Thursday, July 30, 2009
Tonight's dinner really hit the spot. Maybe I was just really hungry or maybe it was really as delicious as I thought. It definitely hard to slice up the last half of that steak for tomorrow's salad. I could have stood there at the sink eating the other half straight off the cutting board. And the garlic in the quinoa and the feta.. yum! I can see myself making this side dish again.
The recipe was essentially Steak with Spinach Couscous from the July issue of Real Simple, but since I just made couscous with pine nuts last night, I decided to switch it up with quinoa. And the sirloin steak I had in my freezer was a little more affordable than flank steak.
I love quinoa. I know it scares some people, but it's very similar to couscous, but with a nuttier flavor. I love it. It's cooks in the same amount of time as white rice, but has more nutritional benefits. So it's perfect for a weeknight dinner.
I've used it in recipes specifically calling for quinoa like this Quinoa Stuffed Pepper or Quinoa Salad. (BTW.. wow, my photography has gotten much better in 2 years!) But mostly it gets used interchangeably with rice. I use it in place of couscous like I did tonight or even use it with stir fries instead of rice.
The rest of the day was a typical weekday filled with work and such. Thank God tomorrow's Friday I'm so ready for the weekend. I've got some fun things planned so I can't wait. I may even bring the camera along this time.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Happy Wednesday. It is Wednesday, right? For some reason I'm discombobulated this week. I've been pretty busy at work.
Plus, several nights of staying up later than I should makes for a sleepy hump day. And it was gray and stormy most of the day.
Most of today was a blur and consisted of one task on my to list to the next. FUN. At least I feel like I accomplished a lot. And I fit in a workout, which I'm very happy about. I burned quite a few calories on the elliptical. It never feels as torturous as running, but I burn more calories. Go figure. I use a heart rate monitor so I'm not guessing at it.
Tonight's dinner was even pretty tasty. Moroccan Skillet Chicken with Pine Nut Couscous. I had my doubts as it was starting to come together and I was pretty sure it was the ugliest food I've made in a while. But it turned out pretty great. I love that mix of spices in general. And I LOVE LOVE LOVE olives. Always have.
The original recipe needed some help to make it healthier. I cut out the butter completely, cut back on the oil and used less couscous. I prefer to go lighter on the grains and choose a side veggie anyhow — especially when it's like this meal that doesn't have a lot of veg already in it.
OK.. it's a short one for me tonight. I'm off to watch Twilight. I saw the movie, then read the book, so I figured I'd rewatch the movie. I'm not a crazy fan of the books or the movie, but I thought they were both entertaining enough. I'm on the third book now and it's an easy read I don't have to think much about.. in other words.. a beach read. Every once and while I like to read those kinds of things, ya know?
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Grilled cheese: Pepper Jack, tomatoes and center cut bacon
Today's food was totally unplanned, but I didn't mean for it to be that way. I packed my breakfast and lunch plus snacks and brought them to work as usual. But it ended up being a team lunch for my co-workers' birthdays.
And the lunch choice? Buca di Beppo. Probably the least healthy of all the options.
Lunch with a large group of co-workers has always a challenge for me when trying to make healthier choices for myself. At a past job a co-worker asked if I had an eating disorder because I consistently made special orders. I will say the current crop of co-workers are MUCH better and there are several other than myself who make special requests. So I guess I don't worry so much anymore.
But I still try not to seem too picky. The portions of their pasta are huge and unfortunately I have always been and will most likely always be a card-carrying member of the clean plate club. The best strategy is to ask half be put in a to-go box before the food is brought to the table, but I didn't want to call attention to myself. I know I shouldn't care what people think, but I still do.
How do you handle lunch with co-workers or other situations where you have little control over what's served or when there's few healthy options? Are you one, like me, who hates making special requests?
I ended ordering the gorgonzola, apple, and walnut salad with dried cranberries and grilled chicken. The wedding soup and mixed greens salad would have been the better choice calorie-wise, but I had the soup one other time and hated it. It's not worth it if it's not enjoyable. Wasn't the best salad ever, but it was better than the soup.
Good thing was the salad was big enough that I wasn't hungry for my snack and although I was hungry for dinner, I didn't want something too heavy.
That means sandwich night. I've been craving a grilled cheese sandwich ever since I saw CHOW's You're Doing it All Wrong video on grilled cheese. I thought how to make a grilled cheese sandwich was well-known, but maybe not? At least I can rest assured I've been making it right all these years. I've been using a lid recently, too, after I saw the grill guy in the cafeteria do that. The cheese melts perfectly that way.
