Sunday, September 9, 2012

Chickpea and Roasted Pepper Soup

This weekend was both exhausting yet relaxing.

On Saturday--after my regular class of teaching yoga to BPS bus drivers--I ran what was supposed to be a "Friends and Family 5K Fun Run" at Offutt Air Force Base. About 35 minutes into the race, I noticed that I was nowhere near the end of the course, yet I should have been just about done (I usually run them in about 35-36 minutes now). At 40 minutes in, I thought "This is NOT a 5K!" When I crossed the finish line at 45 minutes (after a giant hill at the end!), my friend, Julie, announced "Hey, guess what? They measured the course wrong, and it was more than 5K!" No kidding. We figured out that it was just over 4 miles that we ran that morning--about 6.5K. I was kind of mad about running that far without being forwarned, but rather proud that I did it! After a post-race massage (with Christine Thye at A Moment to Breathe--go get a massage from her!) and running errands that afternoon, though, I was thoroughly exhausted.

Today, though, was a wonderfully relaxing day. I ran a few errands in the morning, then went to visit my friend, Ferial. I made us a chickpea and roasted pepper soup for lunch, and then we enjoyed chai masala and a Bollywood movie for the rest of the afternoon. Ahhhhh... good food, good tea, and good company!

The soup I made was a recipe from Cat Cora that I had seen in my most recent Yoga Journal magazine: Chickpea and Roasted Pepper Soup. It turned out fantastic, though Ben wished it was a little more savory and a little less sweet (I thought it had just a hint of sweet from the onion and peppers, though, not overpowering).

Because the chickpeas would be considered my starch for lunch, I also brought some white wine and garlic turkey sausage/brats that I found at the meat counter at our local Baker's supermarket. Since I wasn't sure if the sausages would be any good, I cooked them separately in the oven and then sliced and added them to our individual bowls of soup at the end (I didn't want to end up with a big pot of sucky soup if the sausages were terrible). The sausage was good, though, so in the future I'll probably partially saute it, then slice it and add it to the soup to finish cooking. In the future, I might also consider using only 3 cans of chickpeas instead of 4, and possibly adding some other non-starchy vegetables, like zucchini, cauliflower, or something. The beauty of the chickpeas, though, is that they do contain some protein and are pretty high in fiber, so they're definitely worth having in the soup. :)

Chickpea and Roasted Pepper Soup (from Cat Cora)

2 Tbsp EVOO
1 1/2 medium onions, chopped (recipe calls for 2, but I reduced this slightly)
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
4 15-oz cans of chickpeas, drained (I used Bush's Best Reduced Sodium)
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
8 cups vegetable broth (I used Kitchen Basics Unsalted)
2 Bay leaves
4 red bell peppers (recipe only calls for 2, I used more), roasted, peeled, & seeded
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
flat-leaf parsley for garnish (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over the medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the chickpeas and rosemary, mixing well. Add broth and bay leaves.

Purée the red peppers in a food processor or blender. Stir into the soup, cover, and simmer gently over medium-low heat for about 45 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves and season to taste the salt and pepper. Just before serving, garnish the soup with chopped fresh parsley, if you'd like.

I ate mine with a side of steamed broccoli, since this soup mostly contains starchy vegetables; in addition, as I mentioned, I sliced up some white wine and garlic turkey sausage and put it in my soup. You can choose to eat this soup plain, or add turkey meatballs, turkey sausage, or Aidell's chicken sauasage. 

Nutritional Information (Soup makes 8 servings, info for 1 serving)
Calories: 246
Fat: 6.5g     Sodium: 588mg     Carb: 41.1     Fiber: 9.2      Protein: 10.1     Sugars: 5.9

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Curry Roasted Cauliflower & Sweet Peas

Have I mentioned how much I've grown to love cauliflower? I used to hate it. HATE it. I didn't like the taste, but especially didn't like the texture.

Turns out it just wasn't being cooked right for me!

I fell in love with my friend Ferial's roasted cauliflower with parmesan a while back, and have been looking for some other interesting ways to season roasted cauliflower. One of my favorite food blogs, Can You Stay For Dinner? (this blogger lost 130+ lbs and has kept it off for a few years!) had a good-looking curry roasted cauliflower and sweet pea recipe that I decided to try the other night. I like curry. I like roasted cauliflower. I like sweet peas. No surprise that this recipe was a winner, then.

Catch of the day: drum fish
But first, I have to brag a little about fish. Yes, fish. As in, the-fun-time-I've-had-catching-some-big-fish-and-eating-them-and-they-were-delicious.

Two plates for so much good food!
My in-laws have a cabin up north on the Missouri river, near the Ft. Randall dam; however, due to the epic flood last year, the cabin was unusable for over a year, until it could be cleaned, gutted, and basically rebuilt. We finally got to head up there toward the end of July, and the fishing has been amazing! We also discovered that in addition to bass, walleye, pike, and crappie, the drum fish are apparently abundant, fun to catch, and delicious to eat! The guys grilled up the whole catfish with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and I breaded and fried up the drum fillets. Add some roasted green beans, corn, and slices of bread and we had ourselves a pretty amazing feast!

And now, back to the cauliflower.

In addition to yummy cauliflower, my friend Ferial has also taught me a love of Indian spices. Ferial is Kenyan, and her family is of Indian descent, so she is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Asian and African cooking (or just cooking in general. Because she's pretty much a domestic goddess as far as I'm concerned). I didn't have a chance to find out how Ferial mixes her own curry powder (did you know curry isn't a single spice? Me either, until I met Ferial.) before making this, so I just used a store-bought curry mix from Spice Islands, which seemed to be fine.

