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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

One fabulous grain, four fabulous ways!

OK the word of the day is Quinoa! Don't be embarrassed if you don't know this word, this word and I are still getting a little acquainted! If you haven't heard of this delicious teeny tiny grain before it's pronounced keen-wa and it is delish! I have been experimenting with recipes and am bringing you a few today. In fact I was going to post these recipes and when I went on Weight Watchers website today they had a feature article about quinoa, so I figured today must be the day to talk about quinoa (I really can't stop saying quinoa) they say:

Quinoa is high in protein and nutrients, tastes great, and is one of the fastest whole grains you can make. Add that it’s economical, and you’ve got a kitchen miracle in the making.  Quinoa has been called the “miracle grain” because it achieves the trifecta of culinary perfection: It’s nutritious, satisfying and easy to prepare. Best of all, you can make a bowl of cooked quinoa and store it in the fridge all week, a boon to many meals to come. A staple in South America for centuries, it should become one in your kitchen, too.

 
 Prior to starting this blog when I was still sharing recipes on facebook I shared my first attempt at quinoa which was this lovely gem:

 Quinoa with Sundried Tomatoes
from Tosca Reno's Eat Clean Diet

1 tsp olive oil
8 sundried tomatoes
2 minced shallots (I used about 1/3 of a sweet onion)
1 clove garlic minced
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup quinoa
pinch cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp sea salt
fresh ground pepper

place quinoa in mesh sieve and rinse well under water for about 1 min and set aside.

Heat oil in large saucepan, add tomatoes (I chopped up), onion, and garlic and saute until onion is softened. Add stock and bring to a boil. Stir in quinoa and cayenne pepper, return to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 min or until liquid is absorbed. Let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork to separate grains. Stir in seasonings

We have really good friends that are Greek, so we consider ourselves Greek by association! I certainly love the food! This next one is for you Ya Ya. This recipe is also courtesy of Miss Tosca with a few embellishments from myself:

Quinoa Tabbouleh

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
Sea Salt
1/2 cup edamame frozen (ANOTHER FUN WORD TO SAY!!)
1 fresh tomato, chopped
1/2 cucumber, unpeeled, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
Fresh chives, minced
Fresh parsley, minced
Fresh thyme, minced
Fresh mint, minced
Feta cheese, olives, hummus, pita, turkey all make nice add ons for a full Mediterranean experience or to dress it up for a lunch!

Rinse quinoa well before using.  Combine quinoa, water and salt and boil in a medium saucepan and then reduce heat and simmer 20 min. Remove from heat.  Place frozen edamame on top of quinoa and let sit for 5 minutes.  Fluff with a fork.  Put all ingredients in a glass serving bowl and toss.  Add herbs, citrus juices and soy sauce and toss again.

Now maybe you aren't in the mood for Mediterranean, maybe you are having a little mexican/southwest flair to your dinner tonight, well baby, I got some more quinoa for you too!!! Again Tosca and me collaborated on this one (she just doesn't know it!, I really like her recipes but sometimes I don't leave well enough alone!)  We had this one for dinner tonight YUMMY!!!!!!! We put it on fajitas and had it with black bean salsa!

Quinoa Pilaf



1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion
2 cups quinoa (well rinsed and drained)
1 3/4 cups chicken stock
1 tsp lime zest
colored peppers diced
2 tsp cilantro, chopped
2 tsp parsley, chopped
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp fresh lime juice
sea salt and ground pepper
1 tsp cumin
4 scallions, trimmed and chopped
1/2 cup favorite salsa

Put olive oil in skillet, add onion and cook until soft. Add quinoa and cook 5 min.  Add stock, lime zest and vegetables.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let cook, covered, for 20 min until quinoa becomes translucent.  That's when you know it's done.  Remove from heat, stir in salsa and let stand 10 min.  Fluff with fork and add cilantro, parsley, and citrus juices.  Season with sea salt, pepper and cumin. Garnish with chopped green onion. 

