Posts Tagged ‘food preparation’

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Getting Back on Track

March 27, 2012

It’s time to get back on track…the Weight Watchers track. For the week before the half marathon and the week after, I didn’t track anything except my weight. Four weeks ago, I weighed the same amount that I did this morning. In the grand scheme of the number of cupcakes I ate before the half (2.5), among other mindless eating choices, that’s not so bad.

But now I’m not training for a half marathon, and I’m also not trying to maintain my current weight…

It’s been ridiculously easy to slip back into some old habits. Fortunately not every old habit, but I know I’m not eating as well as I should. The obvious answer to regaining control is to just start tracking again, which I’m doing, but I also wanted to reflect on the things that worked well during the first 25 pounds that I lost, and get myself excited about eating well to lose more.

Things that worked

  • Less alcohol. No big secret here. I just drank less. It helped that I was also training for two races: I usually skipped drinking the night before my weekend long run. When I went out with friends, I drank fewer drinks, better quality.
  • Less cheese. Not necessarily less dairy; Greek yogurt and I have a fantastic relationship. But less cheese, and better cheese. The more flavorful, the less you need to make an impact.
  • I nixed French fries for the most part. They are truly a rarity in my diet now.
  • Less animal meat, more other protein. Lentils, lentils, lentils.
  • Small substitutions. Make an omelet with one egg and one egg white instead of two eggs.
  • Giving myself permission to eat a s***-ton of fruits and vegetables. I’m not sure why I ever saw them as luxury, but I used to see fresh fruit and vegetables as such…and as too expensive. I’m glad it dawned on me that it was costlier in the end to see them as a luxury.
  • One-pot meals. If I can just toss everything into one-pot, I’m much more likely to eat a balanced meal. Left to cook veggies separately, I usually get away with a salad, maybe some carrot sticks. Sometimes all that ends up in my mouth if I don’t cook everything together is whatever carb/protein I’m eating. But if I can make some sort of stew or frittata or other dish where you can really pack in the vegetables? I eat well, friends. So well.
Remembering the proper care and feeding of me
So the next step is to remember what got me here (not too far off from how I’ve been eating lately…just need to remind myself when I get off course), and then to remember that I enjoy cooking, I know how to cook, and there are fun things to make that don’t have to break the Weight Watchers bank.

Need a quick meal? Lentils. Vegetable broth or water. Onion and garlic if you have it. Canned tomatoes. Any green. Any other random vegetables you have around. Any ratio, really. Had it on the table and portioned out into work lunches in less than 30. This version was 3 WW PointsPlus per serving.

A go-to for me is any kind of lentil soup. I think I was originally inspired by Heidi at 101 Cookbooks and her recipe for Lively Up Yourself Lentil Soup, but in the last few years, I make it with whatever random vegetables I have around. Last night I had kale and sweet potatoes from the farmers market and pre-chopped garlic, shallots, and onions from Trader Joe’s (amazing. Less than $2, ready to go). In the fridge? Random amount of vegetable broth. The cupboard? Random quantity of lentils. I’ve put together similar soups for anywhere from 3-5 WW PointsPlus.

It was good to poke my head around the farmers market and get inspired again. I picked up a small loaf of sunflower flax bread from a Baltimore-based (but they sell all over the DC area!) bakery that I love.

But this brings me to one of the things I really don’t like about Weight Watchers (and yet have a solution to, other than to guesstimate): how you track things that don’t have a barcode, you didn’t make yourself, or weren’t made by a huge chain store. If I want to accurately track bread, I’d have to: buy something with a nutritional label; bake a loaf myself; or go to a chain restaurant whose items have been included in the WW database. Not much room for accurately tracking the little guy… (Although, good news: Atwater’s actually does include their nutrition information on their website, but many places don’t have that information readily available.)

I suppose it’s just a reminder that what’s easy or convenient isn’t always better. I’ll continue to figure out ways to track the “good” stuff, it just takes a little more effort.

And now for my new favorite “splurge” item (OK, not really a huge splurge – it’s just 1 WW PointsPlus for 1 Tbsp.):

OH NO THEY DIDN'T! They did! And it's so good!

You could do a lot worse, folks.

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Manic Meal Monday 2

January 24, 2012

It’s Monday, and yesterday brought both manic food shopping and preparation. It would be hard to top the last Manic Meal Monday in terms of ease of preparation, but this comes close, especially if you purchase pre-cut butternut squash and/or pre-cut beef.

