Monday, April 23, 2012

I must be crazy....

So after many many attempts at counting calories, going on a detox from certain foods/alcohol, etc. and failing miserably, I have now embarked on  yet another journey of trying to eat better.  I must be crazy because this means most of my recipes I so enjoy cooking have to be tossed out the window or modified so much so that they may as well be entirely different dishes.

While the main component of my diet is simply "no more bad sugars" or rather, "a lot LESS bad sugars", I still want to also cut back on greasy, rich foods and carbs as well.  I just can't bring myself to give up all carbs, all sugars, all dairy, etc.  I know there are people out there who do it and who completely change their lifestyle and I GREATLY admire those people.  But I have to ask, HOW DO THEY DO IT???  I just can't imagine never enjoying a dessert again or a glass of wine with my husband or a beer during a football game.  I can't imagine never slicing a piece of extra sharp cheddar or never ordering off a regular menu at a restaurant. Let me make it clear that I am certainly not insulting people who choose to have extreme diets or whose weight or health forces them to change their eating habits in a drastic way.  I consider myself extremely blessed to not be in a situation where going on an extreme diet is mandatory to my health.  And technically...yes...I pretty much do eat as I please and don't tend to put on much weight.  My family genes have blessed me with great metabolism.  But there are also things that I naturally don't eat that many people do, such as sodas, candy, sugary breakfast foods, and lots of processed foods.  I eat SOME of those things occasionally, but only very occasionally.   I  would say most of my issues stem from my weakness for red wine and eating heavy dinners most of the time.

So what exactly am I eating now that this journey has begun?  Well, thanks to a friend of ours who actually sells Advocare and is probably one of those highly respectable people who refrains from eating and drinking everything that you're not supposed to eat or drink, I was stalking her Facebook the other day and stumbled upon a recipe for a smoothie she makes regularly.  At first it sounded pretty awful, but it was intriguing enough to make me do some research.  What I discovered was that this particular smoothie is all a part of a special diet that a particular blogger calls the Green Monster Movement.  Using spinach or kale as the base food for the smoothie, you can concoct delicious drinks that not only make you feel very full, they're protein-packed with Super foods (that's Super with a capital S!), healthy fats, and lots of vitamins.  I gave it a try for the first time this morning for breakfast and I have to say that I am hooked!  I know I can't have one every single day or else I'll get tired of them and burn out quickly, but I absolutely can see myself having these for breakfast 4-5 days a week and replacing dinner with them 2-3 days a week as well.  And yes, I will absolutely have to allow myself at least 1 day a week where I don't mind what I eat.  I'm too addicted to good food to give it all up!!!  Call me a glutton, but I just can't help myself! Besides, Shane probably won't take too kindly to my sudden fondness for green slushy drinks in lieu of home-cooked meals.

Day 1: (today)
Breakfast: Green Smoothie
             Recipe: 1 cup almond milk (you can use soy, but almond is better for you)
                          2 cups fresh spinach
                          1 banana, sliced (I just pulled mine apart into 4-5 pieces)
                          1 Tbs. peanut butter
                          1 Tbs. protein powder (I found this in the vitamin section at the grocery store and the serving size says "1 scoop" but it didn't come with a "scoop" so I have no idea if 1 tablespoon is correct, but it tasted great to me!)  And can you taste the spinach, you ask?  The answer is NO!  All you can taste is the milk, banana and a bit of the peanut butter.

Snack: handful of unsalted almonds

Lunch: small can of Starkist tuna in water, an orange, and a cheese "snack-square"

Snack: more almonds

Dinner: another smoothie

I also drank water throughout the day and with my lunch I drank water mixed with a little bit of grapefruit juice.  I feel like it kinda took the edge off any typical cravings I would've had that afternoon.  Usually by 1 or 1:30 I am STARVING and today I wasn't!

It's almost 7 pm and by now I probably would've already had at least 1 glass of wine, but not tonight!!  I feel very full after my smoothie and since the smoothie tastes sweet, I feel satisfied enough that I am not craving sweets!

Tomorrow's plan: smoothie for breakfast, leftover Pei Wei shrimp Pad Thai for lunch (yes I know....not good, but at least my big calorie-intake is still early in the day) and for dinner I'm making chile rellenos.  This is one of my typical recipes, but it's super healthy.  Zero carbs, all vegetables, and only a small amount of cheese on top.  Shane FINALLY gets home from Chicago tomorrow and I refuse to welcome him home with a dinner of crushed up spinach, bananas, and milk.

Wednesday night I'll probably take a break from the smoothie, but stick to egg whites for breakfast and for dinner I plan on doing a salmon Caesar salad.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Delightful, Yet Unexpected, Discovery

So after going an entire week without cooking any meals at all, due to my husband going out of town and me going out of town as well, I finally returned to the kitchen this past Monday night.  I made the last 2 of the meals from my previous posting (Monterey Chicken = SUCCESS!; Vodka cream sauce/pasta=SUCCESS (it was nice and thick this time).  And last night I made a third meal that is an old standby, but never a disappointment:  Jalapeno Enchiladas.  I found this recipe in a cookbook that I borrowed/stole from my mom.  (I use the borrowed/stole phrase because I chose to believe she gave me the cookbook, although I'd be more than willing to give it back, although I don't plan on giving it back....:)  Anyway.......

