November 2, 2011

Green and Orange Smoothie

by Petrel

I have discovered a new love. Well, really an old/new love. I am back in the smoothie habit–but with a twist from the ones I was making during the summer.

I’ve tried to up the nutrient profile and lower the amount of fruit going into them (too much sugar).

My newest combo is as follows:

Green and Orange Smoothie

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 frozen banana (I freeze them in halves so I know what I’m getting)
  • 2-3 cubes frozen carrot puree (or 1/3 cup pumpkin)
  • 1 1/2-2 cups spinach
  • 1 T flax seed
  • 1 T Salba
  • 2 T hemp protein
  • 1/2 t vanilla bean powder
Place in the blender and pulse until smooth. I usually have to add another 1/4-1/2 cup  of water so that everything blends properly.
Makes a generous serving of smoothie or two smaller ones.
6 WWP+
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October 16, 2011

Snarf

by Petrel

from jordanc6338.glogster.com

Snarf. This is the word my family uses to describe eating too fast: “You just snarfed that cake/lasagna/popcorn down.”
It has a slightly pejorative meaning. It means that you ate so fast that you really had no time to even taste the food.
Really, it’s the opposite of savouring.

We also use it just to mean fast, too. Example: “You just snarfed through that book!” (Something I do regularly.) However, typically, the savouring of the book gets a bit superficial as well.

Something I have learned on my weight loss journey so far (one of the things, I should say) is that savouring your food, taking time over it, is important. Because I don’t have free rein with food and usually cannot afford the points to go back for seconds, I need to enjoy what I’m eating now. I can’t rush through my meal and then go back for seconds for the “lekker honger.” “Lekker honger” is a Dutch phrase (another phrase my family uses regularly) which is difficult to translate literally, but basically means eating for the taste– you’re not hungry anymore, but you go back to eat more anyway, because it tastes so good.

Another thing I have learned (and am still learning) is eating quality over quantity. This is the complete antithesis of the snarfing and the lekker honger way of eating that I was used to do. Before I would just chose to eat a little more of something that might not even be the best  just to get a little more of the taste; now I try to eat small amounts of good/stronger-tasting things so that my taste buds are satiated sooner.

An example of this might be not eating the entire sickly sweet milk chocolate bar that I got free at a conference, but withstanding the temptation and waiting for a square or two of the sea salt dark chocolate I have at home.  The example kind of comes to mind since this battle occurred just yesterday. lol. (I love dark chocolate and quite dislike milk chocolate (too sweet)–but even so–it was only the fact that I was driving and couldn’t get my purse open that really stopped me. . . *wry grimace*: I gave the milk chocolate to my brother and the temptation is now gone. 🙂 )

 

 

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October 13, 2011

Thanksgiving with misgivings

by Petrel

Well, it was Canadian Thanksgiving up here this past weekend, and I can tell you, I will be thankful if I can get back to my “normal” weight by the weekend. I went camping with my family and decided not to be as strict with my food allowance–it was Thanksgiving after all! I didn’t exactly plan to go as overboard as I did, and since I didn’t have internet, I was not warned by the first day of excesses.

Oops.

I did think I had kept track in my note book, but when things don’t add up the same on the WW tracker as they do in my head. . . big surprise when I entered it all in Monday night. Yikes.

I think most of the weight in water retention and bloat from too much wheat. I am more and more convinced that it is the carbs–and especially the wheat–that gets me.

I’ve finished reading Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. It was a long slog, but it was worth it.  I’ll hopefully get a chance to lay out some of the things I’ve taken away from it in the next little while. I’m now reading his book Why We Get Fat which I discovered is an “easier” version (with some extras) of GC, BC.

I’ll probably lend  out Why We Get Fat to anyone who’s interested, rather than GC, BC. Not everyone is as  . . . anal . . .dedicated as I am about getting through heavy reading. {Pun somewhat intended.}

In  other news, school is still super busy. So practical cooking/baking, etc. has fallen by the wayside. I may have a recipe here and there, but for now, other things have priority. Sorry.

September 28, 2011

Water, water everywhere . . .

by Petrel

Well, it has well and truly begun: the marking in mounting up. And the signs of it are unmistakable.
Wake up

I voluntarily get up at these insane hours.

But only out of absolute necessity.

The marking has to get done.

My brain usually shuts off about 7pm, sometimes earlier. The boat of my brain has sprung a leak. And I am left to bail frantically.

I can do computer-type school work at night, but most marking requires brain power. You have to be able to add, for instance.