OK I know what you thinking Quinoa overload, we can't take any more!! I am sorry I have one more. I found this recipe today on Weight Watchers in their article and it looks so good I am sharing it even before I try it! I am putting it on my list for as soon as possible, my girls go crazy for this nutty little grain and I love it to! Hope this one is as good as it sounds maybe for an asian night? 

Orange Cilantro Quinoa Saute

2 cup(s) water   
1/4 tsp table salt   
1 cup(s) uncooked quinoa, rinsed thoroughly   
1 Tbsp olive oil   
1 cup(s) carrot(s), shredded   
1/2 cup(s) scallion(s), sliced   
2 tsp ginger root, freshly grated   
1/2 cup(s) orange juice, fresh   
1/3 cup(s) cilantro, fresh, chopped   

Bring water and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add quinoa; cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until quinoa is translucent and tender, about 15 to 17 minutes. Drain off any remaining liquid.

While quinoa cooks, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add carrot, scallions and ginger; cook over medium heat, stirring, until carrots are crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Stir in quinoa; cook, stirring, until well mixed.

Remove from heat; stir in orange juice and cilantro and serve. Yields about 3/4 cup per serving.

I hope I didn't overdo it and I hope you enjoy this nutty little grain as much as we do, say it with me everyone....Quinoa!!!!

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Spoonful of Sugar

All too often I forget these words of wisdom from Mary Poppins! This morning my girls and I had a busy morning we had to go to two different Dr's offices and I was putting on a brave face taking care of them when I myself was feeling quite ill.  At one point in the van the toddler was crying for all sorts of reasons or for no real reason at all.  She is NEVER happy in the car! She will throw her blanket on the floor and then sob because she doesn't have her blanket.  Yeah, she is one of those.  And as it turns out she wasn't even the one with a terrible ear infection, she is just two! Anyways, then I thought of what always makes me feel better and I can use this...



...to follow this lady's fine advice!



After all the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree, my youngest is always asking for a "Luh-bye" at bedtime when she is apprehensive about going to sleep.  So I pulled up one of her favorite songs on the stereo and she instantly stopped crying.  (Have I mentioned how much I love my new van that stores like 60,000 songs, so nice to have whatever song you want available at the drop of a hat?) I glanced back at her a few seconds into the song she was gazing out the window, a slight smile on her face, fresh teardrops still on her cheeks and mumbling the words of the song.  The second song I picked was from Miss Mary Poppins herself (I hope you heard Dick VanDyke's voice in your head just now, I did!) Just a Spoon Full of Sugar.  I was thinking about how something sweet helps you get through the tough stuff.  Often over-eaters turn to actual sugar.  I am not going to lie, this has helped me through some bad days...



But what has really helped me through A LOT is music.  Just like the wistful look on my little one's face I always am calmed down instantly by the emotion and power of a song expressing what my heart feels but someone else possessed the talent to set to music.  Point of fact if I am going through something specific I will pour through my music collection until I find that one perfect song that expresses exactly how I feel and then latch on to it for a season or until the trial lasts or until another song comes along.  Other times I am struggling and I will hear a song on the radio and believe wholly that God is speaking to me through that song.  It has always been the way I have related to the world.  And now I will hear one of those poignant songs from the past and say "Oh that was my _______ song" or "That song really helped me with ________" and it has become a way of keeping a chronicle of my faith journey.  This may sound extremely corny to some of you.  But I truly think we all need a spoonful of sugar and I would much rather use music than actual sugar. 

As of late I am trying to do a little self-talk reprogramming.  I have a tendency to be very negative to myself and carry those negative thoughts along in mind as truth.  Recently I made a decision that I needed to start speaking truth into my life, viewing myself the way God sees me and loving myself for who he created me to be.  I actually was thinking about my whole "need for the perfect song" thing and I thought well if I just had a song where God would tell me what he thought of me then I could listen to it whenever the negative voices crowded up my head and that would be the end of that.  I kid you not I heard this song on the radio like 5 min later!