Mine was a bit of pepper jack, a bunch of tomato and a slice of center bacon on whole wheat with cherries on the side. Perfection.
Do you have a favorite grilled cheese?
Monday, July 27, 2009
I'm not sure what makes this Thai-style. Maybe because the sauce had peanut butter? But it also had salsa, and that's definitely not Thai. I know, weird — right? I have to admit I paused a bit when I saw salsa in the dish. The peanut butter drew me in.
It may not look all that great, but it's really not bad. Not as good as these peanut butter noodles, but not bad overall. I made a few changes to the recipe, though. I seem to do that a lot when cooking from Clean Eating Magazine. These recipes tend to be on the bland-ish looking side so I'm always throwing in extras. Last night it was onions, tonight I cooked in some oil because I needed an oil for my "good health guidelines" Weight Watchers-style. I also changed the cooking instructions a bit because it used three pots and pans seemed unnecessary to me.
I don't necessarily follow the clean eating diet. I checked the book out of the library, but I stopped reading when they discourage whole eggs and suggested you snack on chicken breast. It seemed too high in protein overall and seemed pretty strict. And when making the recipes from the magazine I often have to add in healthy oils. If you following the clean eating diet you eat a ton of nuts and other things to give you healthy fats, but since I don't I have to add in some healthy fat to the meals.
Have you heard of the clean eating diet? If you have, what do you think?
Thai-Style Tofu and Noodles
Serves 4. Adapted from Clean Eating Magazine
8 ounces whole wheat linguine or spaghetti
4 teaspoons oil (so approximately each serving has 1 tsp)
1 container firm or extra firm tofu (I used Nasoya extra firm pre-cubed)
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
4 cloves garlic
salt and pepper
2 tbsp natural peanut butter
1/3 cup salsa
1/3 cup water
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add pasta. Cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, warm the oil or cooking spray in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the peppers and the tofu, and cook until tofu starts to brown up and peppers soften about 3 minutes. Add a splash of soy sauce and the garlic and let cook for a couple more minutes.
While the peppers are cooking, puree peanut butter, salsa, water and red pepper flakes in a blender. When the peppers and tofu are done, add the sauce to the pan stirring until thickened.
Drain the pasta and toss with the pepper mixture.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
I've had a pretty low-key weekend. And despite my best efforts to reset my body's sleep clock, it's 11 p.m. and I'm still wide awake.
Saturday started off early — at 6 a.m. I was determined to wake up when I would wake up for work so I can put my body back on a sane sleeping schedule. I've had insomnia for two weeks since I had that weird conference call for work at 3 a.m.
I had my first cup of coffee in hand by 6:30 on Saturday, but as soon as I finished it I fell back to sleep. Oops. At 7 a.m. I woke up, had my second cup and a bowl Kashi GoLEAN with the nearly past their prime berries and soy milk. Then I wasted the day way checking e-mail, blogs, and making my grocery list.
Then I was on my way to Costco to renew my membership and buy a few things when I decided to make a pit stop at the mall to look for cute invitations for my sister's bridal shower. I should have just gone straight to Costco, because I was caught in a torrential downpour back out to my car was was soaked through my clothes even though I had umbrella. I ended up heading home to change before going to Costco even thought it was right across the street. Kind of insane to go home and change, but I was soaked and uncomfortable.
I realized I was hungry, so I tried this bar. It was just OK. The fruit bit was a weird texture for me. Might be something I would have to get used to.
Dinner was a recreation of this quesadilla, but in an omelet. I've mentioned how I'm omelet impaired, and honestly, I still screwed it up. I overfilled it I think. More successful than usual, though. The potatoes were a spin on these hash browns, except with sweet potatoes. They were just eh. They were drier but yet mushier than the original. I vote for sticking with regular potatoes on this one.
Omelet with mushrooms, spinach, red onion and pepper jack with sweet potato has browns
Today was mostly snacky as I cleaned like a mad woman, but I finished up my chores in time for this Chicken Ragu. It tasted fine, but it wasn't anything earth shattering. And a little soupier than I would have wanted. I think a tomato sauce might have been better. But then it might not have been a ragout? The garlic bread was much better than I expected, but I crushed the garlic up some with salt to make a paste. Next time I'll mix the oil and garlic together before adding it to the bread. Not bad for a low cal version. I still like my full fat version better, but who wouldn't?
I'm off to bed now, hopefully to get some sleep. Do you get insomnia? How do you handle it?
Chicken Ragout with Garlic Bread
Serves 4. Adapted from Clean Eating Magazine
1 pound chicken breast, cut into pieces
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
salt and pepper
thyme and oregano
12 oz. loaf multi-grain baguette
4 garlic cloves minced
1 tsp olive oil
Preheat oven to 400.
