tasty. I usually don't like a whole lot of extra flavor to my steak, but lean steak, like the top round I used, can sometimes need a little help in the taste department. It doesn't have any marbling going for it.

I don't like to reheat steak so I was originally planning a steak sandwich, but it just sounded WAY too heavy after my terrible run. So a salad it was.

The rest of my Sunday was cleaning, which I hate. It's boring and time consuming. But I like living in a clean space, so it's got to be done!

Dinner wasn't photo worthy, but it was great. Chili beef stuffed zucchini and refried black beans. The recipe was a Rachael Ray recipe I remember seeing a couple of years ago and it was actually pretty healthy. It was a surprise, actually. All I had to do was cut back the oil a bit, use 2% sharp cheddar and 93/7 ground beef. The beans were Meijer organic refried black beans with red jalepeno peppers. The nutritional info was great.. 80 calories, 0 grams fat, and 5 grams fiber for 1/2 cup. There were just beans, jalepenos and salt and it was all organic. Definitely less scary than most canned refried beans. If you live near a Meijer — look for them.

Alright.. I'm off to relax.

A question for the day on my way out, though: What do you do to get through a tough workout? I'm not going to lie, I wanted to call it quits halfway through today!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Honey-Mustard Chicken-Sausage Kebabs

Honey Mustard Chicken Sausage Kebabs
Honey-Mustard Chicken-Sausage Kebabs

I'm expecting a loss this week, but not because I watched my portions or exercised. Nope. I managed to make excuses all week long, so I didn't actually step foot in the gym.

But I did lose 10 pounds of hair this morning. I'm exaggerating, of course. But it seriously felt like that. I finally had my hair cut today and it went from just past shoulder length to chin length. Plus, she thinned out my hair, which it needed! I feel so much lighter! My hair took forever and two weeks to dry and to shave it down to just forever I ramped up the heat. And that's a long time to stay under a searing hot blow dryer when it's close to 90 degrees outside.

After my haircut I needed a pick-me-up since I ran out with only a strawberry banana smoothie — and sans my morning coffee. I stopped by Starbucks hoping there'd be a little left on the gift card I've been carrying around for a year. Better than a little — there was more than $7! Plus, I ordered an iced coffee with soy for the first time. I usually get nonfat lattes, but it was so hot out I thought I would change it up. Holy cow, where has this been all my life? I'm in Starbucks love.

I also ate a cinnamon roll Larabar as a snack when running errands. When I got home it was 3 p.m. and I was hungry so I made a veggie burger in a pita: Morningstar Farms Garden Veggie Patty, deli mustard, red onion, tomato and lettuce in a whole wheat mini pita. Yum!

Veggie Burger in a Pita
Garden veggie patty in a pita

I ran a few more errands and made it back around 5 p.m. for my weekly "happy hour." I'm almost done with the book. Good thing.. I've renewed it at the library nearly three times already. I'm a slow reader.

Happy hour -- again
Two-buck Chuck Chard

And finally, dinner — Honey-Mustard Chicken-Sausage Kebabs. These were pretty good actually. And quick. I love that. If I make these again I'll just chop up big pieces of bell pepper rather than getting the mini peppers. And, I'll dip the pieces in the sauce. The sauce was the best part and it was just dijon mustard, honey and light mayo. Overall, not bad! A decent cap to a good day.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Spinach Goat Cheese Frittata

Spinach Goat Cheese Frittata

A few nights ago, I made this Spinach Frittata. I had leftover goat cheese from the recipe earlier this week and my spinach was fading fast. So what's better and quicker than a frittata? Not much!

They make a great brunch dish, but also a faithful standby dish for quick weeknight dinners. And they're pretty healthy, but can be made healthier with a mix of whole eggs and egg whites. If I'm making a whole frittata for four people I use about 4 whole eggs and 6 egg whites. I was planning to make it smaller in my small frying pan so I was planning to use 2 whole eggs and 3 egg whites. But when I opened the eggs — drat. Only four eggs.

So I ended up using 4 whole eggs instead. The rest was pretty much as written except I just used whatever spinach I had and wilted it in the pan with the garlic and onions instead of pre-cooking it. I don't think it made a whole lot of difference. I could see why you'd want to if you're dealing with a pound of spinach.. that's a ton of spinach! But I just used about 2 big handfuls per serving. Also, if you don't like goat cheese, feta would also be delicious!