A few notes about this recipe: it calls for 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, but it ended up being a little too hot for me. As in my-mouth-and-lips-were-on-fire hot. Ben loved it and thought it was great, though. I think if this was served over rice, as the original blogger did, it would probably temper the heat a bit. But I'm going to reduce the cayenne a little the next time I make this. Also, I didn't drizzle it with olive oil, I used my Misto sprayer--which, while more effective at covering the cauliflower, made it impossible to measure the amount of oil I used. Hence, I don't think I used enough oil--the cauliflower came out of the oven with less of a spicy glaze (like in the original blogger's pictures) and more of a covered-in-spice-powder look/feel, which may also be why the cayenne seemed so strong. Finally, make sure you use a very large cauliflower head (or more than one), as I only had a small one, and it didn't produce enough cauliflower for a sufficient peas-to-cauliflower ratio. That was probably another reason why the cayenne was too strong for me. ;)

Curry Roasted Cauliflower and Sweet Peas (from Can You Stay For Dinner?)

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 4-5 cups)
2 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups frozen sweet peas, thawed
Fresh cilantro leaves

Preheat oven to 450°. Toss the cauliflower florets in the oil in a large bowl. Add spices and toss again to coat each floret well.  Spread cauliflower onto a foil lined baking sheet.

Roast for 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is beginning to blacken and is easily pierced with a fork. Stir the thawed peas with the hot florets on the baking sheet, sprinkle with fresh cilantro, and serve.  Makes 4-5 servings.

I ate mine with steak and a slice of bread.

Nutritional Information (cauliflower/peas, 1 serving):
Calories: 130
Fat: 7.25    Carb: 15   Fiber: 5.5     Prot: 5

Friday, July 27, 2012

Grilled Blue Marlin with Apple Lime Vinaigrette

This is Part II of my delicious gourmet meal from the other night. :) I highly recommend eating this with the roasted vegetable & chickpea salad that I posted earlier. So. Delicious.

Before I jump into this recipe, though, let me just brag a little bit...

I stopped at my favorite consignment shop here in town last week, and happened upon a size 8/10 Armani suit. When I tried it on, I discovered that it fit almost perfectly (just need the pants hemmed)! The tag from the consignment shop had it priced at $200...and marked down to $90! Guess who is the proud new owner of a gorgeous Armani suit? This girl!! Even better--when I got home, I checked online to see how much women's Armani suits generally cost--and saw that they run about $1,200 to $3,000. And I got mine for $90!? It does make me wonder, though, who in Omaha would get rid of their timeless Armani suit??

And now, back to our regularly scheduled recipe for this post. ;)

I found this recipe in a local HyVee flyer that was advertising a sale on blue marlin, which I've never had before. I've decided that I really, really like it--it has a dense, meaty texture, and a light, not-very-fishy flavor. I have also read that this fish is very high protein but also very low in fat, which makes it an excellent lean protein source--and a nice change from all the chicken breasts and tilapia I've been eating! The vinaigrette is excellent, too, and I think it would also be good on chicken, pork, and/or tilapia. Possibly even in a quinoa salad.

Grilled Blue Marlin with Apple Lime Vinaigrette (from the July 2012 HyVee sale flyer)

4 pieces blue marlin fillets
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup apple juice
1 tsp chopped parsley
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp sugar or 1/2 tbsp splenda (or 1/3 tbsp stevia--which is what I did)
1 large granny smith apple, peeled, cored, seeded and diced
2 tbsp bacon bits, finely chopped and divided in two

Preheat outside grill to medium-high heat. Let fish stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.

In a blender or food processor, blend the apple, parsley, lime juice, apple juice, vinegar, 1 tbsp bacon bits, and sugar/sweetener. Slowly add olive oil and blend for 1 minute. Add remaining bacon bits and stir (not blend).

Lightly brush marlin filets on each side with vinaigrette and place on grill. Grill for 3 minutes per side. Fish will begin to slightly flake when done. Fish should reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Do not overcook.

Place fish onto plates and drizzle with additional vinaigrette. Can be served with grilled pineapple as garnish.

Nutrition Information
4 oz blue marlin:
Calories: 175.6    Fat: 5.3g    Chol: 55.9    Sod: 130.3mg    Carbs: 0    Fiber: 0    Protein: 29.3

2 Tbsp serving Apple Lime Vinaigrette (guesstimating based on making about 1.5cups for a total of 10 servings):
Calories: 68   Fat: 6g    Chol: 1.6    Sod: 0.7mg   Carbs: 3.7   Fiber: 0.5   Protein: 0.4   Sugars: 3.1

Roasted Vegetable and Chickpea Salad

I had a gourmet dinner last night. At home. Cooked by me! Well, mostly me--Ben grilled the fish.

It started with this warm vegetable salad recipe that I've been wanting to try--I found it on How Sweet It Is, one of the blogs that I follow. Then, I saw a flyer from our local HyVee that advertised blue marlin loins on sale (which I've never had before) and a recipe for grilling the blue marlin with an apple lime vinaigrette (which I'll post in the next day or so, I promise!).

But first, the vegetables! Roasted, then tossed in a sweet/sour vinaigrette, fresh herbs, creamy gorgonzola cheese and avocados. Mmmmm...

I followed the original recipe almost exactly this time around, but if when I make it again, I think I will actually cut out one can of chickpeas and one ear of corn and add in some cauliflower and zucchini or summer squash and possibly some bell peppers. My reason for this would be that many of the vegetables in this recipe are higher on the glycemic index, and therefore I consider them a little starchy to be my primary vegetables. Also, I'm not a HUGE blue cheese/gorgonzola fan (though it was delicious with this cheese!), so I might try to substitute feta instead, just to see how that tastes.

But even without my planned changes, this was DELICIOUS.