Warm a large skillet coated in cooking spray over medium heat. Cook until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes or so. Add mushrooms, zucchini, and onion and tomatoes to the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until chicken is browned and the vegetables start to soften, 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, thyme and oregano to taste and throw a lid on it. Let simmer over medium-low about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, split the loaf horizontally, but don't cut all the way through. Spread the inside part of the loaf with the garlic and oil, close up the loaf and wrap in foil. Bake in the oven for 8-9 minutes while the ragout finishes cooking.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Pasta alla Norma
It's only Tuesday and this just hasn't been my week. Last night I planned to meet a friend at a minor-league baseball game, but it was standing room only when we got there a half hour before the game started.
I guess it was a blessing in disguise because instead of the three hot dogs and beer I planned to eat (it was dime-a-dog) I had a healthy bowl of tofu and veggie stir fry with brown rice an Mongolian BBQ. It may have been good for the waistline, but I was really looking forward to eating crappy hot dogs.
And today, I thought I was being super thrifty by making stock in the slow cooker while I was at work. I put two carcasses, tons o' veggies and covered it with water. Then my power went out.
I have no way of knowing if it was just a out and then on again or if it was out for a while — I only know it was out for less than 8 hours. I decided not to take my chances.
Meanwhile, I was super busy at work and practically had to bolt from my desk a little after noon to grab this wrap from the healthy station in the cafeteria. I try to bring a lunch on Tuesdays because it's so hard to resist the normal Tuesday wrap station complete with sweet potato chips. The was an OK substitute, but I prefer the bad for me kind.
Turkey wrap — complete with bad florescent lighting
Dinner was actually pretty good — End of Summer Pasta alla Norma. This version didn't have onions, but it definitely could use some. Maybe some red pepper flakes at the very least. It was missing something.. that's for sure. The version came from the most recent issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray and the addition of ricotta was actually pretty great. I love ricotta as a topping for pasta dishes. Here's my version as I made it tonight. I left some things out and reduced the amount of oil, pasta and cheese to keep it lower in calories.
End of Summer Pasta all Norma
Adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray. Serves 4.
8 ounces whole wheat penne
4 tsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 eggplant, peeled and diced
2 pints grape tomatoes
salt and pepper
1 cup basil, chopped
1 cup part-skim ricotta (I used Sargento Light)
Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta, and cook according to the package's directions and drain, reserving a bit of the pasta's cooking water.
Meanwhile, warm the oil over medium-high heat in a large saute pan. Add the garlic and let cook about a minute. Then add the eggplant and tomatoes and salt and pepper. Cover.
Cook the tomatoes and eggplant over medium-high heat, stirring half way through, until eggplant is soft and tomatoes burst — about 12 minutes. Add reserved pasta water until it forms a sauce. Add in pasta and stir in basil. Serve topped with ricotta cheese.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Roasted beet salad
What's up with this weather in the Midwest? I've heard this is the coldest July in history, and I can believe it. Yesterday morning, er, afternoon by the time I woke up, was so cold I was actually wearing a sweatshirt while I had my windows open.
Funny how just a few days ago I was saying it was too hot for oatmeal and now it's cold enough I'm craving it again. This bowl was made with water then topped with soy milk, agave nectar, cinnamon, peaches and blueberries.
Oatmeal with summer fruit
For dinner I finished off the beets with this roasted beet salad. To make it a main dish salad I added grilled chicken. The only other change I made was using a salad greens mix instead of arugula because that's what I had. Overall, it wasn't bad. Not sure I'll make it again, but it was a good use of the beets. It would definitely be tastier as a starter rather than a main dish, but it was too labor intensive for an every day meal.
Looking back on my food intake today it's pretty scattered — starting off with a cold weather dish and finishing off with a cool salad. Ha. I had weird dreams all last night and felt "off" today in general.. so I think my scattered food choices and even this post reflect that.
I'm off to bed. Hopefully I'll sleep better than I did last night!
Friday, July 17, 2009
I visited the farmers' market yesterday at lunch and bought these beets. They're not the softball-sized ones I can find at the store, but these were smaller and even a little sweeter. They're one of my favorite farmers market finds. I buy them every year at least once.
The best part? They smelled like earth. You don't get the fresh from the ground smell from the supermarket.
I grew up eating canned beets but fresh are best. I used a few of them in Beet Risotto last night for dinner. If you think you don't like beets, you might try them in risotto. Everything is better with rice.
See the original post for more on beet risotto.
What's your favorite summer produce?