Now when I hear one of my songs I know it's just God giving me some sugar! That's a beautiful thing!   Now I have a deep connection to music but if that's not your "thing", find a place where you can get some sugar too.  Something to help with the tough stuff.   A good friendship that helps, cultivate that friendship it's precious.  A favorite hobby, carve out time for it.  A place to be alone and pray, get there as often as possible.  Get regular doses of sugar cause we know it helps the medicine go down.  My girls and I got home from our whirlwind tour of Dr's this morning, I got back into my jammies (don't judge me) and we watched Mary Poppins, I had to see it at that point.  Good old wise nanny, wiped the tears from my daughters eyes and replaced it with a smile and reminded me of a valuable lesson in the meantime.  I hope you find your spoonful of sugar too. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Two for the price of one!!

Today is just a quick entry to show you how today I am taking one lovely little premade item from the grocery store and turning it into lunch AND dinner!  First I usually opt for the healthier skin off variety of chicken but every so often that skin is just super yummy.  So I like to pop over to the friendly deli-counter of my local grocery store and get one of these


Then I get my sou chef Craig to remove all the meat from the bones and put it in a bowl for me. Thanks honey! Men really love it when you give them a job you know and my husband is much more meticulous then I am at a job like this and something like removing meat from bones seems like a savage "man's job".  Gasp! I may have just set the women's movement back 20 years!  Oh well, it's one of the jobs I delegate to him.  Then from there I seperate the meat into two equal bowls.  From bowl one I created our lunch today....

Curried Chicken Salad with Naan
From Cooking Light's Dinner Tonight Cookbook
4 servings, 1 serving (including bread 12 WW pts)

 

Ingredients

  • 6  tablespoons  reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/2  teaspoon  grated orange rind
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  orange juice
  • 1  teaspoon  curry powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon  grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 1/2  cups  diced roasted skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 3/4 pound)
  • 3/4  cup  seedless green grapes, halved
  • 1/4  cup  diced dried apricots
  • 1/4  cup  thinly sliced green onions
  • 2  tablespoons  chopped unsalted cashews
  • 1  tablespoon  chopped fresh parsley
  • 4  (6-inch) naan breads
  • 3  cups  trimmed watercress

Preparation

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Add chicken and next 5 ingredients (through parsley) to mayonnaise mixture, tossing to coat.
Heat naan according to the package directions, if desired.
Spoon about 3/4 cup chicken mixture onto each naan. Top with 3/4 cup watercress; fold over.

It was mega delicious! Chicken salad favorites with an indian flair!
Now to use the other bowl with the other half of the chicken and think about dinner....

Chicken and Gruyère Turnovers
from Real Simple magazine (with some adaptations by yours truly)
makes 4 servings (also 12 pts each)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyère (Ok I couldn't find Gruyere and honestly I think there are enough yummy cheeses out there you can substitute any of your own preferences, I am doing cream cheese and havarti in ours!)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • sheets (one 17.25-ounce package) frozen puff pastry, thawed (I went to two different Meijers, the first had the little puff pastry cups, the second had nothing, then I thought I would take reduced fat crescent rolls and make my own little pockets and it would save on fat and calories that way! So mine will be made with reduced fat crescents, 8/tube, 2/pocket)
  • large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard (I will use horseradish mustard for Craig and I but the girls aren't mustard fans so I will have to find something else for them!)

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400° F. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, Gruyère, and peas.
  2. Cut the 2 sheets of puff pastry in half to form 4 rectangles and place on a baking sheet. Dividing evenly, top half of each rectangle with the chicken mixture. Fold over and seal the turnovers; brush the tops with the egg. Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with the mustard.
I am making an often overlooked grain to go with our fancy hot pockets, I will let you know how it all turns out. I have to save something for tomorrow... The chicken salad was super yummy though so I am excited to have more of that! Enjoy the rest of your Saturday everyone and get yourself a rotisserie and experiement with new ways to use it!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Getting to the heart of the matter...

Happy Friday Bloggy World! Friday is weigh-in day and I have lost another 3 lbs and this pleases me especially since I am getting a cold and I really had aspired to step up the exercise this week but frankly I just used all my energy preparing dinner for my family tonight.  That I think is one of the hardest things about this program, you have to purpose to be diligent to make better choices and be careful.  Of course it would be easier when I don't feel well to order a pizza for my family and stay permanently melted into the couch like I want to but it is costly.  That's a cost I no longer am willing to pay.

