Friday, September 30, 2011

Day 178 - Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Why, hello Autumn! So glad you dropped by...

My mind turns to warm and comforting foods once the mercury ceases to climb to it's summer highs. Soups, stews, chili and toasted sandwiches begin to grab my appetite's attention. As I mentioned yesterday, while I was perusing the produce aisle at the grocery store I saw a wonderful display of butternut squash (amongst others) and immediately thought of soup. I love thick soups, and squash does a great job to create a thick, hearty soup without needing cream for body (unless you can't do without it, I'm learning).

Some suggest 1-2 Tbsp light brown sugar for sweetness.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
4-5 1 cup servings (depending on squash size)

  • 1 large butternut squash, seeded peeled and cubed
  • 1 1qt box of vegetable stock/broth (I like the low sodium kind)
  • half of a large sweet, yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • fresh ground nutmeg
  • pinch cinnamon
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • pinch dried sage (or fresh if you have it laying around)
1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees; line a baking tray with aluminum foil and mist with cooking spray (Pam)
2. Peel your butternut squash, remove the seeds and cut into 1 inch cubes. Spread the cubes evenly on the tray. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, until fork tender.
3. Heat olive oil in a 2 quart sauce pot over medium heat; add sliced onion and cook until translucent and deep brown, stirring frequently.
4. Once squash is roasted, place squash and onions into a food processor and blend until smooth. Add one cup of vegetable stock while processing. (If you don't have a food processor, you can use a standard blender, a handheld blender, or a hand mixer. If it isn't as smooth as you would like, you can strain the soup through cheesecloth).
5. Pour soup back into the sauce pot and return to medium heat. Add 2 cups of vegetable stock, sage, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir frequently until soup thickens a bit. Add remaining vegetable stock to achieve desired consistency.
6. An interesting (and optional) serving suggestion: garnish with crushed Amoretti cookies. Yum!

(For Weight Watcher's this is 2Points Plus per serving (I do not use the nutritional information for the squash in this recipe--I count it as a 0 PP vegetable.). This does not include the crushed Amoretti cookie garnish... By my approximations, one full Stella D'oro Amoretti cookie as garnish would yield 5 PP.)

In other news... Yesterday was not a good day. I made bad, bad food choices. I made conscious choices to over-eat in response to stress. Cheetos Twists, chili, pizza and spoonfuls of home made apple butter do not mix well. I had to sneak onto the scale this  morning for a bit of a reality check... Let's hope I stay below 200.

Tomorrow: Apple Cinnamon empanadas : )

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Day 177 - Buffalo Chicken Sausage?!?!?!?! Yes Please!

I have to share my awesome find with you all!

I was perusing the meat section of my grocery store, contemplating getting some Italian sausage for my boys dinner and I saw this great colored package peeking out at me from the top refrigerated shelf...

I have had al fresco's products before, but I haven't had them since beginning to count 'points' with Weigh Watcher's so I picked up the package to do some calculating. They are only 3 PP (Points Plus) each!!! Yes, I said 3!  and they are the same size as a regular sausage, more bang for your PP buck. Wow! And Buffalo chicken flavored to boot, a taste of home : )

Add a whole wheat hotdog bun and you have the star of your dinner plate at only 6 points (by my calculations). Lot's of room to add a fresh salad and balsamic dressing on the side. Or perhaps a nice fall soup! Like the one I'll be sharing with you on Friday (Roasted Butternut Squash soup to be exact). In the meantime, consider picking up a package of al fresco all natural sausages... They're yummy.

I'm not sure what day it is...

I'm not joking.

Life has gotten beyond crazy and even though I am in fact cooking and making yummy stuff, I am unable to post them. I'll have it for y'all by Friday, pinky swear! 4 exams, 2 projects, 2 children, MIA working hubby makes for one distressed blogger/mommy/student/wife/gal.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Day 174 - What To Do With All of Those Apples

To celebrate hitting the 50 lb. mark at yesterday mornings weigh in I decided to spend the day apple and pumpkin picking at a local orchard with my darling husband and boys.

Now, we have a ton of apples. We do this every fall, and we almost never finish them all. So this year I'm determined to fully utilize and enjoy falls bounty. I'm going to share all of my apple recipes with you all week, maybe not every day, but close to it : )  And today we'll start with apple crisp.

I love apple crisp, it's soooooo easy and quick. And the ingredients are always on hand in my kitchen, and probably yours, too. Give me 15 minutes to prep and 45 minutes to bake and voila! A nice warm, sweet and spiced apple dessert!

Kara's Apple Crisp   
  • 4 large Granny Smith Apples
  • 3 Tbsp. white sugar
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/8 cup All Purpose flour
  • 1/8 cup white sugar
  • 1/8 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/8 cup Quaker rolled oats
  • 3 Tbsp. cold salted butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
You will also need and small 8 x 8 x 2 inch baking dish or 4 ramekins. I used my Corningware Ramekins that I found at Target recently. 

This recipe was originally written for twice as much topping for the same amount of apples. This amount is more waistline friendly and still packs a lot of flavor.