Thursday, July 16, 2009
To bring back a phrase from my middle school years, it's hot like a mug out there. I walked out the door this morning, and I was instantly bombarded with stifling humidity. It was suprisingly hot out for 7:30 a.m. It's 9 a.m. now and it's already 74°.
When it's this hot, my usual oatmeal doesn't sound very appetizing. That's when I pull out the blender and whip up a smoothie.
In general, I'm not a huge fan of drinking my breakfast. It just doesn't hold me over well. But my coworker suggested the Perfect Smoothie. It sounded kind of weird to me and I wasn't sure my blender could handle fruit with the peels. But I gave it a go. And it wasn't bad! A little tart, so sometimes I use a little orange and a little lemon. It has spinach, which seems to be all the rage. It that scary shade of green thanks to the blueberries and it doesn't take mounds of spinach to make one drink.
I chop up the ingredients the night before and my breakfast is ready in a flash. It holds me over better than the average smoothie, but I need a small mid-morning snack so I'm not starving going into lunch.
See? Not a scary green :)
Do you have a favorite hot-weather breakfast?
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
These are probably in my top five favorite muffins ever. And if you like coffee-flavored treats, I'm positive they'll be at the top of your list, too. I first made them more than a year ago back when I worked at my last company. Every month we had a staff meeting and each meeting someone was charged with bringing a snack.
I brought these.
In the middle of going over the table of contents for the upcoming issue my boss interrupted himself. "Oh man, these are good."
I made them again for a birthday breakfast at my current company and they were devoured. Since my blueberry muffins didn't go over as well at the last birthday celebration, (might have been because I left out the honey on accident) I made these again.
Not only do they taste great, I have all the ingredients in my pantry. Instant espresso might be a unique ingredient, but other than that, you probably have the ingredients on hand. And considering crappy danish at the grocery store goes for $5 or more, if it's something I can whip up without spending any extra money, I'm in.
Did I mention they are delicious?
Unfortunately the glut of baked goods people brought in today meant not all of muffins were eaten, but my dad seemed more than willing to take them off my hands. It was either that or they'd get tossed. I had one last night— you know.. to make sure I was serving something edible. But that's all I really wanted. I'm not one who can "casually" snack on baked goods.
And these aren't low cal. Sure, you could probably mess it by cutting back on butter.. using some milk.. maybe some unsweetened applesauce. But why mess with perfection?
The recipe for the beauties can be found online straight from the source: Baking: From My Home to Yours.
Monday, July 13, 2009
I am constantly amazed how many people still think the only way to achieve a steady weight loss is to reduce the carbs you eat in a day. Unless you're diabetic and otherwise directed to do so, I wouldn't see why someone would feel the need to.
Going by what they preach in the Weight Watchers materials, no where does it say to reduce your carb intake. And the Food Pyramid even outlines the health benefits of whole grains including many nutrients, including dietary fiber, several B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate), and minerals including iron magnesium and selenium. I guess B6 vitamins play a key role in metabolism by helping the body release energy from protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
I don't know about anyone else, but I want to help my metabolism along any way I can. I'm not a huge fan most forms of exercise, so if I can torch calories while not exercising I'm all over that.
I personally prefer to take a balanced approach close to the Simply Filling plan. I get most of my carbs from "good" carbs — whole grains and starchy vegetables over white pasta, rice, and bread. And I don't usually have the same whole grain twice in one day.. I like to mix things up.
Today I had brown rice with my lunch and dinner was the Wheat Berry Salad with Goat Cheese. And, for some extra crunch, a few crackers on the side. My version had red onion because I didn't have green onion, but otherwise I followed the recipe.
It has the basic flavors of tabbouleh but added goat cheese and used wheat berries rather than bulgur. I was heartier, but very similar in flavor. I thought it wouldn't be filling, but it was. Probably from the overdose of fiber.
Plus today wasn't a very hungry day. I skipped my morning snack and will probably pass on half of what I had planned for tonight. I did make muffins for a coworker's birthday, though, which means I sampled a little of the batter. I had to make sure I wasn't feeding them something gross, of course.
I'll share the recipe tomorrow — these are definitely worth the calories and always a bit hit.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
I'm feeling much, much better today thankfully. I was able to finish up the rest of my errands and get some housework done. I still took it easy, but wasn't sitting around like I was yesterday. I should be back to 100 percent tomorrow.
Last week I was looking through the magazine rack at the grocery store and I saw a new issue of Clean Eating magazine. I think I bought an issue last year but never actually made anything out of it. But a stir fry with beef, sweet potatoes and green beans caught my eye in this new issue so I bought it.