Roasted Vegetable and Chickpea Salad (from How Sweet It Is)

1 pint grape tomatos
1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped  (the original recipe calls for red onion, but I hate red onion)
4 ears of fresh corn, corn cut from the cob
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 (15-ounce) cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1 avocado, chopped
3 tablespoons freshly chopped basil
3 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
1 tablespoon freshly chopped mint
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and add tomatoes, peppers, corn, onions and garlic. Drizzle with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil (I just sprayed mine well with my Misto olive oil sprayer), then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, toss, then roast for 10 minutes more. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
While veggies are cooling, add chickpeas to a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together remaining olive oil, vinegar and honey. Set aside.
Add veggies to the chickpeas in the bowl. Add in fresh herbs, then crumble on gorgonzola. Drizzle with dressing, tossing to coat, then top with freshly chopped avocado. Season more if desired. Serve immediately!

Nutrition Information
I'm not totally certain of the nutrition information yet, as I didn't measure out how much this recipe made and/or how much of it I actually ate--my best guess is that it makes about 3 cups of vegetables total, and a serving would be about 1/3 to 1/2 cup (maybe?). I'm ballpark guessing (after entering the recipe into with those amounts) that one serving would be around 200 calories (which isn't bad if you consider the corn/chickpeas to count as your starch and you eat it with a lean protein like blue marlin, tilapia, or chicken breast!).

Monday, July 16, 2012

Cuban-Style Chicken Wraps

I found the original recipe for this several years ago, in one of my sister's Cooking Light magazines. Since then, I've actually made this meal with various modifications; I'll go ahead and give you the original recipe from the magazine, but then explain some of the options I've found for modification. :)

Cuban-Style Chicken Wraps (from Cooking Light)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into short strips
1/2 c. diced fresh pineapple
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp orange marmelade
1 can (15oz) black beans (I use Goya low-sodium beans), rinsed well
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika

Combine pineapple, beans, vinegar, and marmelade in saucepan. Add 1/8 tsp red pepper. Bring to simmer over medium heat; cook 1 minute, and then turn to low to keep warm.

Combine remaining spices and sprinkle over chicken. Coat chicken with cooking spray and cook over medium heat until done.

Serve together in a corn or flour tortilla.

Now, here are some of my modifications I've done in the past: 
1) If you don't have marmelade, just use a pinch of brown sugar (this is what I usually do).
2) Sometimes I like to mash a small slice of avocado onto the tortilla before adding the meat and bean mixture--makes it extra creamy and delicious. :)

The biggest modification that I've done was when I made this dinner last week: I seasoned the meat with Todd's Bayou Dirt instead of the pepper/salt/paprika (I still added 1/8 tsp of the pepper to the beans/pineapple, though). Ben actually suggested this change, because he wanted his meat to be seasoned more and a bit spicier. So, I put the chicken in a mixing bowl, and liberally added the Todd's Dirt, turning the chicken to coat it completely in the seasoning. I then added olive oil to the pan, and cooked the chicken on med-high heat to sear it and allow the seasoning to kind of create a crust on the chicken. It was delicious, and definitely spicier than we've had in the past, so this is probably how I'll season the chicken from here on out.

I served myself with two Mama Lupe Low Carb Tortillas (our local Baker's store carries them, only 60 calories each!), 4.5 oz of chicken (divided between the 2 tortillas), and about 1-2 tablespoons of the bean/pineapple mixture on each tortilla. I also added a side of steamed broccoli, to make sure I got my veggies!

Nutrition Information (2 chicken wraps, using Mama Lupe Low Carb Tortilla):
Calories: 342.44
Fat: 22.5g       Sodium: 567.62mg      Carb: 22.04g      Fiber: 11.16g       Prot: 48.72g        Sugars: 0.84

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Cucumber & Radish Salad

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I had a cool, Thai-style cucumber and radish salad with my baked chicken the other night, so I thought I'd post the recipe for the salad, too. It's fairly quick and easy to put together, requires no cooking, and is a light, summery salad that is a nice change from traditional lettuce salads. Also, it's kind of pretty! :)

I honestly can't remember where I found the recipe for this, so I apologize for not crediting the source here; if I ever do figure it out, I'll be sure to edit this post with that information.

Cucumber and Radish Salad
1 cup thinly sliced radish
1/2 cup finely chopped orange or red bell pepper
2 cucumbers (English cucumbers work best, as they have more "meat" and less seed/goo), thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
salt & pepper to taste (I use about 1/2 tsp kosher salt and just over 1/4 tsp ground pepper)

After slicing/chopping vegetables, toss them together in a dish. In a separate bowl, combine dressing ingredients and whisk with a fork. Pour dressing over vegetables, and gently toss or turn vegetables until they are all coated in the dressing. Set aside or in the fridge for at least 10 minutes, then toss vegetables in dressing again before serving.

I forgot to pick up some parsley, so just imagine it in there. ;)
A few notes on this salad:
1) using a mandolin slicer makes slicing the cucumbers/radishes much safer and quicker and gives you thinner slices than with a knife.
2) this dish is best served on the same day you make it. It's okay the next day, but tends to be a little sweeter (I think because the salt draws out the natural sugars in the cucumber and radish). Also, the pink skin on the radishes will bleed out and dye the dressing and parts of the cucumber pink by the next day. It's still good, but just looks a little if you want to make this a day ahead but don't want it to be pink, I suggest peeling the radishes.
3) I'm not completely sure how to calculate the nutritional value of this dish, since the dressing mostly ends up in the bottom of the dish, so I'm not going to provide that information here. For my purposes on my calorie tracking program, I just input the cucumbers/radish I ate (measured by the cup), and then guesstimated that I had about 1/2 tsp of olive oil, but your guess is as good as mine (vinegar and lemon juice have minimal calories and are considered "freebies" by my maintenance plan, so I didn't try to add those in).