Serves 4
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Peel, core, and chop your apples into 1 inch cubes and toss with the lemon juice and 3 Tbsp white sugar. You can add cinnamon here if you like. Set aside.
  3. Combine the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and use your fingers or two forks to cut the butter into the other ingredients till crumbly. You can also use a food processor to do this if you have one, use the pulse option till it just comes together.
  4. Place you apples in your baking dish or separate evenly between the ramekins including and juices that have settled to the bottom.
  5. Spread the crumb topping evenly over the apples.
  6. Place onto a baking sheet to catch any apple drippings and bake for 35-45 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center gets no resistance.
  7. Allow to cool for about 20 minutes and enjoy warm or room temperature.
5 Points Plus for Weight Watchers as written above. And the portions are big! I count this as two fruit servings (a little more than 1 cup of apples).
(For a special surprise inside, place one square chewy caramel candy at the top of the apples in each ramekin then top with crumb topping. It will melt through the apples as it bakes and add another layer of rich deliciousness to the crisp.)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Day 173 - 50!!!!

I HIT THE 50 POUND MARK!!!!!!!! Well, really it's 51 pounds down! Point being that I'm out of the 200's for good.

I have nothing else to say really... Just gonna go continue my happy dance : )

Now I'm going to go apple picking with my hubby and my boys! Apple pie here I come!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Day 172 - Pizza Margherita

I'm on a pizza kick. It all began with the lunch I had with my good friend Steph at St. Andy's cafe on campus this week. I mentioned the starter was pizza margherita and it was yum-o. So I decided to give it a try at home. Theirs was packed with flavor, but I know the ingredients could be more waist-line consciousand still pack a punch for flavor. So this is what I had for dinner last night...

Flatout Pizza Margherita

  • 1 Light Italian Herb Flatout Bread
  • 1/4 cup pizza sauce (Contadina)
  • 1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • fresh or dried basil
  • 1 tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2. Lay your Flatout bread on a non-stick baking mat or an aluminum foil wrapped baking sheet lightly sprayed with cooking oil.
3. Spread the pizza sauce evenly around the Flatout to within 1/4 inch from the edges.
4. Using a spoon, scoop the ricotta cheese over the pizza sauce and spread it out flat with the back of the spoon.
5. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese even over the pizza; sprinkle basil atop the cheese.
6. Bake for approximately 8 minutes, until the edges have browned and are crisp.
7. Once finished baking, drizzle the Extra Virgin Olive Oil over the pizza and enjoy!

This was fantastic! The olive oil isn't just a good way to get a heart healthy oil in, but it was also a way to add a new depth to the flavor. This was great! I'm completely satisfied : )

As written this recipe is 7 PP for Weight Watchers. If you choose to use fat free cheeses it is only 6. I like mine with whole milk ricotta and part skim mozzarella which is 10 PP.

Tomorrow: WEIGH IN DAY!!!! See if I made it to 50 pounds!!!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Day 171 - Factoids About Weightloss

Well, factoids about my weightloss really...

At almost 50 pounds down (we'll see if I made it there on Sunday!!!) I am constantly cold. Apparently I got used to having such a supple amount of insulation, like a baby seal, that I'm having a difficult time regualting my body temperature now. It sounds small and insignificant, but I've always been the warm type--no jacket in winter, never really wearing socks, camisoles so long as it was at least 65 degrees outside. Now I need layers.

Eh. It's a good excuse to cuddle close to my hubby : )

My appetite has subsided, as has my craving for junk foods. I thought I was going to have to fight against my old eating habits all of everyday forever. I know I will have to battle that at some point, and more often at certain times than others. But in general, my palate has changed and so has my desire to eat out of boredom or emotionally. It has taken an immense effort to relearn good habits, but it is one of the best efforts I have ever made towards anything in life.

I have learned also that once I grab onto something that I want to accomplish, truly from the depths of my soul want to accomplish, I dig my heels in and don't let go until I get what I want. I am amazingly persistent (my husband said he has always known this about me), I refuse to take 'no' for an answer (again, hubby asked why this was news to me), and I make a great advocate for great causes.

Feeling good about myself : )

Tomorrow: A new pizza recipe!!! I cannot wait to show you this one... Points Plus friendly and delish.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Day 170 - What I Had For Lunch

It's been a while since I have indulged and gone out somewhere to eat. I'm light on cash these days, but I'm not very tempted by the rich foods generally found in a restaurant (and spending $12 on a salad makes zero sense to me). However, we have a wonderful nutritional foods center on campus called Saint Andrews (St. Andy's to the students) so my friend Steph and I made reservations and had a lovely lunch.

Organic WholeWheat Crepes
Preserved Tomato Pico de Gallo, Quinoa Chili, Cilantro Rice, Guacamole

This was soooooo good! I'm a sucker for crepes and it's hard to find many places that do them right. Of course, at school it's kind of a no-brainer... They're gonna be good! The guacamole was fresh and bright. I'm also a big quinoa fan, and the chili inside was fantabulous. I was only able to eat half (as this was actually my second course) but I brought the rest home for a late night snack to share.

The first course was Pizza Margherita- house-made Tomato Sauce, Basil, Mozzarella, Ricotta. Yum. That's all. Just yum.