Now on to a different subject: My "diet." I received a question the other day about how I stick to my diet. I decided the answer warrants part of a post.

First of all, I don't see this as a diet. This isn't temporary. I'm trying to make this a lifestyle change — a habit. I think that's why this is like the 5th time I've had to re-lose weight. I get to whatever goal I've set, slowly go back to old habits, and the weight creeps back. So I've stopped even calling this a diet. I don't want to go back to eating crap.

I'm not perfect — in fact, I'm fairly lax. I'm sometimes down one week, up the next, down a lot another and stay the same the next. Could I lose faster? Probably. Do I really want to worry over every bite and spend hours in the gym? Nope. I've decided consistency is better than perfection. Plus, there's an overall downward trend and that's really all I care about. I eat better and am fitter than I was a year ago — so that tells me I'm on the right track.

Each week I plan out my meals including snacks and write up an exercise plan. Planning helps me a lot. I count up my points once a week and only worry about it again if I eat something not in my plan. I even try to plan ahead for special events. I look at menus ahead of time when going out. If I know I'm going out for drinks with some friends, I plan to have a couple and include that in my points for the week. I make up for it by eating a little lighter at another meal or stepping up my activity.

Some days I slip up. If there's an unplanned food event or and work is busy and I miss my workout, I try not to stress over it too much. While eating out I choose the best options I can and fill up on veggies and lean protein and whole grains if available. But mostly, I've come to realize one off day (or even two.. gasp!) isn't going to make you gain back all your weight. But giving up entirely will.

I also try to always listen to my hunger, but it's definitely what I struggle with most. If I'm hungry I eat, if I'm not, I don't. I try eat before I'm famished and stop before I'm completely full. On weeks I do well with this, I lose. Even if I wasn't perfect about writing everything down or tallying up my points. And, I make foods I love — with plenty of vegetables, lean protein and whole grains. When I feed myself well, I feel better and now when I don't — I pay the price!

Last but not least, my mantras: everything in moderation and don't do anything on your "diet" that you aren't 100% sure you could continue for a lifetime.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Roasted Vegetables over Polenta

Roasted Vegetables over Polenta
Roasted veggies over homemade polenta "log"

I had a great weekend. I slept in enjoyed some time outside, cooked a few good meals, and generally got a lot accomplished. Felt great!

But today I'm totally pooped! I couldn't fall asleep last night for the life of me and I paid for it today, that's for sure. I skipped my workout because I was so tired and hungry. It probably would have helped energized me, but I brought my running shoes and a run sounded like TORTURE today. I'll go tomorrow.

Plus, I had a super hungry day today, which I think was because I was tired. It was like my body was looking for energy. I tried to feed it good foods and even a little extra coffee, but I was like an endless pit. I have my unofficial weekly WI, so if I don't lose as much as I expect I know today is probably to blame.

Saturday's eats weren't much to look at considering I was out of food in the a.m., well actually into the p.m. considering I didn't wake up until noon. So I ate two meals, both of which were odds and ends.

Yesterday started off with some scrambled eggs and toast with fresh chives from my "garden." I also had a late lunch that was a riff on this pizza. I made homemade pesto from the basil I pruned back a bit on Saturday and put it on a whole wheat mini pita I had in my freezer. It was delicious!

Sierra Nevada
Sierra Nevada Summerfest

After enjoying a happy hour with Sierra Nevada Summerfest and a book, dinner was potato skewers with grilled chicken sausage and a salad — nothing too fancy, but it was a gorgeous evening to fire up the grill.

Potato Skewers with Sausage
Potato skewers, grilled chicken sausage and a salad

For dessert I had some of this fro-yo I found at local natural foods store a few days ago. It sounded unique. It's good, but I could totally make this and even with full fat yogurt, the nutritional info looks like it will be about the same as this packaged stuff, with a slightly bigger serving. But if you don't have a ice cream maker, this is tasty! It's hard not to dig in every time I pass the freezer.

Organic Low-Fat Fro-Yo
Low-fat cinnamon apple fro-yo

Today, I was a bottomless pit with a bowl of cereal with skim for breakfast, the dinner I had last night, crackers and edamame hummus, a cup of coffee with skim milk, a Nature Valley Sweet and Salty granola bar (I was limited by the vending machine), a handful each of peanuts and more crackers and finally dinner — roasted veggies with polenta.