Friday, July 6, 2012

Red Pepper & Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast

With 100+ degree temperatures this week, I was loathe to turn the oven on, but also didn't want to send poor Ben outside to stand over a hot grill. So, I decided to crank up the a/c and make some baked, stuffed chicken breasts (we've been getting a little sick of simple, plain chicken breasts, so I fancied them up a little bit).

I wanted to keep this low-calorie/low-fat, so I didn't want to do a bread stuffing or a traditional cordon bleu or florentine-style chicken. I opened the fridge to see what I already had that I could use, and right up front was my TJ's Red Pepper Spread with Eggplant and Garlic. Perfect! I had just a little bit of feta left, so I decided to use that up, too--although I ended up only having enough feta for one chicken breast, so I supplemented with my chevre goat cheese and did one breast with feta and one with goat cheese. They were both tasty, in our opinion, so use whichever you prefer/have on hand. :)

This was delicious. Not too heavy, but very moist and flavorful. The most time-consuming part was pounding out the chicken breasts, but other than that it was simple and easy to throw together and bake--which also didn't take very long.

Red Pepper & Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast

2 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbsp Red Pepper Spread
2 Tbsp feta or chevre goat cheese (or 1 Tbsp each)
Panko bread crumbs
1 Tbsp egg white

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easy cleanup!). Cover chicken breast with foil or plastic and pound out until about 1/4" thick (I use a frying pan for this, as it provides enough heft to make it easy, yet doesn't damage/tear the chicken).

Spread 1 Tbsp red pepper spread on one side of chicken breast, sprinkled on top with 1 Tbsp cheese. Roll chicken breast carefully (pushing filling back in as needed), secure with toothpick. Gently brush chicken with egg white, then carefully roll in panko bread crumbs to cover (I didn't measure how much stuck to the chicken breasts--for calorie counting, I'm guessing about 1 Tbsp per chicken breast??).

Bake at 400 degrees approximately 20-30 minutes, or until cooked through.

I ate my chicken with a cool, Thai-style cucumber and radish salad that I made while the chicken was baking--I'll be sure to post that recipe, too, either later today or sometime tomorrow.

Also, I usually eat 4oz of cooked protein at a meal, but my finished chicken breast weighed in at about 9oz. I guessed and mentally subtracted 1 oz for the pepper spread, putting it at 8oz. I probably should have cut it in half and only eaten that much, but I was so HUNGRY and it was soooo delicious--I ended up eating the whole thing. I don't feel too guilty about it, though, since it's mostly lean and healthy protein, as opposed to eating a giant slice of fudge cake. Anyway, for calorie-counting purposes, I'm just going to put the information below in according to my 8 oz stuffed chicken breast--feel free to eat a smaller portion and reduce your calorie intake if this is too much for you.

Nutrition Information
Calories:  304.3
Fat: 6.57g     Sodium: 100.85mg     Carb: 5.12g     Fiber: 1g     Protein: 50.52g     Sugars: 1.26

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Another Product Rave: Chicken Sausage

Fort Falls, at Ft. Niobrara Wildlife Refuge
We've been doing a bit of camping this summer, and that makes eating plain and healthy a bit difficult--after all, "convenience" foods tend to be unhealthy and/or very processed.

Yes, we could have made elaborate camp dinners using foil packets and the dutch oven or skillet, but we really prefer to keep things simple. We don't like cooking over a hot skillet on a campfire when it's hot outside, dutch oven cooking takes more time and planning (and usually, more ingredients to have to bring along).

Ben, making a ham & egg scramble.
So, we kept it simple. Sandwiches and veggies with hummus for lunches, venison hot dogs (courtesy of Ben's hunting) or chicken sausages for dinner, and scrambled ham and eggs with a side of leftover chicken sausage for breakfast.

Here comes my product recommendation for the chicken sausage: Aidell's chicken sausages are delicious, low-fat, and very reasonable for calories and sodium. But most important: they're delicious AND easy to cook over a campfire--because they're pre-cooked! You don't have to worry about eating raw meat if they're not cooked to a certain temperature; you're pretty much just warming them up over the fire. Simple! Delicious! Safe!

NOTE: I am NOT getting money or free products from this company (though I wouldn't turn them down if they offered). I simply found a great product that I wanted to share with my health and food-conscious friends. :)

Ben & his friend, Thomas, heating up sausage for dinner.
Anyway, Aidell's makes a variety of tasty chicken sausages; in fact, I thought we had tried all of them, only to discover a yummy list of their products on the website that our local grocery store doesn't carry. Now I'm inspired to ask my store to order some for me, or to find a way to order them online! We've already tried the artichoke & garlic, cajun style andouille, chicken & apple, pineapple & bacon, and Italian style with mozzarella. I highly recommend all of these. :)

I usually ate my chicken sausage either wrapped in a slice of Sara Lee Delightful bread or by itself on my plate. I also took apart some cauliflower and put it in a heavy-duty foil packet with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then set it in the coals to cook--I think it took about 20-30 minutes--to add some veggies to my dinner.

Now I'm just looking forward to trying some of the other sausages they make--especially the spicy mango/jalapeno and the roasted garlic with gruyere cheese!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Egg-White Omelet with Goat Cheese & Red Pepper Spread

So, again, I have to credit my friend, Ferial, for this one.  :)

I usually do my regular breakfast: an egg & cheese breakfast sandwich and yogurt. A few weeks ago, Ferial gave me a bite of her egg-white omelet that she makes using a Roasted Red Pepper spread and Chevre goat cheese from Trader Joe's, and I was sold on it. It's just as easy and fast to make (though not something you can take and eat on the road), very filling, very low-calorie, and tastes downright gourmet. I listed the nutritional information at the bottom of this post, but FYI, the omelet itself is only about 90 calories. I  eat this with a slice of toast made with Sara Lee Delightful bread (with I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray), and a container of Dannon Light & Fit yogurt, for a total of about 210 calories.

After finally venturing out to the new Trader Joe's in Omaha (I hadn't been there yet because they opened when I was still dieting and I didn't think I could resist all the delicious cookies, chips, breads, and other carbs that they also have) to pick up the spread and cheese (a very similar goat cheese is also available at HyVee, so don't fret if you don't have TJ's near you--you can probably find a similar spread that you like at your local grocery store), I started making this omelet Every. Single. Day. The red pepper spread adds good flavor and just a little bit of kick, and the goat cheese makes it creamy, with just a slight sour-cream/cream cheese taste.

Egg-White Omelet with Cheese and Red Pepper Spread

3-5 Tbsp Egg Beaters 100% Egg Whites (or a generic version)
             (or you could use the whites from 2-4 eggs)
1 Tbsp Roasted Red Pepper Spread with Eggplant and Garlic from TJ's
1/2 oz  (less than 1 Tbsp) Chevre goat cheese

Heat small pan over med-high heat. Spray olive oil or non-stick spray in bottom of the pan (I have to spray up onto the sides to make sure the edges don't stick). Egg white is pretty delicate, so even though I have "nonstick" pans, I still spray them lightly with my Misto olive oil sprayer.

Pour egg whites gently into the pan to cover the bottom. I usually use about 4-5 Tbsp of my Egg Beaters (approx 1.5 servings).  Also, you'll notice my omelet looks yellow here. I had accidentally purchased the Egg Beater's Original, an egg substitute made with egg whites, which isn't the same thing (though it tastes the same). I have used that container up, and am now using the 100% egg whites. Let your egg cook until soft but not liquid-y. Spoon 1 Tbsp of the red pepper spread over 1/2 of your eggs.

Using a fork, break up some of the goat cheese and sprinkle over the top of the red pepper spread.

Fold the omelet over to cover the spread and cheese. Continue to cook for about a minute to heat the spread and cheese.

Remove from heat, and enjoy!

Nutritional Information for the omelet:
(using 1.5 serving of Egg Beaters, 1/2 oz goat cheese, 1 Tbsp red pepper spread)
Calories: 87.5
Fat: 3.5g          Sodium: 207.5mg          Carb: 3.5g            Fiber: 1g          Protein: 9.5g         

Monday, June 18, 2012

Grilled Pineapple

Here is the secret to the easiest, healthy, summer dessert: grilled pineapple. You can serve it several different ways (alone, with ice cream/froyo, with other fruit, with whipped cream, etc.), and it's so sweet and delicious that you really feel like you're eating something more decadent and unhealthy--you truly feel like you're getting a treat.

Since we were planning to grill out anyway, I went ahead and picked up a slightly under-ripe pineapple from the store (as most fruit is sold here in Nebraska. *sigh*) as well as some Reddi-Wip. Ben sliced off the "skin" of the pineapple, but left the crown (the green, leafy part) on as a way to help grasp it on the grill, and then laid it on it's side over med-low heat on the grill.

As a side would start to brown and/or blacken, he would rotate the pineapple, taking it off the grill after all sides have been exposed to the heat. Back on the table, we cut up the pineapple, added some Reddi-Wip (only 15 calories for 2 Tbsp!), and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon. DELICIOUS! The heat from the grill softens and sweetens even an under-ripe pineapple, causing it to carmelize a little bit (to be honest, the slightly more "charred" pieces are my favorite--they're sweet enough to be compared to toasted marshmallows, even).

According to, 1 cup of fresh, diced pineapple is approximately 75 calories. Add 15 calories for the Reddi-Wip, and you have a summery, light, easy, delicious dessert for under 100 calories!

Next time, I think I'd like to make homemade spiced whipped cream from scratch, sweetened with stevia and spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger. But to keep it easy, Reddi-Wip certainly works well, too. :)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower with Parmesan

This recipe comes from my friend, Ferial. Ben and I had some friends over to grill out the other night, and I was trying to think of an easy vegetable side dish (other than grilled veggies--we weren't going to have room on the grill for anything other than the burgers and steaks we were serving!); luckily, Ferial suggested this super-simple roasted cauliflower.

As you may remember, I had mentioned once before that I thought I hated cauliflower. Up until this year, the texture of cauliflower--whether raw or cooked--just always grossed me out. But after making (and loving!) cauliflower crust pizza, I decided to give it another chance. I discovered that I also kind of like steamed cauliflower, as long as it's cooked until it's mostly soft. So, when Ferial described her roasted cauliflower to me, it sounded simple enough that I decided to give it a try--and it was a big hit, with me as well as our friends. :)

Roasted Cauliflower with Parmesan

1 or 2 crowns of cauliflower (depending on how many people you are trying to feed)
olive oil (I used my oil mister with olive oil in it)
kosher or sea salt + pepper to taste
1-3 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese, to taste

Preheat oven to 425 or 450 degrees (I did 450 degrees, but my oven tends to run a little cool). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Break apart/cut up cauliflower into mostly bite-size chunks. EITHER toss cauliflower in olive oil, salt, and pepper and then put in an even layer on the baking sheet, OR spray the baking sheet lightly with olive oil, then place the cauliflower in an even layer, spray with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake for approximately 20-30 minutes, or until cauliflower starts to look brown and have some crispy edges. Remove from oven, move cauliflower to a serving dish, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Serve while still warm, and enjoy!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Greek Grilled Chicken Salad

I love salads that use lots of dressing with mayo or Miracle Whip--potato salad, tuna salad, egg salad, chicken salad, ham salad...mmmmmm.

This is a much lighter chicken salad that uses Greek yogurt for the base of the dressing--which, I've decided, actually tastes better than the heavier versions we grew up with.