I have no idea how I stopped myself.
I thoroughly enjoyed this meal. Great company, wonderful atmosphere, and terrific food. I'm still on plan and had quite treat. Considering I'm on the verge of breaking the 50 lb. barrier, this might seem like a gutsy move, indulging. I can eat whatever I want and still lose weight. It's about knowing how much, when, and how my body processes it. These insights into my metabolism are priceless.

Tomorrow: End of the week review. A couple things I've discovered about me.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Day 169 - Pears--The Cheeky-est Fruit Around

Fall is not just time for apples, pumpkins and hayrides. Pears of many different varieties are in their glory now. D'Anjou, Bosc and Bartlett to name the most popular kids in class. Then there is always the Asian pear who brings a great new twist to the table.

I've always admired pears from a distance, though it never really struck me as a fun or indulgent fruit; more like sturdy and noble. That is until I came across a recipe in a magazine and changed my tune entirely!

A caramel anise pear terrine, with layers of pear thin as paper gently clinging to each other with a delicate caramel sauce flecked with real star anise. It was a baked pear dish that I had never even considered, but it's presentation was so unique I had to give it a try.

I will indulge you with the recipe and fresh photographs this weekend (my week has come crumbling down around me, so no baking shall be done till Friday) but in the mean time, check out my cheeky little sketch...

Get it? Cheeky? Hehehe...

These are the things that rattle around my noggin' being surrounded by food all day : )  It's not so bad.

Go enjoy the fall's bounty and grab a pear at your local market!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Day 168 - Dessert for Breakfast

Chocolate, toasted coconut, vanilla and fresh bananas.Yup, and I'm still on plan.

Ok, so it's not really dessert, but it might as well be. Eat it at night and my point will be made.

I needed a new breakfast item to sweeten up my mornings. Don't get me wrong, I love my eggs, Greek yogurt and Chex. And my coffee will always be my morning companion with a splash of fat free milk. Give this a try tomorrow morning.

Tropical Breakfast Parfait

Slice your banana up and line the bottom of a small serving dish with half the slices. Scoop all of your yogurt atop the slices. Sprinkle your chocolate granola and garnish with the remaining banana slices.

If you have a cup of coffee or tea with 1/4 cup of fat free milk along side this yummy dessert breakfast you will have: 2 servings of fruit, 1 full serving of dairy, and some wonderfully heart healthy whole grains.

I've long loved Bear Naked granola. I first saw them on a Food Network episode about successful small companies. They're not so small anymore : )  And their product is top notch and worth every penny and point. Support these guys, they do it right.

Tomorrow: Another wonderful fall fruit, the pear.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Day 167 - Kara's Favorite Fall Chili

Salt andWhen the leaves begin to turn and the air becomes crisp, when daylight is lost and my toes crave socks my thoughts turn to slightly heavier and warm meals. Stew is one of my go-to fall/winter favorites. Chili is the other.

At school yesterday they had the annual chili cook-off where student teams compete for top prizes and bragging rights--a big deal being a student at the Culinary Institute of America. I was unable to attend, my hands needs at home to renovate my family room. So I decide to rifle through my recipes and re-write last winter's chili recipe. Here's what I came up with:

With some whole wheat tortilla chips to dip.
Kara's Favorite Fall Chili:

1.5 pounds 90/10 ground beef
1 - 28oz can tomato puree
2 - 28oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 - 15.5 oz can red kidney beans
1 - 15.5 oz can kidney beans
2 jumbo green bell peppers
2 jumbo sweet yellow onions
1 tsp. cayenne pepper powder
1 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 each beef boulion cubes
Salt and Pepper to taste

To make you will need an 8-10 quart stock pot.

1. Chop onions and peppers into large, even chunks.
2. Place ground beef into the pot and cook over medium heat till browned. Once cooked, strain in a colander in the sink to remove and discard fat. Set aside.
3. In the same pot place the chopped onions and cook on medium high heat till caramelized, lightly golden brown and transluscent.
4. Add the chopped bell peppers and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
5. Add the tomato puree, crushed tomatoes, red and pink kidney beans.
6. Add seasonings as well as salt and pepper to taste.
7. With a knife finely chop boulion cubes till powdered; add to pot.
8. Add 1/2 cup water, stir, cover and allow to simmer on medium low heat for at least 1 hour. I leave the lid slightly cracked so the chili reduces and thickens some.

Serving size: 1 cup (5 PP for Weight Watchers) or 1.5 cups (7PP)
Makes 16 cups (Too much? Cut the recipe in half, freeze 1 cup portions in Ziplock baggies for easy grab-and-heat week night meals) 

I like to add a couple tablespoons of sour cream or shredded cheddar cheese to top it off. I have also been known to pour it over a mini loaf of corn bread as well : ) Oh yum!

This recipe is packed with veggies, fiber and flavor. Enjoy!