Now this was good. REALLY good. The goat cheese totally made it. Plus, I have a special place in my heart for roasted veggies. It was garnished with my fresh basil. Deliciousness. I can' t even describe. The polenta was cornmeal made with 1 cup cornmeal and 4 cups water plus salt and pepper for four servings. I put the hot polenta in a loaf pan and let it cool overnight and then sliced and reheated. It's the poor man's polenta log. The pre-made logs are close to $3 if not more, and plain cornmeal is super cheap. All it takes is a little pre-planning. The meal was even pretty low-calorie, which was good considering the carbfest I had today.

Oh well. Onward and downwards, I suppose. :) Night!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pacific Pork Kebabs with Pineapple Rice

Pacific Pork Kebabs with Pineapple Rice
Pacific Pork Kebabs with Pineapple Rice

I was having such a hungry day today. The whole grain cream of wheat didn't hold me over at all. I'm not someone who needs a lot of protein in the morning. But I did pack a full cup of milk to go with the hot cereal. I also topped it with unsweetened applesauce and blueberries.. so I don't know what was up.

I ended up digging into my grapes by mid morning and eating lunch a little earlier than usual. I even had pull out a majorly smushed Kashi cereal bar that I found in my tote on Monday when I was searching for my lost car keys.

Searching for car keys, by the way, is totally typical of me. I went through confirmation in the Catholic church in college and I nearly picked the patron saint of lost keys. And once, I was half an hour late to work (despite living only 5 minutes away at the time) because my cat knocked my keys into a laundry basket full of clothes and I never thought to look there. I turned my entire place upside down before I put two and two together and realized she batted them off the kitchen table. Cats. I love her but she tries my patience.

Anyhow. Good thing I grabbed a snack as I did a more challenging couch to 5k workout. At least challenging for a non-runner like me. Overall a good day eating/exercise wise.

I also made pork kebabs for dinner. I didn't use the oil in the rice, but sprayed the kebabs with oil so they wouldn't stick on the grill. I also only had 1/2 a red pepper for two servings, so I added some onion to add some veg. I think it could have used more veggies.

They were pretty good, but honestly, nothing special. A basic kebab and the rice was just ok. I think I would've liked it a little better if it were brown rice, but I didn't want to wait around for the rice to cook so white it was. All in all a decent dinner, but it doesn't stand out enough to make it again.

Ok.. off to bed, I'm up too late. Night.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Grilled Steak Salad with Green Beans and Blue Cheese

Grilled Steak Salad with Green Beans and Blue Cheese
Grilled Steak Salad with Green Beans and Blue Cheese

Today was a pretty good day eating and exercise-wise. I even lost a little this week. I'm on a roll.

Not a whole lot happened today, actually. Everything was same old, same old. Sometimes uneventful days are the best.

I was running late this morning per usual because I actually didn't fall asleep last night until after 1 a.m. Getting out of bed this morning was a challenge. I ended up grabbed oatmeal from the cafeteria topped with brown sugar and cranberries and a carton of skim milk. For about $2, it's a quick and fairly economical choice for mornings like today where I'm a complete spaz. I also didn't have a chance to make coffee so I drank the free office coffee, which is pretty terrible. But I can't complain too much.. it's free!

Lunch, like always was leftovers and snack was another Yoplait. They are pretty sweet tasting, maybe a little too much so, but they were 50 cents a carton and it was triple coupon day. I have a hard time passing up a deal especially when they're not bad for you overall. A little artificial sweetener won't kill me, I just prefer to avoid it because I don't like the taste of it all that much.

Dinner was this Grilled Steak Salad with Green Beans and Blue Cheese. My version had 4 ounces of grilled top round steak, 1 tablespoon of blue cheese, five olives and a tablespoon of good extra virgin olive oil per salad. It was delicious. I don't often think to put green beans on my salads, but I should. And dressed simply with oil and vinegar, the fresh ingredients really shined. If you want to make it lighter you can use less oil and/or meat, although I think I would leave the cheese and the olives as I had them so you can benefit from their strong flavor.

I'll definitely make this again.

Tonight's late snack will probably be another skinny cow. I'm boring, I know.