I learned in university that I could work better in the morning, than late at night. No burning the midnight oil for me.

Anyway.

Because of this and the rapidly shorting daylight hours, my food pictures will likely be becoming few and far between. Which I am not too happy about, but right now there is not much I can do about it.

Until I catch up on my marking, which is looking like a lost cause.{That leak I spoke of . . .} I’d be happy right now to just get the big stuff done.

The early mornings are not going away.

The early bedtimes might have to come to stay. If I can manage it.

In other news, this is my new “status”:

10lbs

10lbs

10lbs
Yes. Finally, the weight, she  is coming off again. Two lovely big loss weeks have helped me crack the 30lb mark. Yeehaw!

I’m hoping this trend continues.

It has helped that The Paris Chick
theparischick2
and I have been walking 3 days a week after school. A good long hour walk most days. So that has likely been a help. 🙂

I get one less walking day this week, but I am running and busy all day, so . . .yeah. That’s my excuse anyway.

Ugh. I sit here, with my deactivated brain, trying to focus my eyes on the computer screen, and it’s not working. So I leave you with one of my favourite high-protein, low point snack:

Salsa and Cottage Cheese

{I like this because it’s almost like having salsa and tortilla chips, without, of course, the chips. . . }

1/2 cup 1% cottage cheese

1/4-1/3 cup salsa

Mix together and enjoy!

2 WWPP+

September 13, 2011

No-Fuss Pork Chops

by Petrel

Easy is always good when it comes to making supper. Easy and yummy is even better.  Easy, yummy, time-saving and nutritious is the best. Now I’m not saying that pork chops on their own are a balanced meal, but there’s no need to stand slaving over the stove, getting splattered, etc.

And if you have other things to do, like I do {marking, marking, marking}, easy and time-saving are key. If I can put supper in the oven and only have to check in on it a few times thereby getting other things done, I am one happy girl!

nofussporkchopswmsm

No-Fuss Pork Chops

Take 2 pork chops or 2 (1- 1 1/2″) slices pork tenderloin. {They can go into the oven partly frozen if you’re in a rush.}

Place in a large cast iron frying pan*. {No plastic or wooden handles please.)

Brush with your favourite barbecue sauce (or use mine**: recipe below).

Place in a 375F oven {doesn’t even have to be preheated} for 20 minutes.

Flip. {Use tongs or a couple of forks–not your fingers.}

Brush {naked} underside {which is now the top side} with barbecue sauce.

Replace in oven until cooked through. (15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chop).

Serve with a side of your choice. Baked or scalloped potatoes could go into the oven with the chops. {I often serve roasted broccoli alongside my chops, so you could potentially have your entire meal cooked in the oven!}

Barbecue Sauce (enough for 2 pork chops)

  • 1 t vegetable oil
  • 1t Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2t lemon juice
  • 2t brown sugar
  • 1T ketchup
  • 2t sriracha sauce
Mix sauce ingredients together until smooth. Use as desired.
*If you don’t have a cast iron pan,  you can use any oven safe pan. I like the cast iron because I hate cleaning oil splatters off my glass baking dishes.
**In the interest of honesty, I must confess that I often take the easy, almost-dishless route and squirt a bit of sriracha sauce and ketchup on my chops, spread it around with the back of a spoon, repeat once I’ve flipped the chops, and leave it at that.
Question: What do you do when you have things to do as well as supper to make? What is your “no-fuss” favourite? 
September 11, 2011

Lemon Curd with Agave Syrup

by Petrel

Tangy and tart. Cool and creamy.  Distinctly British.

It can be tucked tenderly into a pie crust and topped with toasted meringue or piped into puff pastry. It can drip deliciously from Danishes or doughnuts. It can be spread seductively on oven fresh scones.

But no matter how you chose to eat {or alliterate} it, lemon curd has a charm all its own. A charm, I might add, which tends to tantalize your tastebuds. {Alright, alright, I’ll stop now.}

With two lemons languishing in my refrigerator and a craving for something dessert-like not involving way too many carbs, I just had to make some lemon curd. And the lemons were pleased to be included in something decadent for a change.

There was only one snag: I remembered that the last time I had a craving for lemon curd, my curd had curdled. I cringed. {Really! That was the last time, I promise!} No one wants egg white chunks in their lemon curd. Ick.