Tomorrow: A new light breakfast idea: you would swear it's a dessret

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Day 166 - Weigh In Day

Yes... I missed yesterday's post. I'm a naughty blogger. Please forgive me? Thanks : )


*Happy dance* *Happy dance* *Happy dance*

I'm officially at 201.2 lbs. and so close to Onederland I can taste it! (no pun intended) I anticipate that next week I will have made it below 200 for the first time in approximately 8 years. Pre-mommy weight here I come! I had begun to feel like I was working towards a plateau, so to ward it off I changed up some of my foods. Simple changes, but they seem to have reinvigorated my metabolism. And I ended my week with a few bite sized Snickers at the movies with my boys (Lion King 3D--highly recommend btw).

You CAN eat normally and lose weight people! You do not have to remove food groups or indulgences to take the pounds off. No need to deprive yourself.

Also this week I concentrated on getting in all of my GHGs (good health guidelines) especially regarding heart healthy oils. They really do play a key role in your over-all health and I had been slacking. Got back on track and look at what my body did!

In other Kara news... I told you that yesterday I would show you what I've been up to all week... Check it out : )

I've mentioned before that I have a special occasion cake business and this was my food muse through the past week. It was a fantasy pillow cake  in the birthday girl's colors-- fuchsia and metallic gold-- and was being served at her masquerade themed Quinceanera party. The tough thing was not snacking on all of the cake trimmings. It was red velvet. It was delish.

No matter what I do, I"m centered around food. Hobby, work, school, blogging. Life can be lived with amazing food around so long as you understand how to interact with it. I'm proof : )

Friday, September 16, 2011

Day 164 -- 5 Things I've Learned About Me

This journey of losing 100 pounds in 365 days has been an altering one. I'm not simply referring to the physical change of waistline and tushy size; more the inner things that were hiding behind my weight. I've learned some interesting things about me that I may not have otherwise uncovered. Have a look...

  • The Social Butterfly I didn't know I had this in me. I spent so much time consumed with what I looked like because of all of the extra weight that I had no capacity or energy to put on a show for others. I avoided gatherings of all kinds, especially ones that centered around food. I was terrified that someone would judge me if they saw the 'fat girl' eating anything at all, no matter how reasonable a portion. My 100 pound cocoon is slowly shedding itself and this flutter-by is spreading her wings!
  • The Alluring Wife My husband never really mentioned that I was not the 'girly' type. He never seemed to notice that I didn't care for makeup or dressing cute (or attractively at all, really). Not that I was a slouch (well, maybe I was) but I figured that if I didn't try to fit into that 'stereotype' of femininity that I wouldn't run the risk of looking ridiculous and failing at it. Well, that's all gone out the window! I wear some pretty cute stuff now, do my hair and shake my backside at my hubby : )  He laughs and shakes his head at this new-found part of me. 
  • The Weight Isn't The Real Problem It has been awesome losing almost 50 pounds as of the time of this post, but I still see the same thing when I look in the mirror. OK, that's not entirely true-- my eyes see something different but my mind interprets it as being the same. There is little-to-no progress in how I accept myself when I see my reflection. My weight was never the issue, it was merely a symptom of a bigger problem.
  • The Underlying Issue I tend to come across as very confident, almost to a fault sometimes. I should have been nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress in a real-life drama. I have acted this part for the better portion of my 32 years. Dive into my head, into the things I won't say to anyone and only keep locked away there, and you'll see I have very little self confidence. It permeates every facet of my life, everything I do. It has been hard--odd though it may seem--to succeed at losing weight. I didn't believe I could. Now I have to deal with why I doubted myself and why I regard myself so differently than the rest of the world. I work on this one daily, moment to moment trying to change my thoughts and beliefs.
These are cute... time to go shopping!
  • Dress Me Up I LOVE ACCESSORIES!!! I love high-end handbags. I love scarves. I love painting my toe nails (especially now that I can reach them). I love the idea of swapping clothes with someone else. I get a kick out of wearing over-sized sunglasses (Hollywood style, not circus style) anytime I'm outside because they are a great accessory. OH! I almost forgot high heeled shoes! I was never able to walk in them without tripping or twisting my ankle, but now I can and I have lots of pairs.

What have you unintentionally learned about yourself through your life's journeys?

Tomorrow: What I've been up to all week (it's yummy, be sure to stop by). 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Day 163 - My New 'Indulgence' -- Skinny Cow

I have always had a thing for ice cream. During both of my pregnancies I could often be found with a bowl of Panda Paws propped upon my large belly happily watching reruns of Frasier till odd hours of the night. I still love it but no longer have the excuse of the baby needing it (yes, I did this).  But I had banished ice cream from the icebox for the last two months (maybe more) because it was getting to be a late night snack, and one with sugar at that. I miss ice cream and think it's quite a feat that I have gone all summer without.

Vanilla and Chocolate combo pack (with WW Points Plus Values)

Have you heard of Skinny Cow? I tried this for the first time last night, I'm sucker for ice cream sandwiches and I was hooked on the Weight Watcher's brand for a bit. But I'm looking for a change and I hear Skinny Cow has a good variety of friendly ice cream products. This is what I tried tonight and I'm completely in love with! If you're on WW it's the same point value for this as a Giant Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich (WW brand) and I think the consistency and flavor are better. The cookie is tender but also has a bit of a crisp to it which is a nice contrast.

I will also be trying these (in the name of informing my followers of course) in no particular order...