I found this Greek grilled chicken salad recipe at How Sweet It Is, a not-always-healthy-but-definitely-always-delicious-looking foodie blog. I love to drool over many of her concoctions and am interested in a lot of her combinations of foods that I'd never have thought to try (dark chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate ganache and candied bacon on top!?? What??). But some of her recipes are pretty do-able for someone watching what they're eating.

I didn't include a lot of pictures this time because, honestly, her pictures on the blog are fantastic. I also didn't make many changes--the only thing I did was omit the onions, just because we hate red onion and I couldn't find any Vidalia onions. I didn't want to use regular yellow or white onions, either, because I didn't want them to overpower the other flavors in this dish.

This recipe makes 2-4 servings (depending on your serving sizes, of course). This was a great dinner to have on a warm evening--it didn't heat up the kitchen, and the yogurt, lemon juice, tomato, and cucumber made for a cool, light, tasty summer meal.

Greek Grilled Chicken Salad
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup chopped tomato
3/4 cup chopped cucumber
1/4 cup feta
for chicken marinade:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt & pepper
for quick tzatziki
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chopped cucumber
1 teaspoon fresh dill
salt and pepper, if desired

30 minutes to 2 hours before servings, season chicken with salt and pepper. Place in a ziplock bag or baking dish and cover with the marinade ingredients (oil, lemon, zest, garlic) and marinate. While chicken is marinating, combine the tzatziki ingredients (yogurt, oil, lemon, cucumber, garlic and dill) in a bowl and mix. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside or back in the fridge until ready to use.
Once chicken is ready to cook, heat the grill (or a grill pan) to medium-high heat and grill chicken about 5-6 minutes per side. Set aside and let cool, then cut into chunks. In a large bowl, combine cucumber, tomato, onion and chicken. Add in feta. To bring the salad together, add the tzatziki in 2 tablespoon increments. I used about 3 tablespoons total, but feel free to add as much as you’d like. Just continue to mix until the salad comes together. Serve on toast or in pitas.

I had mine in a whole wheat pita, with about 2oz off steamed broccoli (only 2oz instead of my normal 4oz because I had been munching on broccoli and carrots with hummus while Ben grilled the chicken), using those nifty Ziploc Zip’n Steam bags I had written about a while back.  :)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Catching Up: A really long post

My last "official" day at work was May 30th! This means I finally have time to take a breath, relax a little, and catch up on things that have fallen by the wayside...such as this blog (insert sheepish look here).

March 17, 2012 -- 2nd 5K!

So, let's catch up on everything I've been doing, shall we? :) To start, I finally have a picture to post from when I ran the Blarney Stone 5K on St. Patrick's Day in March:

I've also been working hard on my yoga certification training. I am supposed to be done at the end of June--except I have to miss the very last weekend of training, so I'll probably make up the class sometime in July. Then I'll be a 200-hr certified yoga instructor!!

Yoga has changed my life and my body, and the certification training has been interesting to see myself continue to grow and develop even more strength and flexibility than I imagined I would have. I can now do an occasional arm balance, and am halfway to a headstand (I can balance on head and hands and pull feet off the ground, but have yet to bring my feet all the way up...but I'm working on it!). Here are some yoga snapshots for you, too:
Vrkrasana -- "Tree"
Trikonasana -- "Triangle"

Bakasana -- "Crow"

Also, just to help you see what yoga can do--and to make you cry a little bit--here is an amazing video that has continued to inspire me, even during the particularly difficult or disheartening parts of my training:

If this didn't inspire you or make you cry, then I don't know what will.

Moving onward with my updates...
I made a semi-drastic change to my appearance. Well, drastic for me, anyway. For years, my hair (which used to be so, so long when I was younger) has been my "security blanket." No matter how I felt about my weight and how I looked, I always got lots of compliments on my hair--the length, the color, the texture, the curls...all of it. So I got a little co-dependent on my hair, I think.

Unfortunately, due to the very strict diet and drastic life changes I have made, my hair started to thin out. A lot. It didn't happen quickly, and it actually didn't even start to really happen until I had started on my maintenance phase last summer--but I read that it can take time for hair changes to catch up to stress and/or major life changes, so I'm pretty sure it's diet and lifestyle-related. Anyway, starting toward the end of last summer, my hair really started to thin out.

New, short haircut!
Finally, I couldn't take how very thin the ends were looking; I felt like it made me look older, and made my hair difficult to style. Also, it made me super-self-conscious. So, last month, I asked my hairdresser to cut it off. And it turns out, I LOVE it!

I feel like my hair looks cute, sassy, and professional now. It's like I've finally grown up. :)

Oh... Oh! And the biggest update I've got: I finally hit a total of 100lbs of weight loss. 100. Pounds. Let me repeat that again: I HAVE LOST 100 POUNDS! I started this journey in the fall of 2010 at 263lbs (trust me, I never thought I'd get to a point where I'd be announcing THAT information to ANYONE. I don't think even Ben knew that), and now I'm weighing in at 163 pounds. I went from a size 22/24 to a size 12 (but almost a size 10! Almost! And definitely a 10 in some brands, lol!). This is skinnier than I was even when at my skinniest in high school, y'all. And the best part: I'm in the best physical shape of my life. I'm strong, I'm flexible, and I can run for 30 minutes without walking.

I feel good; I feel like I can keep up with life, finally.

And you know what? I've been on "maintenance" since last summer, and it hasn't been as painful as I thought it would be. Here's a perfect example... I babysat my younger nephew, Joey, today. He wanted Runza for lunch, so I grabbed a protein bar (I wasn't terribly hungry, or I would have gotten a salad there), and he had a kid's meal. Then he wanted frozen yogurt from Orange Leaf, so I took him there. I had about 2 tablespoons each of the raspberry lemonade frozen yogurt and the pistachio frozen yogurt. I thoroughly enjoyed my less-than-1-serving-size treat while watching my nephew attempt to eat his dessert:
What 4-year-olds dream of at night.
And I didn't feel deprived, or sad, or crave more than what I had (and I certainly didn't crave what he was eating. Ick.). I was fine for the rest of the day and then came home to have a healthy dinner.