Hope you're enjoying your evening! Night!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Italian Ravioli Casserole

Italian Ravioli Casserole
Italian Ravioli Casserole

Today got off to a rough start. I was running late dropping my car off at the dealership for service. I had my dad meet me there so we could go to work, but they gave me a rental car. So we were later getting to work than I wanted to be because I had to drop off the rental car at home.

Right before leaving for work, I slurped a strawberry-orange smoothie and poured the rest into a to-go container. I added some whey powder in this time, which was awful tasting. Lesson learned. It didn't keep me any more full, either.

Strawberry-Orange Smoothie
Strawberry-Orange Smoothie

I get to work to find out I accidentally scheduled a meeting for next Monday that I intended to schedule for today. Luckily, the day turned itself around mid-morning and things were looking up. And when all else fails, have some carbs. My mid-morning snack ended up being a Trader Joe's whole wheat mini bagel and almond butter.

Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to work out in the gym downstairs. I had a short window of time after lunch where my food had digested enough and I would still have time to make it back upstairs and compose myself so I didn't go to my 3 o'clock as a sweaty mess. But I got a phone call from a guy I was waiting to hear back from for like a week, and I missed my window. Oh well. If there's one thing I learned as a journalist — when a source calls you back you'd better take the call and get the info while you can.. or you face waiting another week for them to call you back.

After my 3 o'clock I grabbed the only form of artificial sweetener you'll probably ever see me eat. Yoplait Light and some low fat granola. I especially love the raspberry flavor because it reminds me of being a kid. My mom used to buy the raspberry custard style Yoplait occasionally. Do they even still make that? I don't think so. Closest they have are the whipped light cups, which aren't quite the same.

Yoplait- Snack
Tastes like childhood — but with artificial sugar

When I finally made it home this evening I realized I didn't put out the tortillas for the tacos I planned to make and part of it was supposed to marinade for an hour. So, I found the Italian Ravioli Casserole recipe on to use up the last of the frozen cheese ravioli I found in the freezer. The portion was small, but I liked it. Especially since I made the tomato sauce rather than getting it from a jar. I even used fresh basil from my "garden" aka railing planters. When using only a handful of ingredients, it's best to use the best tasting ones you can find! Looking forward to the leftovers tomorrow.

Tonight's snack will probably be a Skinny Cow knock-off from Aldi. Ice cream treats are another diet-y food I sometimes buy, although rarely. I just can't be trusted with the real deal. And I have yet to find a great low fat ice cream recipe and I'm craving it this week. Next week I'll probably go back to homemade or store bought sorbets, which are my usual summer treat.

Ok — now off to do some yoga before catching up on a little TV. Night!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Rainbow Peanut Noodles

Rainbow Peanut Noodles
Rainbow Peanut Noodles

If I had forgotten what a hunger signal was, I got a rude awakening on Saturday. I went with my family up to Cleveland for the day to see my sister and her fiance's new house. We left around 11:30 so I had a big bowl of cereal with fruit and nuts around 9:30. I even packed a Larabar. I thought about packing lunch, but figured we'd stop along the way. Nope.

We got there and did my family think to get lunch? Nope. By 3:30.. even after I had my snack, I was dying of hunger. A snack bar and a bowl of cereal doesn't last long. When I mentioned I was hungry that meant my mom and sister had to pipe up about how little they ate and they weren't complaining. That's great my mom can got 6 hours on a piece of toast and my sister can go 8 hours on coffee and a handful of triscuits, apparently I was made to be a "wuss" because my body couldn't subsist on 550 calories for 8 hours.

I did get a handful of peanuts and South Beach cereal bar my mom had in her purse, but I didn't make the best choices at dinner because I couldn't get rid of the headache I developed from being over hungry.

On the bright side, my sister's house was super cute and makes me want to save even more so I can own my own place and have the opportunity to paint and decorate things.

Today was MUCH better all around. I started my day off with another bowl of Kashi Go Lean with blueberries, pecans and vanilla soy milk and coffee with a little half and half. Then, I went shoe shopping! My right arch has been hurting on and off when I run and my left knee was starting to bother me again, so I decided it was time to plunk some money down on good shoes. So glad I did!

No pain at all.. I even went a little farther than I normally do. I should really keep track of mileage so I can replace them before the pain sets in.

I stopped in for lunch.. leftover pulled chicken from Friday night on a Trader Joe's whole wheat bun. It was much better cold, but still very vinegary.. I think I like a more sweet bbq sauce kind of pulled chicken.