Cookies and Cream, Strawberry Shortcake (yay!) and Chocolate Peanut Butter.

Why am I allowing a former problem back into my home? It was a treat. For nearly two months I have stuck rather strictly to just normal meals and two between meal snacks. I needed to get out of the habit of 'treats' but now I feel almost deprived. Feeling deprived on any eating plan can lead to binging... That is the last thing I want to do. What I'm working on is learning to eat reasonably in the real world. Treats and mini-indulgences exist in the real world and there is no reason to deny yourself something yummy... within reason.

Give 'em a try!

Tomorrow: What I've learned about myself through weight loss.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Day 162 - Another Staple In My Pantry

Welcome once again to the pantry, my trusty source for easy and quick additions and staples. Today I'd like to talk about rice. It is rather pointy (not sharp...PP for Weight Watcher's) but the whole grain nature is a positive for your heart health. Here's my favorite convenience style brown rice:

This is an easy and fool proof way to prepare a simple portion of rice in 10 minutes. I use this as a great whole grain under grilled chicken with a bit of Smoked Apple Grilling Sauce. Add a cup of the always ready Pico de Gallo and you have a well rounded meal. You can also throw in 1 tsp. of heart healthy oil like safflower if you haven't had your two servings yet today. Yum! Perhaps this will be dinner tonite...

(pardon the short post today... my beloved cat went missing last night and I spend hours searching for her outside. we found her, she smells like the pine bush she was cowering in and she's scared, but she's home.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Day 161 - My Newest Love

Meet.... Well, I don't have a name for her yet (I'm open to suggestions) but she is my new muse. She takes different forms every time I recreate her, she's very versatile. She personifies my moods, my struggles with foods and my recipes. She is my creative outlet when I need to not eat food but can't stop thinking about it. I've come to realize I'm a very funny person--at least in my own head. So I thought I would let you into my crazy cranium.

All Rights Kara Andretta 2011

Yes, I illustrated this myself, I was an art student in a past life--or 13 years ago. I don't have much time/reason/excuse to create for fun, my time is very tight and any extra gets devoted to things like sleep, or showering. So having a distinct reason and functional need to sit and get out my ink and pencils has felt terrific!

This is just a sketch pulled from my doodlings in a notepad. But this would accompany Day 143 where I highlight my love for roasted tomatoes and garlic. I chuckle endlessly at this one! There are many more from whence this little nugget of comic genius has come. Look for her beginning this weekend, and we'll decide when she will be making her regular appearance. I'm so happy to have introduced her to you! She really does make me happy : )

Tomorrow: A visit to my pantry.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Day 160 - 3 Simple Ingredients That Will Spoil Your Mouth

I have been working hard at converting my eating to more straight-forward foods, trying to take in less processed foods. My body burns everything better and faster when I give it the simple things that nature gives us. Which is why when I saw a beautiful container of 'Baby Bellas' (small portobella mushrooms) at the market and couldn't resist. I knew that I had a bit of my favorite Riesling left in the fridge and thought that it might work well with the mushrooms and some butter. So into my shopping basket they went.

My favorite Riesling is sweet and smooth and has a beautifully round flavor, which is why I like drinking it. So it seemed to stand to reason that it would work well in cooking applications, too. I was right! Look below...

Drunken Mushrooms

1.  Clean your mushrooms well with a dry paper towel. No one likes gritty 'shrooms. And remove the stems leaving only the caps.
2. In a small skillet over medium high heat melt bring to a simmer 1/2 Tbsp. salted butter and 1/4 cup of your favorite Riesling.

3. Place the caps open side down in the pan of  simmering liquid.  Allow to cook this way for about 2 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium low and cook for another 1 minute.

4. Turn mushrooms caps over, open side up, and cook till the liquid has reduced to a thick glaze. keep you heat low at this point to give the mushrooms a chance to get tender. If your liquid has thickened too soon, just add a couple Tbsps. of warm water and continue to cook until the liquid has again reduced and is thickly bubbling.

5. Try not to eat them before you serve them... But do be sure to serve them with the glaze from the pan. It is packed with intense, rich flavor. This would be great with a seared steak. I eat them alone, no need to corrupt their amazingness.

Other white wines will work with this recipe, but Riesling seems to have a special relationship with mushrooms and butter. Enjoy!

Tomorrow: An introduction to the soon-to-be regular addition to my blog. You'll love her : ) 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Day 159 - Weigh In and Figs

Another loss! -1.2 pounds this week. Not as much as I was hoping for, but a loss is a loss. Clearly I need to begin to readjust my routines, I need to get physical activity back into my daily habits: my rate of  loss has slowed over the last couple weeks (due to a bunch of mitigating factors). I'm thinking of beginning to use the gym at school. They have ellipticals and I LOVE ellipticals!

On a different note...

 Meet the Black Mission Fig!

Black Mission figs; whole and cut

A gal on the boards over at Weight Watcher's mentioned that she has never had fresh figs and asked about them. Well here they are! I love fresh figs. My grandfather had fig trees in his back yard growing up and I remember my father bringing a handful home for me each Friday when they were in season. I greedily ate them all myself.