My world did not end, and I still get to eat pretty much whatever I want. Just a lot less often than and in much smaller portions than what I was eating.

Well, this turned out to be a really long post, and I don't want to start getting all preachy about diet and exercise, so I will end here. I'll definitely be posting tomorrow about the Greek grilled chicken salad that we had for dinner tonight (light, easy, and perfect for summer), and posting more frequently in general, so be sure to check back!

I will leave you with some of the inspirational (and one funny) quotes that have helped keep me going on this journey:



Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Skillet Chicken & Vegetable Stew

So, Ben made this for himself for dinner the other night and I brought the leftovers with me to work today for lunch. It was Ah. Maze. Ing. Truly. I liked it so much that I called him after lunch and begged him to make it for me for dinner tonight. I made sure I watched him make it so I can make it for myself know, in case he gets turned into a vampire or is eaten by bigfoot or something.

Anyway. When I asked what he needed me to pick up from the store, he said that the beauty of the dish is that it uses whatever you've got in the fridge (Sweet! A way to use up the hodge-podge of veggies we have in the fridge!). And to pick up chicken breasts. Ben actually called it an Appalachian-style bergoux (bourgoux? bergoux? bergout?), but no matter how I spelled it, I couldn't find the term anywhere online. He said he heard it on a cooking show to refer to a type of stew, but I'm thinking he made it up to make his creation sound fancy. ;)

For now (at home), I'll just call it Ben's Skillet Deliciousness.

A few notes before we get started: Ben used what we already had in the fridge, so feel free to switch out the veggies for something you already have/like better. We used parsley tonight, but decided that it we wanted to try it with kale next time. (The parsley was good, but I just thought kale made more sense. And I like it more.) Also, Ben used a new seasoning that a friend had given him to try: Todd's Bayou Dirt. Ultimately, I think that's what made the meal so incredibly amazing, so I highly recommend picking some up or using something very similar!

Skillet Chicken & Vegetable Stew

1/8 c olive oil
1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped
5 large mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 shallots, roughly chopped
1/4-1/2 head cauliflower, chopped
1 c chopped red cabbage
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 c chopped fresh kale or parsley (not Italian parsley!)
1 mini-bottle of white wine (187ml or approx 3/4 cup -- we used a chardonnay)
3/4 cup tomato juice (approximately)
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Todd's Bayou Dirt

Rub Todd's Dirt seasoning on the chicken (both sides) approximately 30-60minutes before cooking. Set aside at room temperature.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and heat olive oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to the skillet and sear (approx 2-3 min each side). Remove chicken to a plate and set aside.

Add shallots and garlic to skillet and saute until onions are clear, stirring consistently to prevent them from burning. Add red peppers, stirring occasionally, until tender-crisp (approx 1-2 min). Add remaining vegetables (except for parsley) until the cauliflower starts to soften and brown (4-5 min). Stir occasionally.

So pretty!
Add white wine and tomato juice and bring to a boil, then simmer for approximately 3-4 minutes. Add parsley and salt & pepper to taste. Return chicken to the skillet (nestled into the veggies) and put the skillet into the oven. Cook, uncovered, 25-35 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

I served myself about 4.5 ounces of chicken and 4.5 ounces of vegetables, then took a tablespoon or two of the liquid and poured it over the top. Beautiful, hearty, and delicious! And, if you just go by the chicken and veggies, it's only about 160-180 calories for that amount! Add a slice of bread (I used Sara Lee Delightful, only 45 calories) and butter (I used I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray, 0 calories) and you have a very hearty and yummy dinner for under 300 calories. Ah. Maze. Ing. And as I mentioned before, it is also really good as leftovers, so I will probably be bringing this to work with me again tomorrow. Ben did good on this one!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Cauliflower-Crust Pizza

Soooo. Long time, no see.

I hate that it's been almost a month since I've posted. I wish I could say it was because I was out of the country on some fantastic vacation, or because I won the lottery and was just too overwhelmed with phone calls of congratulations, or something else equally as exciting. Instead, my reasons center around work, more work, trying to get the house ready to sell, state testing at work, and more work. :(

However, I do have some good news: I have started to find ways that I enjoy eating cauliflower! I know, not quite as exciting as you had hoped, but hey--still exciting for me, nonetheless. Seriously. I used to hate cauliflower. Not as much as I hate brussel sprouts, but I really, really disliked cauliflower. Or so I thought...

Ben decided a few weeks ago to start a new, super-low-carb diet, so I've reverted to trying to find ways to make and eat traditionally "carby" foods. Enter this pizza crust. It had been suggested to me several months ago by a fellow MRC dieter on a message board I participate on, so I thought I'd give it a try. The original recipe is from, and it really turned out well. The only downside was that--after adding the cheese on top of the pizza--it seemed to be kind of high in fat and calories . So, we decided that we will try again (with some modifications) on Sunday night. I was thinking that if I use parmesan in the crust instead of mozzarella, it should cut back on the fat/calories and also crisp it up a little more (the center was a little soft--not bad, but we prefer crispy pizza crusts). I will definitely plan on updating the blog with the parmesan-cauliflower adventure after Sunday, so be sure to check back.