I wanted to talk tonight about getting to the heart of the matter of why we make some of the bad choices we do.  I have a two year old.  She is a pretty typical two year old.  Adorable, sweet, learning to talk in a way that makes everything she says cute even when it's naughty like when she looked at me today and gestured to the remote control and put out both her hands and said "Give it to me, Momma, give it to me, I have it." I admit she looked so serious I almost handed it over, the two year old cuteness is hard to resist.  Don't get me wrong, she has been learning how to be naughty too.   Here is an image...



This is what a time out looks like at our house!

She has this evasion technique that she is highly skilled at, if you ask her to come to see you so you can get her dressed or change her diaper she runs away from you and hides, then she will come back in your area after you call her several times but she will loop around the perimeter of the room with her back to you avoiding eye contact and keeping at all times out of arms reach, she will slowly loop closer and when she gets close you will try to grab her and sometimes she will dodge and dash back out to the outer perimeter again and begin the slow winding in all over again and sometimes you get lucky and you nab and scoop her up where you are merely waiting to clothe her or relieve her of her soiled pants.  And I don't even want to begin to tell you how many times a day we go through this! The funny thing is while she is doing this and I am calling her name and she is chuckling and all the while I am in various stages of laughing, amused, bored, irritated, exasperated, exhausted and well, let's say, just plain had it!  The other day I said to her, "Hey, you sure do take the long way round to listening!" 

Then as I started to put her clothes on her the words I had said rang loudly in my ears.  So, my dear darling daughter, do you.  How often does my heavenly father sit perfectly still on the floor in the middle of the room while I move darting around in circles, taking my own time to do things, to listen and obey.  I have been struggling with my health for over a decade.  I have had major major setbacks along the road, I have struggled with hurt and blame and scars emotional and literal that have left me reeling and I think there were definitely things I thought were unfairly done to me that weren't my fault and therefore I should not be left to pick up the broken pieces and put everything back together. The point however wasn't that I was wronged, which I was, or that if modern medicine fails you in it's imperfectness that you just lie down in a ditch and watch a decade of your life pass you by.  I have definitely taken the long way round to listening.  Even though my circumstances are tough, I don't want living in unhealthy life to be the end of my story.  And I know that is not what the Lord wants for me either.  Even if I do this blog just for myself and a few family members who read it I feel that God wants me to use this as a chance to grow and change and I am enjoying being obedient to that call!  For those of you who have read the non-fiction classic Love Language book by Gary Chapman you are familiar with the concept of finding what your spouses love language is and learning to speak their language. So if your spouse best understands love by spending quality time with someone make sure you make lots of special date night time for them and so on.   Well I have long felt that God's love language is obedience.   In John 14:15 God says "If you love me, keep my commands." He couldn't spell it out for us any clearer than that could he? And of course we know great is our reward as Romans 8:28 says "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."  What more incentive do we need to be obedient to God?  I challenge you tonight to search your hearts for his voice, calling to you as an ever patient parent, while as defiant toddlers we circle the room holding parts of our heart just out reach of his transforming power. I can picture in my mind's eye that there is a snapshot tucked safely in one of my parent's photo albums of a young Amanda, probably 3 at the most, running up ahead not looking back not waiting for anyone not listening I am sure to her parents who were calling her back.  My Mom says I was always running ahead.  But sooner or later we have to stop running.  God is calling us back, so he can show us the way that he wants us to go.  For those of you who like me are sick of taking the long way round to listening, let's give our ears God's full attention and turn our hearts over to his leading.  And how precious to know that by being obedient we are so lavishing our love back on him!



 I'll leave you tonight with an image of my former spunky toddlerness, with my Daddy! Totally 80's Right?? Love it! Thanks for reading everyone please keep up the feedback, comments and inviting others to join us!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Be a turtle, not a chicken (Part 2)!