Black Mission Fig
These scrumptious bite sized deep purple gems of the late summer/early fall are sweet with an edible skin. Pick them by color--look for ones with no light yellow or light green near the stem at the top. The darker, the sweeter and juicier. The insides a a warm pink with little pods that are soft in texture.

Did you know:
  • Figs are believed to have been cultivated by humans up to 1,000 years before wheat and barley
  • Turkey and Egypt grow the most figs in the world
  • They have one of the highest plant sources of calcium and fiber for our dietary needs, especially when dried
  • Fig Newtons are not to be considered a viable source of the fruit's best nutritional qualities when dried ; )  Sorry.

Tomorrow: A mouth-watering and healthy use for that 'too small to serve' bit of Riesling at the end of the bottle. Beware- your mouth will crave nothing else after this!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Day 158 - Thinking Outside of the Jar

Once upon a time, a 30-something princess was strolling around her palace kitchen wracking her brain about what to have for supper. She walked around and around, trying to think of something other than left overs (as she was not well accustomed to eating re-heated food). She was feeling like a bagel. But what should go with a bagel? She pondered a bit more...

She opened the portal to her trusty pantry and peered inside for inspiration--TUNA! She once had a dream that she worked in a great little Jewish bakery/deli that specialized in bagels AND they served tuna salad with them all the time. How fortunate to have had this dream! 

The 30-something princess was trying to figure out a way to make the tuna salad a bit healthier, and easier on her hips. She determined that she liked her tuna salad creamy and with some seasonings. But mayo was no longer her friend (they had a falling-out around April 3rd). So the princess called into her magical icebox and asked for a volunteer to help rescue her from her craving for the evil mayo. 

Peering out from behind a carton of orange juice was a tall and wide white container. It gazed at her unsure of itself. She reached into the icebox reassuringly and smiled at her new hero--sour cream.

Her meal was complete, and seeing as the sour cream was much friendlier than mayo, she enjoyed an extra helping. The princess and the sour cream lived happily ever after (until she ate the rest of it).

The End

(I replaced all the mayo with 3 Tbsp. sour cream. For tuna salad like this it works. Not so sure about a sandwich, though. I sliced a mini bagel 4 times and toasted it in my counter-top convection oven till they were mostly crispy. I added some paprika to the tuna, good flavor and pretty presentation. It was a successful dinner.)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Day 157 - 5 Things That Should Be in Your Kitchen

In yesterday's post I showed you my neat little green Corningware ceramic ramekins that I used for my Upside Down, Inside Out  Eggplant Parm. I'm going to introduce you to a few things in my kitchen that are versatile, amazingly helpful and create shortcuts--all making meal time fun and less stressful.

Ziplock Zip'n Steam Bags
These microwave bags make fresh cooked veggies so easy! You can even cook chicken in them in the microwave (I've done it, and it's pretty good) and the bags come with recipe cards inside. Can't love without them now. Broccoli stays bright green after cooking!!!

Corningware  7oz. Ramekins
These are the perfect portion for anything you would usually make in a larger baking dish. Just assemble your usual recipe dividing it between the dishes. Great for French onion soup, dipping bowl for parties (salsa/queso), and little individual apple pies in the fall.
Kitchen Scale
I use mine to weigh every piece of food that enters my mouth. Far more accurate than using measuring cups and spoons, which has worked to my advantage in losing weight. Also, you can portion your food on your plate placed directly on the scale, no need to wash extra dishes used for measuring. Even works with teaspoon and tablespoon measures.
Wooden (or any) Cutting Board
I am shocked by how many people don't have a good sturdy cutting board in their kitchen. All of my food is prepared on one: safe to cut on, messes can travel to the sink rather than be wiped up on the counter and sometimes brushed onto the floor, and they save the edge of your knives. Cutting on plates or counter tops dulls the edge on your blades and does your knives a disservice.
Good Non-Stick Skillets
I use Circulon skillets, I've tried many brands and have been thrilled with this line of non-stick and oven safe pans. Mine were found at Kohls. I recommend having at least a small and a medium one. I don't go a single day without using the small one at least twice. The only reason I use oil in these? I need heart health oils daily, my pans don't :)

Make cooking and preparing food fun! I was goofing around with dinner last night and came up with something good... Can't wait to show you- tomorrow!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Day 156 - Upside Down, Inside Out Eggplant Parm

Yup. You heard right. If you Tuesday's post, I mention having fun with your fruits and veggies. You can make any regular meal into something fun, playful and interactive. Some times this only requires a different cooking method or dish. But when you're getting tired of the same old same old--it makes eating your veggies (fruits) fun and interesting. Try this...

Upside Down, Inside Out Eggplant Parmesan

Begin with individual ramekins like the ones pictured below by Corningware. (These are 7 oz sized rounded square ceramic dishes and are wonderful! I found mine at Target... pronounced Tar-zhay where I live.) You can use your favorite eggplant parmesan recipe and just arrange it in the dishes for a different presentation. I like to 'deconstruct' the dish a bit and put it back together in a new way.