Here is the recipe for the crust, as well as how I put together our pizzas last night:

Cauliflower Pizza Crust
1/2 large head of cauliflower (or 2+ cups shredded cauliflower)
1 large egg
1 cup finely shredded mozzarella cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

 Shred the cauliflower into small crumbles (I used a cheese grater). You'll need a total of about 2 cups or so of cauliflower crumbles (which is about half a large head of cauliflower). Place the cauliflower crumbles in a large bowl and microwave them for 8 minutes. Give the cauliflower a chance to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Spray a cookie sheet or pizza pan with nonstick spray (or use a nonstick surface). In a medium bowl, mix the cauliflower crumbles  with the remaining crust ingredients. Divide the "dough" into 2 portions, and pat the "crust" to form two pizzas on the prepared pan (or into a single 9 to 12-inch round). Spray the crust lightly with nonstick spray and bake for 15 minutes (or until golden). Remove the crust from the oven and turn the heat up to broil.

I then made one pizza (Ben's) into a buffalo chicken pizza, and one (mine) into a simple veggie and chicken pizza.

For the buffalo chicken pizza, I spread 1 tablespoon of Bolthouse Farms Ranch Dressing onto the crust (because it's only 45 calories and blue cheese isn't allowed on Ben's diet), then 1 oz each of shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheeses (reduced-fat cheddar) and approximately 3 oz of chicken that had been tossed in Frank's buffalo wing sauce. On my pizza, I used 1 tablespoon of the ranch dressing (only because I was out of regular pizza sauce--but it turned out delicious with the ranch), 1 oz each of mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, some chopped mushroom and grape tomatoes, and about 1/2 to 1 oz of chopped, plain chicken breast.

Broil the pizza 3 to 4 minutes, or until the toppings are hot and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Cut into slices and serve immediately.  I swear, you can't tell that it's cauliflower!

Here is the nutritional information for the crust recipe as well as each pizza. Like I said, it turned out a little higher in fat and calories than I thought it would. Tomorrow night--during my re-do--I plan to use parmesan in the crust, maybe a mix of parmesan and mozzarella on top, and less cheese overall on top.

**UPDATE: Made the pizza crust with parmesan and while it was delicious--much more crisp and had a bit of a smoky flavor, yum!--it turned out to actually be higher in fat and calories than the mozzarella version. Oops. So, I highly recommend using the parmesan if you aren't watching fat/calories all that much (granted, it's still healthier than any restaurant or frozen pizza you get!), but not if you're really trying to cut back and watch your calorie intake. In that case, stick with the mozzarella.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust Nutritional Information
(for the entire batch of the "crust")
Calories: 440
Fat: 25g     Sodium: 805mg     Carb: 10.5g     Fiber: 5g     Protein: 42g

Buffalo Chicken Pizza Nutritional Information
(uses 1/2 of the batch of the "crust")
Calories: 460
Fat: 33.6g    Sodium: 742mg     Carb: 8.63g     Fiber: 2.83g     Protein: 53.5g

Chicken and Veggie Pizza Nutritional Information
("uses 1/2 of the batch of the "crust")
Calories: 390
Fat: 26.23g   Sodium: 742mg    Carb: 8.63     Fiber: 2.83     Protein: 37.41g

Friday, March 16, 2012

Steak & Quinoa with Black Beans

I discovered a new, delicious meal by accident earlier this week as I tried to use up some leftovers from last weekend. We had some friends over for dinner Saturday night and Ben had grilled a couple pounds of skirt steak that he had bought on sale (side note: Ben grilled it perfectly medium, and it was tender and delicious).

This dish is loosely based on this recipe for quinoa and black beans at, but with several modifications--for my taste, and also to utilize the leftover steak. It makes a lot of food--Ben and I ate it for dinner, then I brought some over to mom and the rest to work with me the next day, so about 4-5 servings (depending on the serving size).

I have mentioned quinoa on this blog before, but I don't think I've really ever explained what it is (for those who don't already know). Quinoa is a grain (well, not technically, but it looks/acts like a grain, I guess) native to South America and known for having great nutritional value (high protein, fiber, and vitamins/minerals). Depending on the type of quinoa you get and how you prepare it, it can have a slightly nutty flavor and a fluffy, slightly crunchy texture. Here are a couple of articles that review some of the nutritional information on quinoa, as well as some of the health benefits: World's Healthiest Foods article and Body Ecology article.
Quinoa can also often take the place of rice in many recipes; here is an article from that compares nutritional values of quinoa and rice (spoiler: quinoa wins). It used to be that you could only get quinoa at expensive health-food stores, but it's becoming more and more popular/mainstream, so you can find it at most grocery store chains now.

Anyway, I wasn't sure how this recipe adventure going to turn out, so I didn't think to take any pictures until I reheated it the next day (equally good as leftovers!) for lunch at work. I'll have to come back and update this post someday when I make this again (and oh, I will make this again!) to include more pictures.

Steak & Quinoa with Black Beans

1 teaspoon olive oil
3 green onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
¾ cup uncooked quinoa
1 ½ cups + ¼ cup unsalted beef broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
½ to 1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
1 lb grilled skirt (or flank) steak, thinly sliced
(optional: fresh cilantro--I didn't use any, because I'm not a much of a fan.)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and saute until lightly browned. Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with 1 ½ c. of broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. 

Stir sliced steak, tomatoes, and remaining broth into the saucepan, and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through. Mix in the black beans (and fresh cilantro, if desired). 

For my serving, I tried to measure out about 4 oz of the steak, then scooped out some of the quinoa/black bean/tomato mixture and eyeballed about 1/2 cup in my dish. Add about 4 oz of steamed zucchini (thank you Ziploc ZipnSteam!) and it's a complete meal!

Forgive the dishes/crappy picture--this was at my desk at work.
Nutritional Information:
Makes 4 servings. 1 serving =

490 Calories

Fat: 16.55g     Sodium: 529mg    Carb: 42g    Fiber: 11.84g    Protein: 42.85