Pulled Chicken Sandwich
Pulled Chicken Sandwich

Then off to do my grocery shopping so I could make some dinner. As I got out of the car a young guy was a couple spaces over loading up his car with his groceries -- an entire cart of gallon-sized tubs of ice cream and gallon jugs of 2% milk. Looks like he picked up the basics! I'm guessing he lives with a bunch of other guys?

I picked up stuff to make this Rainbow Peanut Noodles recipe I saw on the Splendid Table site. I usually listen to it in the car every Saturday while I'm running errands, but I've never actually made any of the recipes from the website. I wasn't disappointed.. these were fantastic! I skipped the bean sprouts since they looked awful at the store and skipped the chicken because I didn't want to fuss with making some. I think seared tofu would be excellent in this salad if you didn't want to use chicken.

Now I'm exhausted. I think I'll crawl into bed and catch up on some reading. Night!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Veggie Pizza

Veggie Pizza

I continue to make ugly meals. Actually, last night's was just plain terrible. I threw most of it away. I'd like to end this cooking funk pronto. It was a pretty crummy cap to an equally cruddy day.

At least today was better — even though I only ate scrambled egg whites and toast. Some nights that's perfect, for tonight, it was. I also learned tonight that my cat, Bella, loves crackers. If Kashi ever needs a spokescat she happily volunteers — she only requires a lifetime of TLC original crackers as payment. Also acceptable crackers — graham crackers and cheeze-its.

Anyhow, since I don't have a recent meal to share I'll share my veggie pizza I made a week or so ago. I don't know how I missed this. It was delicious!

I saw this pizza dough on a blog recently, and that's what started my craving. I immediately started day dreaming about veggie pizza.

After I graduated college, I went out a lot with one of my coworkers from the movie theater I worked at part time. After a long night of drinking we usually needed some food to soak it all up, so we found ourselves at a late night pizza shop. She's vegetarian so it was always a veggie pizza. Our favorite? Broccoli and feta cheese. If you've never had broccoli on a pizza — try it. I thought she was crazy at first, but it totally works.

From that time on I've been hooked on pizzas loaded with veggies. Another favorite is loaded with roma tomatoes, fresh mushrooms and green peppers. So all of the above went on my version. For the sauce, I used this quick recipe I saw on another blog.

And it didn't disappoint me. Maybe not as good as what I can get at my local shops, but probably the best at-home version I've made so far.

Even Bella agrees. She looks agreeable, no?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pasta with Two Tomatoes

Whole Wheat Pasta with Two Tomatoes

Saturday's dinner, Pasta with Two Tomatoes, is prettier than the meals I ate tonight and last night. Both were good, but brownish, monotone and ugly. I decided not to subject you to that.

And not only was Saturday's meal not bad looking, it tasted pretty great, too! It was really fresh tasting with all the tomatoes. It wasn't very sauce like, so if you prefer actual sauce with your pasta this isn't for you. If you like chunks of tomato with a little olive oil and cheese, this is more your speed. The only problem with it was my mozzarella melted. But that could be my fault rather than the recipe's.

Last night I had a vegetable stir fry from Food and Wine, but I used shredded carrots instead of the cabbage, increased the vegetable broth, and decreased the oil drastically. I served it over brown rice with a couple of steamed chicken pot stickers I found in the back of my freezer. It was really good. It was still good today as leftovers and was really points-friendly despite the amount of cashews if you decrease the oil down to 1 tbsp. If you're using a nonstick pan with cooking spray you don't need a bunch of oil, especially with the sesame oil to add so much flavor.

Tonight's dinner was less successful — grilled portabellas with bulgur salad. I wanted to like it so badly.. and it wasn't awful.. it was pretty good, really. It was so involved I ended up losing patience midway through and slapped the rest together. So I can't blame the recipe for much. I did cut WAY back on the oil and tried to compensate a little with some vegetable broth, so my vinaigrette didn't come out so vinegar-y.

But 5 minutes for cooking bulgur? What planet are they on? That's definitely not long enough. At least the roasted asparagus I had on the side was good. I eat it once a week and I haven't tired of it yet!

All right — off to watch Jon and Kate Plus 8. It looks like it's going to be a bit of a train wreck this season, but I can't help but watch. That's probably what TLC is banking on.