My method and recipe (per individual dish):
  • 5-7 slices of eggplant (sliced a  bit more than 1/4 inch thick)
  • 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 slice of crusty bread
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, oregano, basil garlic powder to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Toss eggplant with 1/2 tsp salt to coat and allow to sit for 20 minutes. Using a paper towel pat the eggplant dry and set aside. 
  3. Place a spoonful of marinara in individual ramekin; lay one slice of eggplant on the sauce.
  4. Add 1/3 of ricotta and spread with the back of a spoon over the slice of eggplant then add 1/3 of mozzarella and a spoonful of marinara.
  5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 until your ingredients are all in the dish.
  6. Place onto a baking sheet and into oven for 25 minutes, or untill bubbling around the edges.
  7. Brush the olive oil over one side of the bread evenly. Sprinkle salt, pepper, oregano and garlic powder to taste over the oil. Place on a sheet of aluminum foil and  into the oven for 10-15 minutes till crisp and lightly golden.
Once you have removed your ramekins and bread from the oven it's time to have fun! Allow to cool for 10 minutes then place your bread atop the ramekin; put a small dinner plate facedown over the bread and ramekin; carefully, with a potholder, invert the plate and ramekin and gently pull the ramekin away. Check out my pics below...

Voila! Upside down!
(pssst! why did she say inside out? oh! because the breading isn't on the eggplant like usual... it starts off on the side, then it winds up underneath! now i get it!)

My tip: I do not like leaving the skins on the eggplant. They ruin the texture for me. I prefer to peel them with my apple peeler before using them in anything. Just my opinion, seeing as many recipes out there leave the skin on. I vote vote to take it off. : )

Tomorrow: Some of my kitchen 'tools' that make preparing healthy food easier and faster. Nothing fancy-schmancy here. Just taking some shortcuts- and who doesn't love a good shortcut?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Day 155 - What I'm Missing

I was going to show you something yummy today. I never cooked last night with my new fun Corningware ramekins (life again likes to throw BIG hurdles in the way). This I will do for you tomorrow.

For today, I'm going to share with you some of what has been missing lately at this stage of my weight loss journey.

  1. My love handles. I never truly had 'love handles' per se, but I was more full around that area than I was comfortable with. Muffin top no more!
  2. On the outer sides of my butt cheeks (yup, talkin' about my butt now- we've officially reached that level of comfort) there were these two little 'pouches' about the size of a small pickle of fat. They were tiny, but noticeable. Notice the word were being used. Yup! No more pickle cheeks!
  3. I do miss my pants fitting. I suppose seeming like they were spray-painted on isn't exactly fitting, but neither is sliding off my rear end. It takes some getting used to, wearing clothes that are lose or actually fit properly.
  4. I miss pigging out. Not really, but some days I want to just have at whatever yummy little morsel of yumminess happens across my path while perusing the pantry. (OK, the benefits to not doing this are much greater. But Andrea--a classmate-- today had two collosal chocolate chip cookies in class and was chowing down. She weighs as much as my big toe. I just wanted a cookie.)
  5. I miss turning to food for comfort. It was my friend. This may sound silly, but it's an honest evaluation of my relationship with food. I've had to find other things to fill that emotional eating void. Replacing a friend is not easy.
All in all, every effort I've made has benefited me enormously and I wouldn't go back and change it for anything. Changing your lifestyle is hard. And it's an intentional battle every day.

Tomorrow: Food! And my new kitchen toy  : )

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Day 154 - Play With Your Fruits and Veggies

Yesterday I told you I was going to let you into my pantry again. Well, kind of...

I always, always, always have fresh fruit and veggies on hand for meal times. And to keep myself interested and my creative juices flowing, I like to buy the non-standard items. Yes, I'm practically required by my boys to have bananas and apples on hand. And berries and grapes are most often found in my icebox, too. But hanging in one of my three suspended baskets, or in the basket on my counter, you'll also find some less traditional selections. Have a look at yesterday's shopping trip.

From right to left, let me introduce you to:
  • Graffiti Eggplant
  • Pluots
  • Acorn Squash
I have many ideas for the eggplant (check back tomorrow morning to see what I did with it tonight for dinner) and some involve the great new Corningware ramekins that I found at Target yesterday. The plouts are quite simply the yummy love child of the plum and apricot. Yes, love child... And I recently featured a great recipe of the acorn squash and have another in mind to try. They keep almost forever in a cool dry place, so don't hesitate to include them in your grocery adventure, even if you don't quite know what to do with them yet.

If you have any insights for any of the above mentioned botanical wonders, please feel free to share below. I (we) love fresh thoughts : )

Tomorrow: Tonight's dinner (don't worry, I won't push the leftovers on you) and fun cookware! (I'm cookware junkie. I see it, I buy it.)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Day 153 - Late Breakfast

If you are a regular visitor to my blog and stalk my Sunday weigh in posts you'll notice that I was significantly later than usual yesterday... Life likes to drop BIG obstacles in your path some days. I eat after I weigh in so my breakfast was also significantly delayed. Around 11am is when I finally ate breakfast, which is a bit late to get the furnace burning, so I had to go with a bigger breakfast/brunch than usual for a weekend morning. Let's review, shall we?

So this yum-o omelet consisted of the following...