But lucky for me {and you}, I discovered that someone had come up with a solution for just that very problem. {See the directions below.}

And a bit less butter and agave syrup instead of sugar make this a lighter, lower-carb version of a well-loved classic.

lemoncurd2wmsm
Lemon Curd With Agave Syrup

  • 2 large lemons, juiced (1/2 cup strained lemon juice)
  • 3 large eggs  (4 if you want a thicker curd)
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/3 cup raw agave syrup {I found mine almost a bit too tart using the original measurement I found, so I’ve upped it for you. If you like sour, leave it with the original 1/4 cup.}
  • pinch of sea salt
  • Lemon zest (about 1 tsp finely grated)

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar by hand {I started out with a wooden spoon, then switched to a whisk} or with an electric mixer. Slowly add the eggs. {If you want a thicker curd, say for lemon meringue pie, add a fourth egg. The agave syrup makes this a bit runnier than recipes made with sugar. Mine was a bit on the thin side.}   Beat for 1 min. Mix in the lemon juice. The mixture might look slightly curdled, but it will smooth out as it cooks.

In a medium, heavy-based saucepan, cook the mixture over low heat until it looks smooth. Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 15 minutes. It should leave a path on the back of a spoon and will read 170°F on a thermometer. {I didn’t use a thermometer, but did burn my finger. Let it cool on the spoon before you draw a path with your finger, folks.} Don’t let the mixture boil.

Remove the curd from the heat; stir in the lemon zest. Transfer the curd to a  glass jar with a lid. {I used two small jam/canning jars.} Let cool {With the lids on, mine actually sealed like homemade jam does.} till about room temperature, then chill the curd in the refrigerator. The curd will thicken further as it cools. Covered tightly, it will keep in the refrigerator for a week and in the freezer for 2 months. {I haven’t frozen mine, but that is what the other recipe said . . .  don’t blame me if it doesn’t keep, okay?}

Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups.

1 Tablespoon (from a recipe made with 3 eggs) is 1 WWP+.

Recipe adapted from:  http://www.amysfoodroom.com/2009/05/lemon-curd-with-agave-nectar.html

Directions from: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/lemon_curd.aspx

lemoncurd3wmsm

August 27, 2011

Autumnal pleasures

by Petrel

I love the autumn season. I love the crisp mornings, the way the sunlight is golden and bright. I love fall foods: apples, pumpkin, turkey. The smoke of  distant fires. Huddling in woolen sweaters and blue jeans. Scarves. Even those grey days when the chill gets into your bones and you long to curl up with a cup of hot spiced apple cider and a book.

It is not quite yet fall, but with the school year looming and the already shortening days, I felt a need for something that brings that autumnal nostalgia near.

And what says “autumn” any louder than pumpkin pie?

Nothing, in my opinion.

Now it is not yet pumpkin season, and although squash is a frequently used substitute for that vegetable, I chose to take the ingredient road even less followed than squash.

What then, you may ask, is the orange in the pie below?

It’s a secret.

One that I will tell you, however. And it’s not sweet potato, either. . .

Carrot Pie Filling2wmsm

It’s carrots!!

Yes, surprisingly enough, carrots can stand in for pumpkin or squash in your traditional  “pumpkin” pie.

And apparently, in places where they cannot grow pumpkins, this is done quite frequently. Who knew?

So without any more ado, here is the recipe.

Crustless “Pumpkin” (Carrot) Pie

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom (you can omit this if it is not in your spice collection.)
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 2 cups cooked mashed carrot  (blend in food processor with some to all of the cooking water till the consistency of canned pumpkin)
  • 11oz sweetened condensed milk (recipe below)
  • (optional) top with Cinnamon Streusel Topping (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 375F.
Beat eggs lightly in medium bowl. Add and mix in the rest of the ingredients in order given.
Pour into a lightly sprayed 8″x8″ pan, and bake for 15-20 min. Turn down the oven to 300-325F and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.
Let cool to room temperature. When eaten warm, the pie does have a slight carrot taste, but once cooled and/or chilled in the refrigerator, it is difficult to detect the impersonator.
When cut into 12 squares, each square is 3WWP+. (This is without the streusel topping.)
Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk

  • 3T margarine
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/3 cup milk powder
  • 1/2 cup boiling water

Place first three ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour over boiling water and stir together. Makes about 11-14oz. (I used all of this in my pie filling.)

Cinnamon Streusel Topping

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Blend together all ingredients in a food processor. Sprinkle evenly over pie or use to top muffins, etc.
Happy Pre-Autumn!!
August 25, 2011

Tuna-Quinoa Salad

by Petrel

Well in keeping with my minor experiment with lowering the amount of carbs in my diet/ upping the amount of protein, I decided to share the following serendipitous recipe, discovered while cleaning out leftover quinoa from my fridge.