The meal o’ the week was inspired by Dominique over at Will Run For Beer, who posted this Burgundy-Style Beef Stew recipe. It was already a WW recipe, but she made it even more WW-friendly by subbing butternut squash for potatoes. The damage is a mere 8 PointsPlus for a very hearty stew.

Recipe (with modifications, based on preference/availability; mine are in bold, hers are in italics):

Ingredients
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 lb boneless beef bottom round, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth [I used vegetable broth since I already had some open.]
1/2 cup dry red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon) [I used a Carmenere and hated that I cooked with such a good win, but it needed to be consumed.]
20 oz chopped butternut squash the original recipe calls for 3/4 lb Yukon Gold potatoes
1/2 lb mushrooms [I am not a ‘shroom fan, so this was omitted.]
4 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup pearl onions (the original recipe calls for frozen, but I could not find them in my store) [I cut up one whole, medium yellow onion.]
2 cloves if garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried savory [I’m not sure what savory is, and I don’t have it, so…I tossed in a bunch of spices that I like, including cayenne pepper, ginger, oregano, and a little cinnamon, and I liked what came out of the crock pot.]

Directions

1. Mix together flour, salt and pepper into a shallow dish. Coat beef with seasoned flour and shake off the excess.

2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add coated beef and cook until browned on all sides. Transfer browned beef to your crock pot.

3. Add remaining ingredients to the crock pot. Cover and cook for 3-4 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low, or until the beef and vegetables are tender.

This makes 4 servings. Oh, look…lunch!

And, funny story related to this recipe:

My mom is in town visiting, and we went to the grocery store together. I was in the meat department, and didn’t find the cut specified in the recipe, so I asked a woman working there about it.

Me: Oh, OK. Hmm…three pounds. Well, I need to find the smallest package. I only need one pound.

Her: Just a pound? What are you making?

Me: A stew.

Her: Blech. You want to use this in a stew?

Me: Yeah…will this not work for stew?

Her: It’s so lean. You need some meat with some FAT.

My mom: Well, she’s kind of on a diet, so I think she wants the lean.

Her: Oh, well, if you’re doing that diety thing, I guess this will work. But I wouldn’t eat that stew.

For the record, the stew was great, and the meat was tender. Enjoy!

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Manic Meal Monday

January 10, 2012

While not a hard and fast tradition, it’s true that most Sundays, I’ll prepare enough food to get me through either lunches or dinners (sometimes both if I’m ambitious) for the week. I’d like to credit my amazing organizational skills (ha! I mean, yes, I have them….somewhere…), but this manic food prep is more likely borne from the fact that I’m a single gal on the run. I like to cook, but am often pretty busy. I eat the same thing meal after meal because…I’m often the only one eating it! So I have a few favorites that I like, and I’ll post those sometimes. Maybe they can help you, too! I’ve done pretty well at weeding out things that don’t taste as good reheated.

Related aside and tip: last year I was commuting to work with a fellow graduate student. We had similar interests in eating healthy, hearty foods and saving money by bringing our lunch to work. But we also had the same problem of feeling like we ate the same thing day after day until we were sick of the leftovers. So we had “lunch club” where we alternated bringing in two portions of leftovers so that we each had a meal. It was such a relief to have a homecooked meal when I was really busy, and such a joy to share good recipes I’d tried with someone else.

But I have a treat for today’s manic meal! After seeing several pins on Pinterest about Mason Jar Meals, I decided to try one. My main inspiration came from Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body, who posted a recipe for salads in a jar. There are also some good ideas for prepping full meals for the week and storing them in jars on Big Red Kitchen.

For my salads, I used pre-cooked chicken (1/2 cup = 2 PointsPlus on WW), quinoa (1/4 cup uncooked = 4 PointsPlus), grape tomatoes (about 6-7), raw zucchini (about 1/4 cup), orange bell pepper (about 1/4 of the pepper), baby spinach (enough to top it off…probably about a cup per jar), and Wishbone balsamic vinaigrette (2 Tbsp. = 2 PointsPlus) [Grand total of 8 PointsPlus and a ton of good protein!]. Everything was layered in a quart (32 oz.) wide mouth Mason jar.

I may have overstuffed my first attempt at this, because I shook one today like a salad shaker, and, well, the spinach doesn’t shake with everything else. But you can see that everything else blended nicely, and when I dumped it out onto a plate, my co-workers oohed and ahhed over my very restaurant-looking salad that really, outside of the time it took for the quinoa to cool before I put it in the jar, took about 10-15 minutes to make 3 of. Yum. I might add a little more dressing next time, but this was tasty. And pretty.

Just make sure you don’t let the dressing and leafy greens touch, and that anything you cook is fully cooled before you put it in the jars.