So yesterday we discussed how chicken's have bad posture with their heads poked out and we should instead model ourselves after the turtle who is able to tuck his head back pulling his chin in the way we learned to here.  Those of you who know me from way back know about my secret shame of my colored driving past from my younger years.  Between the ages of 16 and 18 I forget the exact number but I was in like 6 car accidents, most of which were in the snow and all but one determined to be the other persons fault.  My Mom always pointed out however it doesn't do me any good if it's someone else's fault if you are dead! True, point taken.  I was so sure I was a fine driver it was everyone else who needed to change (because I was a teenager and I knew everything right?) but basically at that point I decided she must be right, I needed to be more careful.  So now I am a seriously nervous snow driver.  This year a couple weeks into snow season I was driving to work one beautiful white slippery morning and I thought "man my neck is killing me!" and unlike the general population who may blow it off for a certain period of time I went into PT analysis mode and realized with my white knuckle kung-fu death grip on the steering wheel I had my head in full chicken mode.  Sort of like this picture:


 But I don't see any snow on the ground, she has no excuse!

The moral of my shameful driving story being revealed, just because I know better doesn't always mean I do better, OBVIOUSLY!!! (As we will see even more exaggerated in future posts!) So I didn't really give you the perfect easy breezy posture correction yesterday, really easy as 1, 2, 3! So here it goes....

1. Whether sitting or standing start with your lower back, move your lower back in and out until you get a nice rounded in curve.  (Most people slouch so they need to accentuate this a little more however there are those who have too much arch in which case you may need to back off a little so yours is more neutral but you are more of the exception).

   

 2. Next the shoulders. Squeeze your shoulder blades back together and then relax, repeat 3-4 x, on the last time make sure that when you relax they stay back but are relaxed down.  In other words your shoulders should be back but you shouldn't be so stiff and tight like you are in the military or feel like your shoulders are squeezed up to your ears or something.

   


 3. The head, that's easy you already learned that, just do the neck retraction that you learned here. There you go, consider yourself, posture corrected! Now if you are like the majority of people I put through that you are holding that position and thinking, this feels really awkward! Yup that's right, that's because you are (and I and all of mankind except my cute example from yesterday) are habitual slouchers.  Now a bunch of you are horrified and insulted.  What do you mean? I have great posture! Really? Then this position should feel completely natural to you.  If not you, like the rest of us, may need a little reconfiguration, it takes time and practice to feel natural and the more you maintain it the better you feel and the easier it gets.  So remember, be a....




NOT A...



Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Be a turtle not a chicken!!!

OK I know it's not ALL about food.  I was getting to that other stuff. Nothing like a day at the office to remind me there is a lot more to health.  Today we are going to talk about one of your Mother's favorite topics, posture.  Now I don't care who your Mom is, I know at some point she lovingly reminded you to sit up straight, because that's what Mom's do.  And when we get older and start to have problems associated with poor posture how many of us have called our Mom's up to apologize.  The number one thing I address with every single patient that comes to see me whether they are coming to therapy for their headaches or their big toe is POSTURE!! It effects every thing we do, ALL DAY LONG! So (to be spoken in your mother's voice) SIT UP STRAIGHT!!!

Here are two examples (one is especially cute!) of people with stereotypically great posture; young children and ballerinas!

                                                     


This might be what you currently look like! (or maybe just feel like)


 So you are thinking so what? So my posture isn't perfect all the time.  In all seriousness I have had two recent patients who told me that when they look up it hurts but they just figured we aren't supposed to move like that! Are you kidding me??? Well to borrow a photo my lovely sister recently took from one of the world's most amazing pieces of art, I am sure glad Michelangelo didn't feel that way or we wouldn't have this!

I have stood there, right below this and looked up, I was only in 4th grade but I remember clearly the cold chill in that hallowed marble room and the shuffling of feet as everyone moved cautiously about with their heads flipped back like the top of a tea kettle not really caring if you bumped in to anyone because the thought of not taking your eyes of that ceiling was more important and all the while a room filled with people and barely any sound but the shuffling feet.  To create something so captivating! What a blessing from God!