I never ate quinoa before I started WW. I had seen and heard of it through my (health nut enthusiast) grandmother, who included it in her daily porridge of quinoa, amaranth, and who-knows-what-else, and I was not interested. It was just weird. Plus when it cooked up, it looked like it had all little worms in it (the germ of the seed). I was not ever going to try it. It was bad enough that when I lived with her during university, I had to eat kamut and spelt pasta and *shudder* boiled sweet potatoes.

Two and a half years after she passed away, lo and behold I have begun eating “weird” stuff like she did. My family (I am pretty sure) thinks that I have crossed over to the “crunchy” side in her (very unique) foot steps.

Oh well.

I really am not that crunchy, but I have begun branching out from the traditional meat-and-potatoes meals of my childhood.

On the search to find alternatives, I took a second look at some of the “health food store” foods at which I had turned up my nose in the past.

Spinach in my smoothie? Weird. But hey, I’ll try it. (Cocoa and blue berries disguise the green.) Check.

Sweet potato fries? Crispy and delicious. Check. Baked in their jackets too? Check.

Quinoa? Oh, so it has lots of protein in it. I’ll try that. Check.

Brown Rice flour? Hmm. Maybe I could sub that in my pizzelles in place of wheat flour. Check.

Etc.  You get the picture.

Perhaps it’s all the health and food blogs I’ve been reading over the last few years, but I’m not as quick to say no to the “weird” stuff anymore.

Anyway, as I was saying, I was cleaning out my fridge and decided to experiment.

The result was pure deliciousness.

Tuna-Quinoa Salad: Serves 2 (8 points WWP+ each)

  • 120gm white tuna canned in water (basically a regular can, drained)
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa, cold (quick and easy instructions to follow)
  • 4 T zesty Italian Dressing (recipe to follow)
  • Diced vegies of your choice. Peppers in red, orange, green, yellow would be lovely, as would freshly-grated carrot, diced tomatoes, etc.
  • Pepper and salt to taste.
  • freshly grated Parmesan would also be good, but optional.
Drain the tuna. In a medium-sized bowl, combine quinoa and tuna with a fork, breaking up the tuna into flakes. Drizzle Italian dressing over and blend together. Add your diced vegies {I didn’t have any at the time, so I just had it without.} Add pepper to taste. {Personally I didn’t find it needed any extra salt.}
Serve with (or without) fresh cut vegies on the side (carrots sticks, cucumber, etc.).

No-Fuss Slow Cooker Quinoa

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed in a sieve (this is to rinse away the bitter taste caused by the saponins which cover the seed)
  • 1 3/4 cup water (I found that when I cooked it in the slow cooker, I didn’t need quite all of the 2 cups that the directions on my package called for)
Combine in a small slow cooker (mine is a 4 cupper), and cook on HIGH for about an hour to an hour and a half (it depends on the humidity, power of your slow cooker, etc). You don’t need to stir this at all while it is cooking. Fluff with a fork and serve. (Or chill if you want to make the cold salad outlined above.)
Makes about 3 cups of cooked quinoa. (1 cup Quinoa = 5 WWP+)
Zesty Italian Dressing (slightly adapted from Penniless Parenting)
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup garlic olive oil (You can use regular olive oil and add garlic powder)
  • 1/2 cup safflower oil
  • (1/2 TB garlic powder: if you don’t have garlic olive oil)
  • 1/2 TB  onion powder
  • 1/2 TB  white sugar
  • 1 TB  dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 TB dried parsley 
  • 1 tsp sea salt (I cut the salt down from 1 TB–I just didn’t think it needed that much)
Pour ingredients into a glass jar or bottle with a cover. (I use my Tupperware Shaker bottle). Cover and shake well. Use, or refrigerate for up to 90 days. Enjoy!
Makes about 2 cups of dressing.
1 T = 1 points WWP+
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August 24, 2011

A Bit of “Lite” Reading

by Petrel

I’ve been doing some reading in preparation for the coming school year (I teach a high school foods class), and ran across the following articles/blog posts, which have reconfirmed some of my own ideas about the connection between weight loss and the type of food I eat. (I am currently reading  Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, which mentions Gary Taubes, so I decided to look up his website.)

Here are links to the two articles I read as well as an excerpt from each which I found particularly thought-provoking.

Article #1: Taubes discusses the connection between high-carb diets and the amount of insulin in our systems, which he says, “puts fat in fat cells.” He suggests that perhaps changing the kind of carbs and not the amount is not enough for certain people to lose weight.