I'm not sure I buy the "eating clean" thing. I checked the Eat Clean Diet book from the library and I'm not sold on it. I think that some of the ideas are good — fill up on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy and lean protein with plenty of good fats. It also suggest you avoid added sugars, saturated fats, trans fats, white flour and alcohol. What it doesn't seem to leave much room for are treats or the occasional food that's not "clean." It just feels too strict.
I also thought some of the recipes in the book and the magazine seemed plain and thought it would lack flavor, but I was pleasantly surprised with the beef stir fry. It was actually delicious. I used sirloin, the marinade actually made a little gravy that coated the vegetables.
Beef Stir Fry with Sweet Potatoes and Green Beans
Serves 4. Adapted from Eating Clean Magazine
1 pound top sirloin steak, trimmed of all visible fat and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, crushed
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup green beans
4 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
Combine sirloin, applesauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and red pepper in a small bowl.
Bring three cups of water to a boil and add sweet potatoes. Cook sweet potatoes for 2 minutes, then add the green beans to the pot. Boil 4 minutes. Drain and set to the side.
Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium high to high heat (my burner runs hot so medium high was enough for me). Add the beef and onions and salt and pepper to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, 3 to 4 minutes until onion is tender and beef is cooked. Add the reserved potatoes and green beans, cook about 1 minute until warmed through. Serve alone or with brown rice.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
I haven't been feeling so great today. Last night I ate some dodgy-looking salsa from the fridge with my dinner and a few hours later I had one of the worst stomach aches I've experienced in a while. Lesson to self: 4 month old salsa isn't to be trusted — even if it "smells OK."
To add insult to injury, I had to be on a conference call for work from 3 a.m. until 5 a.m. this morning. I managed to take a nap after work and fell asleep again around midnight. They weren't sure when I would need to be on the call, so they called to tell me they were ready for me around 3 ish. I was done a little before 5, but I don't think I finally fell back to sleep until about 6 a.m. I slept until noon today, but I'm sure the wacky sleep habits isn't helping matters today.
Add in some gloomy looking skies and lots of rain and you've got a perfect opportunity for chicken noodle soup. This came together easily, which is important when you're not feeling well. One downside to being single is that I can't sit and moan on the couch and have people serve me. If I'm running a high fever I can usually persuade friends or family to drop off some food, but not for a stomach ache.
It's based on a well-rated Cooking Light recipe, but I've made a few changes because I like my soup with more broth and I prefer onion and didn't have parsnips. I could have picked up some, but honestly, I didn't feel like fussing with it. I'd rather be watching endless hours of HGTV and trashy VH1 reality shows.
Quick Chicken Noodle Soup
8 servings (1 cup)
1 tbsp butter
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, sliced
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 tbsp flour
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp salt
pepper to taste
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 ounces whole wheat egg noodles
2 tbsp parsley
Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add flour and the chicken broth, water, bay leaf, salt and pepper, stirring to combine.
Bring to boil, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the chicken and the noodles; bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley and serve.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
I've been surprised over the years how people seem to not know about a fried egg sandwich. Sometimes I make them with lettuce and tomato and bacon. But almost always mine feature plenty of mayo (now of the light variety) and cheese (the 2% kind, of course). They are my go-to sandwich because they're simple, delicious and who doesn't have cheese, eggs, bread and mayo already in the fridge?
But to some, this is a new idea? Shocking, I know. What's new to me, though, is making it with hard-boiled eggs. Duh. I'm not sure why I didn't think of it before. It instantly takes a sandwich best eaten freshly made (cold runny egg? YUCK.) and transforms it into something portable. In fact, these were best cold the next day. The only downside to my fried egg sandwich was that I never had leftovers for lunch. But if I fry one and make the other hard-boiled.. problem solved.
It's really a spin on a BLT plus egg, but I called my version a B.E.S.T sandwich because it featured baby spinach rather than lettuce. The sandwich also included light mayo and was piled on a ciabatta roll.
Last week called for several sandwich nights. I did squeeze in some workouts, but was otherwise busy at work with lots to do when I got home. Short weeks can be like that. Plus, I saw a movie with an old friend and went with my family up to see my sister for her birthday. And last night my parents had the dog over at my apartment trying to avoid the fireworks. They set some off near their house and it really makes the dog snap out.
Unfortunately next week looks equally busy with my boss being out all week. I spent today planning food and workouts, so hopefully that part will go smoothly. I really need to refocus. I'd love to fit into last summer's cute sun dress by my sister's bridal shower. Almost there — it zips up about half way.
What's your favorite go-to meal?