But I know, how often am I bumming around the Sistine Chapel scoping out God and man in their fingerbump (predecessor to the fistbump), not often, you're right.  But tell me this do you get headaches? Or nagging neck pain at the back of your skull radiating up into your head? Do you have full motion in ALL directions of your neck? Ok stop right now, look down chin to chest, up at the ceiling your face should get back parallel to the ceiling.  Look over one shoulder than the other, you should have no trouble turning fully.  Bring your ear over to one shoulder than the other, you should feel no resistance.  If all you feel with any of these motions is a little tightness than you probably just need to do the tight motions every day to stretch them out.  If you have pain, especially you headache suffers or you people who had trouble looking up, you know who you are, the two most commonly used exercises that can help you are:

Neck retraction: Basically sitting up nice and straight pull your head straight back (sorry ladies it makes a double chin), with this one make sure your head doesn't tip back or down just straight back.  I always tell people imagine someone with bad breath is talking to you, instinctively you maintain eye contact but pull your head back a little. Return to the starting position. Repeat 10x. If you have a headache and this is helping do a few sets to see if you can completely get rid of your headache!  If you are someone who has regular neck pain do 1 x10 every 2 hrs during the day.
Neck extension, for those of you who haven't seen the Sistine Chapel yet and people like me who hope to get back there some day or maybe you are regular working guy like my patient this morning who is a plumber and you may have to work on pipes overhead sometime or paint a ceiling.  Let's be ready with full pain free extension.  Start by tucking your chin slightly as in above exercise. Then tip your head back as far as it can go.  Hold briefly, return to the starting position and relax.  Repeat 10x.  Same rules apply, if it helps your headache, do more, if you are having neck pain do frequently throughout the day.

 Much needed disclaimer: If any of these exercises worsen your symptoms they are just not the right ones for you. Always check with your Dr.  So now I must explain the title of this entry. My patient who didn't think looking up was necessary was walking around with his head sticking out forward, like a chicken.  Well the retraction exercise was relieving his pain and I said "Be a turtle, not a chicken" so it sounds sort of like ancient chinese philosophy but really it's just Amanda's posture advice for the day! Be turtles everybody!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Eating what you love!

One thing I love about Weight Watchers is you get to eat whatever you want, as long as you count it.  It's important I think when trying to lose weight to not turn your back on the things you love.  Otherwise you will live in a bitter wasteland of self-deprivation and soon enough...rebound!  Last night I actually had a good old fashioned chili dog for dinner.  Whole wheat bun, turkey chili, lite turkey hot dog (I know that's not exactly "clean") and a little Colby Jack but it makes you feel normal, not like a chick on a diet!  So I love Thai food and I love chocolate.   I could not go without these items for too long.  I figure it's always safer to cook your own Thai than order out so this lovely gem is coming to you from Cooking Light's Dinner Tonight cookbook. 

Shrimp Pad Thai

Ingredients

  • 8  ounces  wide rice stick noodles (Banh Pho)
  • 1/4  cup  ketchup
  • 2  tablespoons  sugar
  • 3  tablespoons  fish sauce
  • 1/2  teaspoon  crushed red pepper
  • 2  tablespoons  vegetable oil, divided
  • 1  pound  medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2  large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1  cup  fresh bean sprouts
  • 3/4  cup  (1-inch) sliced green onions
  • 1  teaspoon  bottled minced garlic
  • 2  tablespoons  chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts

Preparation

Place noodles in a large bowl. Add hot water to cover; let stand 12 minutes or until tender. Drain.
Combine ketchup, sugar, fish sauce, and pepper in a small bowl.
Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp; sauté 2 minutes or until shrimp are done. Remove shrimp from pan; keep warm.
Heat 4 teaspoons oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add eggs; cook 30 seconds or until soft-scrambled, stirring constantly. Add sprouts, green onions, and garlic; cook 1 minute. Add noodles, ketchup mixture, and shrimp; cook 3 minutes or until heated. Sprinkle with peanuts.