What I’m arguing is that for many of us who run to fat, cutting down on the refined carbs and starchy carbs (potatoes, for instance) and on the added sugars will help, but it probably won’t help enough. The dose of carb-restriction won’t be sufficient to deal with the problem. We may stay fat. We may even get fatter. A blanket recommendation to eat fruits and vegetables and whole grains, as Oz prescribes and now Weight Watchers and the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, ignores this aspect of human variability completely. It assumes that people who are predisposed to fatten can tolerate the same foods and benefit from the same very mild dose of carb-restriction that the naturally lean can.

http://www.garytaubes.com/2011/03/dose-of-intervention-land-of-dr-oz/

 

Article # 2 In this post, he talks about looking at why we lose weight on different diets, positing that perhaps the real reason we lose is because we are re-configuring/re-setting the way our bodies metabolize fat, connecting this change to the total amount of carbohydrates we eat.

So here’s the lesson, the moral of this story: before we assume that low-carbohydrate diets are just one tool in the dietary arsenal against overweight and obesity, and before we assume that everyone is different and that some of us lose weight and keep it off because we eat less fat (and more carbohydrates) and some because we cut carbs (and so eat maybe more fat),  we should make an effort to understand the concept of controlling variables and look to see which variables are really changing and by how much. Because it’s quite possible that the only meaningful way to lose fat is to change the regulation of the fat tissue, and the science of fat metabolism strongly implies that the best way to do that, if not the only meaningful way, is by reducing the amount of carbohydrates consumed and/or improving the quality of those carbs we do consume. http://www.garytaubes.com/2010/12/calories-fat-or-carbohydrates/

 

What I find interesting about Taubes’ arguments is that he doesn’t automatically point the finger at carbohydrates as “the bad guy” in the body, but rather looks at how the body metabolizes different kinds of foods (protein, carbohydrates, fat) and puts forward his ideas based on that. He doesn’t just jump on the “miracle food/miracle diet” bandwagon.

When I started on Weight Watchers, I cut wheat and refined sugar (white and brown)  almost completely out of my diet, subbing in other carbohydrates, such as rice and fruit and vegies, and using agave nectar and stevia in place of other sweeteners. It made a big difference, as far as I could tell, and I lost quite a bit of weight over the next 2 months.  I found that protein was important for me to have in each meal: it kept me full, longer, particularly if I ate it at breakfast. (I talked about this is in my  blog post The Cave Woman Diet.)

Lately I have not been as consistent in getting a lot of protein in every meal, have been eating more carbs in general (more fruit, which equals more sugar, albeit natural sugar), and I haven’t been losing as much weight the last few weeks. Hmm. Could there be a connection?

It could simply be that I’ve gotten to a small plateau in my weight loss. I’ve lost quite a bit and haven’t been at this weight in a while so my body may be reconfiguring its rate of metabolism, etc. But I wonder if I consciously reduce extra carbs and up the protein, if there will be a difference.

I am definitely going to do some more reading on this subject, do a minor experiment in my own diet, and see how things go.

August 20, 2011

Black Bean Brownies –Quick

by Petrel

Ready for some yummy flourless chocolate goodness?

Would you like that goodness fast and exceptionally easy?

Check out these babies.
blackbeanbrownies1wmsm

(Quick) Black Bean Brownies  (slightly altered from Allrecipes.com)

  • 1 1/2 cups or 1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 t sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee (optional)

Lightly grease an 8×8 square microwave-safe baking dish {Silicon muffin pans or loaf pans or 8×8 pans are great.}

Combine the black beans, eggs, oil, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla extract, sugar, and instant coffee in a food processor; blend until smooth {as smooth as possible}; pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish(es).

Microwave on High for 4-6 minutes.* Turn out onto a wire rack to cool {I lined my racks with parchment paper to avoid stickiness} or leave in your pan to cool on a wire rack. If you are impatient, you don’t need to wait for these to cool. They are yummy warm from the microwave. Would be lovely with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream, too.

{I microwaved this in two batches: half in my silicon muffin pan (3-4 minutes), half in my silicon loaf pan (4-6 minutes). You will have to judge for yourself how long your particular baking dish and microwave need. One thing to note, however: the top of your brownies will look like they are not done, but that’s just because of the properties of microwave baking.}

Makes 12-16 brownies depending on what containers you chose to bake these. 🙂

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*Traditional Baking Instructions:

Bake in preheated 350F oven until the top is dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.