  • 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites
  • a splash of non-fat milk
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pico de gallo
  • 2 oz. lean deli ham
  • 1/8 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
I sautee the pico de gallo with the olive oil first till the onions caramelize and are a delicious golden brown color. Then I pour my beaten eggs and milk and cook untill it's ready to flip. Then I add the ham and cheese and flip it over onto itself.

I can't resist sour cream with my ham and cheese omelets so a 2 Tbsp. portion will do on the side. And of course, what would breakfast be without some fresh fruit? Here I had 1.5 cups of grapes, cherries and strawberries. Yum : )  I gotta tell ya, the pico de gallo take omelets to a different place. *drooling on myself slightly*

This breakfast provides: 4 servings fruits/veggies, 1 serving heart healthy oil, and lean protein.
8 Points Plus for my Weight Watcher's buddies. 

Tomorrow: More of my pantry.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Day 152 - Weigh In Day

Down another pound : )

This is actually a lower rate of lose than I have been used to but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I was starting to feel deprived--hungry more than I should be. I talked with some group members over at Weight Watcher's and they offered a bunch of insightful advice that I wouldn't have necessarily thought of myself. I tried a few things and I felt much better all week. Ultimately, I need to slow my rate of lose to avoid burnout, which is the last thing I want to have happen.

I'm in this for the long haul, it's a lifestyle change, not a race to the finish line.

Now I only have 5.6 pounds to go till I hit ONEderland!!! I haven't been her in over seven years. This is very exciting for me, and another good motivator to keep working my plan.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Day 151 - More Food I Can't Live Without

Pico de Gallo.
(Yes, I know today's date and I know that package looks out of date... I took the picture a few weeks ago anticipating this post. No worries.)

What is pico de gallo? Well, I'm glad you asked!

It is similar to a salsa, but without the sauce: diced tomatoes, onions and green peppers joyfully mingling with cilantro, lime juice and the occasional jalapeno. I throw a pinch or two of Kosher salt into the mix for good measure. I buy premade/prepackaged pico in the produce section of my grocery store, it saves time for chopping and actually costs less.

But what to do with pico de gallo... Try these:

  • EGGS - Add 1/2 cup to a small frying pan with a tsp. olive oil then add your eggs for a veggie infusion
  • SALAD - Don't feel like chopping all your veggies, but want more than a bowl of greens? Add a cup of pico and you've added tons of flavor and 2 more servings of veggies.
  • CHICKEN and RICE - Barbeque grilled chicken breasts chopped and tossed with brown rice and 1/2 cup veggies; lot's of flavor, great combination of textures, and again, you've snuck some veggies into your daily routine.
  • PASTA - Toss pico with pasta, 1 tsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. of grated Parmesan cheese. Yum!
  • HUMMUS - Spread 2 Tbsp. hummus over a medium whole wheat tortilla, add 1/2 cup of pico, mixed greens and reduced fat feta cheese crumbles. Roll up and enjoy.
These are only a few of the things I do with pico de gallo. Anywhere you have veggies, you can add pico. Have a good idea or favorite way to use pico de gallo? Leave us a note in the comments section below.

Tomorrow: It's Sunday, Weigh-In Day...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Day 150 - More Things to Ponder from The Boardies

Installment number 2 of inspiration and hilarity from the online boardies over at Weight Watcher's... A continuation of the wildly popular first post. Sit back and enjoy.

  • Whether you think that you can or you can't, you are right. (Pat, a.k.a IslandDreamer)
  • If you eat garbage you will feel like garbage. (Gusto31)
  • You don't have to change your life; you just have to change your day. (ZeldaLaw)
  • Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup. (Christine)
  • If you're sick of starting over, you have to stop quitting. (NurseJulie74)
  • A year from now, you will have wished you had started today. (Kristal)
  • The 'pain' of being on-plan/sticking with it is nothing compared to how it feels to give up. (IrisMurasaki)
  • If you waste energy on things you can't control, it only means you will be too worn out to deal with things you can. (Letty)
And last, but far from least, and one of the best things I have had to chew over mentally:

  •  I go to work because I like my paycheck; if I went when I was motivated to do so, I would be fired by Wednesday. I follow Weight Watcher's (my healthy eating plan) because I like the results--the motivation comes and goes. On the days it's gone, the results speak for themselves. (QueenTrish)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Day 149 - Pictures From My Powerless Weekend

I mentioned that I have no power--still only a generator running a few things. But I learned to be creative with the resources I had available to me with the power outage post Irene. I also promised some pictures : )

Here they are, only two but they kind of typified what we've been doing since Sunday morning.

These are my yummy Grill Eggs, my skillet is oven proof to 450 and I turned off the front burner so the handle wasn't exposed to direct flames. It worked nicely. Scrambled with some melted cheese.

And me using the freshly deposited rain from Irene to bathe au naturale. I like to think she brought me tropical waters for my leg shaving needs, makes me feel kind of special : )  (p.s. I have running water again thanks to the ingenuity of my hubby. It's cold water, but it's running water.)

Hopefully we will be fully back into the swing of life by tomorrow afternoon. We should have pwer restored then and I will restock my icebox with my go-to foods.

For tomorrow: A second installment of fun, inspirational quotes from the Boardies over at Weight Watchers!
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