As a side recipe they recommend mixing up a lovely cucumber salad, why I don't mind if I do: 2 cups thinly sliced seeded peeled cucumber, 1 cup julienne-cut red bell pepper, and 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion in a large bowl.  Combine 1 Tablespoon sugar, 2 Tablespoon fresh lime juice, 1 Tablespoon fish sauce and 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper in a small bowl.  Pour dressing over vegetables and toss to combine.  I will miss the spring rolls a bit.  But 1 1/2 cups for 8pts is not bad for an ethnic favorite. 

And then there is the topic of dessert.  Many a weight loss plan has failed under a chocoholics wavering resolve.  I am that type of girl. If I don't get something sweet in a fairly regular basis I know I won't make it.  So the minute I decided to join Weight Watchers I was suddenly in a panic, how many points do my favorite chocolate treats cost and what am I going to do if I can't have them? In fact we have a bowl of m&m's on our mantle currently and the other night I was trying to see how many points the m&m's were and I was practically offended that a teeny handful was 6pts!! How insulting.  I think of it as a game to try to get the best possible treat for the least amount of points. (I'll outsmart them all, stupid m&m's!) So when I entered in this Betty Crocker recipe into Weight Watcher's online calculator and each cookie came out as only 2 pts and then I made them and they were so divinely delicious they tasted just like a heath bar, another one of my (I know, I know) favorites I was thrilled.  Elizabeth Crocker, you wiley genius! I can have 2 cookies with milk for the cost of those measly m&m's or better yet 3 cookies!! Imagine my maniacal laughter pealing in your head as I pulled that one off.  So I happily give you this cookie recipe.  It's super! You can thank me later!

Mocha Toffee Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients

4 teaspoons instant espresso coffee (dry)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® butter recipe chocolate cake mix
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup English toffee bits

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. In small bowl, stir together coffee and vanilla until coffee is dissolved. In large bowl, mix cake mix, coffee mixture, butter and eggs with spoon until soft dough forms. Stir in chocolate chips and toffee bits.
  2. On ungreased cookie sheets, drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart.
  3. Bake 7 to 10 minutes or until surface appears dry. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks.
  4. Makes 5 dozen
So carry on in good health people, but don't forget to adapt your goals to include the foods you love!!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Now here is a lady who know how to do it!

OK a follow-up to yesterdays pepperfest with two recipes from the Eat Clean guru herself Tosca Reno can show you a way to make healthy flavorful food in a way that knocks your sock off.  Last year I decided to try to start eating more organic food and I have read several of Tosca's books and cookbooks and really enjoy how it feels to cut out the processed junk out of our lives.  I am not perfect though, I consider myself a work in progress. Today is just about the side dishes.  The main attraction was chicken breasts marinated in the Honey Teriyaki Sauce by Tastefully Simple I told you about here.  The first gorgeous side I made by Tosca was Potatoes Anna, it even sounds regal.  Apparently named after a French courtier I was initially attracted to how pretty this dish was (although nothing I make ever turns out as pretty as in a book).  Also it's made with sweet potatoes.  I haven't told you but recently I had a sweet potato epiphany.  What I knew of sweet potatoes was that candied up marshmallowed gooey overly-sweet orange mess that people drag out on Thanksgiving.  Can you blame me for thinking they were unappetizing? So I decided to be a little more mature and give them another shot, after all they were named one of the world's healthiest foods. And guess what,  I love sweet potatoes! So I have been enjoying immensely finding new ways to prepare them, this one was a treasure as it had loads of my favorite herb, rosemary! (OK, OK, maybe I have lots of favorites!) Without further ado, Tosca's recipe:


Potatoes Anna





2  Sweet Potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
2 russet or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp sea salt
3 sprigs fresh rosemary chopped fine
1 medium onion peeled and chopped fine

1. Preheat the oven to 425 deg
2. Spray skillet with cooking spray
3. Toss potatoes with oil and spices
4. Alternate layers of sweet potatoes with russet or Yukon Gold potatoes and onion, in a circular pattern, starting at the bottom of the skillet and working your way up.  Lay the potatoes in circles just overlapping each other.
5. Place the skillet over a medium-high flame and cook for 5 minutes.  This gets the potatoes on the bottom of the pan nicely browned and crispy.  Remove from heat. 
6. Put skillet in preheated oven and bake for 45 min.  Check that potatoes are tender.  If not, cook another 5 min and check again. 
7. Remove from oven.  Put large preheated serving platter over the skillet and invert, so the bottom is now the top. Place a few decorative sprigs of rosemary on the top of the potatoes before serving. 

The other delectable recipe wasn't even attempted by my children. They are young and they don't "do" tomatoes. They eat a whole assortment of other odd and interesting things like olives and hummus and ethnic food but not tomatoes.  I could care less. More for me.  Another one of my absolute favorites things in this world is Basil.  Especially the Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella combo, Super Yum!  So after our discussion of no flavor yesterday I had to turn to these tried and true flavors here with Tosca's salad.  Very fresh and tasty.

Heirloom Tomato Salad


2 lbs Heirloom tomatoes
1 cup Bocconcini (fresh baby mozzarella)
2 generous handfuls fresh basil leaves
Several sprigs fresh chives
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste

1. Wash and cut the tomatoes as needed
2. Break up the mozzarella and slice as needed
3. Chop basil
4. Chop Chives
5. Add oil and vinegar, salt and pepper
6. Mix all ingredients together

And in terms of staying on track, I got 3/4 cup of potatoes for 5 WW pts and 2/3 cup of tomatoes for 4 pts. I love Tosca's food. There is something about eating "clean", you know they say Cleanliness is next to Godliness, I feel like God appreciates us eating food the way he intended.  Thanks Tosca! I am a fan.  If you haven't checked her out her blog is on my list.  Happy Clean Eating everyone!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Who said healthy food had to be bland and plus size clothes had to be frumpy....


OK two pet peeves.  My mom and I went spring shopping last weekend and it bothered me so much (not that this was the first time) that this particular store had a really cute selection of clothes for the "Misses" and us bulkier chicks had to dig like archaeologists and turn our head sideways and squint our eyes to decide if something was cute or just barely not hideous because everything else in the store seemed so frumpy.  I don't understand why they can't just make the same clothes in just a bigger size.  Do larger women not want to be stylish too??? Heck we need all the help we can get!


I will let you guess which shirt was displayed at a major department store in the plus size and which was only available for misses!


This brings me to my next line of contention. Restaurants that offer "healthy" options and leave them tasteless.  I love cooking and nothing jazzes up flavor like calorie free spices and fresh herbs.  As a method of keeping myself on track in terms of eating I am using Weight Watchers and also trying to eat in a more clean organic method.  So I am currently living in a universe of points but these lovely flavor enhancements are generally point free and there are so many great things out there that add flavor to your food for at the most 1 pt.  So tonight's dinner is a perfect example.  We wanted to order out and knowing Applebee's carried Weight Watcher's meals I decided that was the easiest way for me to go.  I ordered the Spicy Pineapple Glazed Shrimp & Spinach with Rice. 




Truly part of my problem with was I am not a big fan of pepper and that was pretty much all they used on this dish.  Lovely yummy fresh ingredients and a boatload of pepper, so it definitely had a kick.  Maybe the chef at Applebee's is growing tired of cliche flavors like cumin and lime and cilantro or how about this one garlic.  Anything.  Nope all we had was pepper.  Like I said they called it spicy and spicy it was but it was definitely lacking.  So I took their 8 pt meal and gave it a 1 pt upgrade with a  great product called Honey Teriyaki Sauce from a fabulous little company called Tastefully Simple.  In my opinion a flick of my Tbsp took this meal from Drab Pepper Plate to Scrumptious and Shrimptastic!  I could have even done a 0 pt option, I am not too cool to stoop myself to likes of the cumin/lime/cilantro trifecta but this way was easier and I was really hungry!  


The moral of my little rant, if you own a clothing factory make plus size clothes cute and if you own a restaurant make healthy food flavorful (not just peppery!).  Thanks I feel much better now that I got that off my chest!