1 lb ground beef
garlic powder
4-5 jalapeno peppers
1 can cream of mushroom soup, prepared
1 package flour tortillas
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Brown beef and season with garlic powder.  Seed the jalapenos to your taste.  (If you like spicy, seed 50% of them or less.  If you prefer mild, seed most of them).  Puree them in a food processor.  (if you don't have one, just finely chop them--I've done it both ways and it works fine).  Add the peppers to the prepared mushroom soup (I use a can of milk to cook the soup) and cook until simmering.  Once the soup is prepared, spoon the beef into each tortilla and roll up.  Lay into a greased 9X13 pan.  Usually I can cram about 8-10 enchiladas in a 9X13.  Pour the soup/pepper sauce over the top and top with shredded cheese.  Bake on 350 for 20-25 minutes.  YUM-O!

Now onto my discovery....

So tonight I did a rather easy meal:  salmon, grilled on my awesome 2-burner grill pan; green beans, and mashed potatoes.  The potatoes were from a small bag I bought at Kroger this past weekend.  Anyway, I boiled the potatoes, not really knowing what I would end up doing with them but ultimately decided to just go ahead and do mashed potatoes.  Once I had mashed them and thrown a bit of butter over them, I suddenly realized I had nothing else to stir into them to make them creamy.  I don't keep regular milk on hand, unless necessary, and I had zero sour cream or even Ranch dressing.  So as I stuck my head inside my eyes fell onto a container of ricotta cheese.  Bingo!  So I ended up dumping the remains of this 16 oz. container into the pot of smashed potatoes and mixing well.  I added some garlic salt and a bit of chicken stock (also something I did not realize I had).

The very best pancakes I have ever had in my entire life were made with ricotta cheese.  They were SO fluffy and perfect.  Now I know why.  The potatoes were FANTASTIC.  And I give all the credit to the ricotta.  Thank you, Ricotta!  You made my potentially bland, non-smooth potatoes, fluffy, creamy, and delicious.  People often dog ricotta bc it is so "rich", but truthfully it doesn't have much flavor at all.  It merely adds a richness and texture to your food that other types of cheeses, sauces, or liquids can't do!  I will definitely keep ricotta at the forefront of my mind from here on out.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Bored, bored, bored, bored BORRRRRRED!!!

In response to my last blog, here is a quick update on how the meals turned out:

Zucchini Spaghetti with Saffron Stock (Rachel Ray)

This meal is definitely one of those meals that you read the recipe and the ingredients, think to yourself This sounds so yummy and tasty, but then you follow the recipe to a T and when you taste's just "Meh!"  There's not as much flavor as I anticipated.  I've made it before, and I remember the exact same result!  Not sure why I thought it'd be different this time...maybe because it was a dish I made in my "early days."  Or maybe I thought I just had missed something.  But either way it just didn't turn out as good as I'd hoped.  If you don't already have Spanish saffron on your shelf, I'd say it's not worth it.

And as for the Chile Rellenos....unfortunately those didn't happen because Kroger's poblano peppers totally sucked.  Instead I did stuffed bell peppers, which turned out great!  Here is the recipe:

1 lb ground beef
2 T chopped onion
1 small can tomato sauce
1 can corn, drained
salt and pepper, other seasoning
1 cup prepared instant rice
4-5 green bell peppers

Boil peppers in an inch of water for 5 minutes.  Cut off the tops and discard the inside membranes.  Spray a glass baking dish and stand peppers up inside the dish.  Brown the beef and saute the onion in with the beef. Drain beef and return to skillet.  Add tomato sauce, corn and rice and cook until heated through.  Season as desired.  I use salt, pepper, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper.  Once the mixture is heated and has simmered for awhile, spoon the mixture into the peppers until almost overflowing.  Top with grated cheese and bake on 350 for 25 minutes or until cheese is just beginning to brown.

Ginger Cilantro Tilapia
Now THIS was a true winner once again, except this time I prepared the sauce and threw it into a skillet with some shrimp.  I had planned to serve it over pasta, but because we had just had pasta (the zucchini spaghetti) the night before, I ended up using it as filling for tacos instead.  I made some Jasmine rice and spooned a bit of that onto a corn tortilla and then added the shrimp with the sauce.  They were awesome!  For those who aren't sure about fish, you really should try this dish because the sauce has a strong enough flavor to take any "fishy" taste out of it.  Tilapia isn't fishy at all in my opinion, but some people are sensitive about seafood!

Monterey Chicken

Because my hubby is out of town (as if you didn't already know that from my pouty Facebook postings), I haven't made this dish yet!  I plan to make it for his homecoming Thursday night. :)  Stay tuned.

The Best Pork Chops You Will Ever Taste

I think it might be a slight exaggeration....or perhaps this person has never had good pork chops.  But they were VERY good.  The recipe was super easy to throw together and I could see myself actually modifying it and changing it up a little.  I served it with bacon-wrapped asparagus and homemade garlic mashed potatoes.  Which, by the way, I have found after many different types of potato usage, that Yukon Gold potatoes make THE BEST mashed potatoes, hands down.

You Won't Be Single for Long Vodka Cream Pasta

I haven't gotten around to making this one yet....We actually don't have any vodka at the present and I'm waiting for Shane to get back in town anyway.  I've made this dish many times and I would highly recommend it.  It's incredibly easy.  However, read, read, and reread the recipe before and during the cooking process because I guarantee you WILL miss something the first time.  Do NOT use chicken broth instead of chicken stock.  I did this one of the times I made it (in desperation since I had nothing else to make) and the sauce was SO watery.  Also, you absolutely HAVE to let the vodka reduce.  If you don't strictly follow the recipe, the sauce will be too thin.  Homemade vodka sauce is not as thick as the store-bought stuff to begin with, but it really is a trick to get it just right.  Another trick is that I use more than the amount of heavy cream listed on the recipe.

Please try the vodka sauce if you never have had vodka sauce is excellent!

A super yummy wine to try: