Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Salmon and Spinach Pasta Toss

Salmon Fillets
1 pound salmon fillets (4 ounces each)

Season the salmon with your preferred seasoning.  Heat a non-stick skillet, pan fry until cooked, about 3 minutes per side.

Nutritional data, per serving:
Calories:      190
Fat:               9.0g
Sat fat:          1.5g
Chol:            70mg
Sodium:        50mg
Carbs:            0g
Fiber:             0g
Protein:        24g

Spinach Pasta Toss (makes 6 servings, approximately 1 cup each)

1 tablespon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, minced
Black pepper, dried oregano, and dried basil to preference
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
2 cups whole wheat penne pasta
1 cup water
6 ounces V8 (low sodium) juice
2 ounces white wine
4 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes
6 ounces raw baby spinach
2 tablespoons (6 teaspoons) romano cheese

1.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet (10-12 inches).  Add onion.  Saute for 3-4 minutes over medium-high heat, until it begins to turn translucent.
2.  Add garlic, and spices.  Saute for another minute.
3.  Carefully pour V8, water and wine.  Turn heat up, and bring to a near boil. Add pasta, stir and return to a boil.
4.  When boiling, reduce heat to simmer, cover and let cook for 10 minutes or until the pasta cooked to your preference.
5.  Bring heat back to medium. Add half the spinach.  Toss pasta and spinach until the spinach begins to wilt.  Add remaining spinach, and toss until the spinach is wilted.
6.  Serve, with 1 tsp romano cheese on each portion.

Nutritional data, per serving of the Spinach Pasta Toss:
Calories:      159
Fat:               3.7g
Sat fat:          0.7g
Chol:            1.2mg
Sodium:       120mg
Carbs:         25.6g
Fiber:           4.4g
Protein:        5.7g

Monday, February 27, 2012


Makes four loaves, each approximately 5 ounces

1 pound lean ground beef (I used 93% lean)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
Pepper to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 350F
2.  Mix all ingredients together. Only mix enough to incorporate the egg and onion into the meat. If you mix it too much, the loaves will become very tough.
3.  Divide meat into four balls. Form each ball into an oval shape. Lay on baking pan.
4.  Bake for 25 minutes.
5.  If desired, in the last 5 minutes, top each loaf with ketchup or BBQ sauce.

Alternatives that can be added to each loaf  (the options are endless): 
1/2 - 1 minced jalapeno. 
1 tablespoon minced sun-dried tomato
One strip of cooked bacon, chopped.
1 tablespoon chopped green olives

Nutritional data for one basic loaf, no cheese or toppings:
Calories:     180
Fat:               9.2g
Sat fat:          3.4g
Chol:           123mg
Sodium:      102mg
Carbs:          0.6g
Fiber:           0.1g
Protein:       23.6g

Comfort Foods

Sometimes I just need simple comfort food.

Right now I am under a pile of papers to grade for school, which leaves little time for anything else (including this blog.) I need to prioritize my time so that I get the papers graded quickly, but I still need to eat and I'd like to eat healthy. That means I can't simply have a pizza or Chinese delivered.

I was feeling really overwhelmed yesterday. I had a lot of work to complete, I needed to attend a meeting for my son's summer trip, and I was just tired. In response, I made simple mini-meatloaves. They baked in 25 minutes, and I paired that with a microwaved potato (Yukon Gold), topped with plain Greek yogurt, and some green beans. Simple food, easily prepared, filling and healthy.

Of course, I couldn't just make normal meatloaves. I needed to experiment a bit.  In one mini-loaf I added half of a minced jalapeno pepper,  and in another I added 1 tablespoon minced sun-dried tomatoes. When they came out of the oven, I topped the jalapeno loaf with sharp cheddar cheese, and the sun-dried tomato loaf with shredded mozzarella.

Next time, I think I need more jalapeno.

I will try to blog as much as possible this week, but my student's assignments are a top priority (only 33 papers left to grade!)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Veggie Hash with Eggs

Veggie Hash
Makes 2-4 serving, depending on how hungry you are.  The picture shows two servings, on a 10" plate.

8 ounces shredded potatoes
1 bunch (approxmately 1 pound) fresh asparagus, cut into  1/2 inch pieces
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
Black pepper to taste
Seasoning of your choice (I used Penzey's Sunny Paris.)

1.  Heat a large non-stick skillet. Add 1 tsp olive oil, the asparagus, mushrooms.  Saute over medium-high heat until the mushrooms begin to brown.
2.  Remove veggies from heat, set aside, cover to keep warm.
3.  Add the remaining olive oil, and over medium-high heat, add the onions.  Saute for 2-3 minutes, and add the garlic, saute for an additional minute.
4.  Add the shredded potatoes.  Gently toss (to prevent mashing the potatoes) until the onions begin to brown (another 3-4 minutes.)
5.  Return all veggies to skillet, toss to mix.
6.  Serve with eggs prepared as you like them.

Nutritional Data (for one serving of hash only, without the eggs):
Calories:  102
Fat:            3.8g
Sat fat:       0.6g
Chol:            0mg
Sodium:    163mg
Carbs:     14.7g
Fiber:        3.3g
Protein:     4.2g

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fish Fries and Fitbits!

Today was a happy day!

It is Lent and in Wisconsin that means Friday Fish Fries.  Most restaurants and pubs offer fish specials with perch, cod and shrimp as the most common offerings. We have a restaurant near us (the Redwood Inn) that offers those options, but also has walleye pike, frog legs, and fresh smelt.  Everything at this place is lightly breaded and deep fried.

I like all fish, but I have a very special place in my heart for fresh smelt.  I don't know how familiar everyone is with this tasty little fish. It's common in the Great Lakes (and Green Bay is bordered by Lake Michigan) and I grew up eating these whenever my parents were able to get them from friends that had just gone "smelting".  The best smelt are not much bigger than your finger, and you eat them whole (well, the head is normally removed, and the abdominal organs are removed), bones, tail and all.

Obviously, I didn't make this meal, but it was so tasty I needed to show you a picture of it.

If you are wondering how I can eat deep fried fish and keep at my goal weight, the answer is planning and prioritizing. I really, really wanted this meal. That means I ate very carefully the rest of the day. I did not skip any meals, but I ate a little lighter than normal for breakfast and lunch. This gave me a calorie cushion for my evening meal. (I didn't eat the french fries or the cole slaw. Those are for my son. I ate a baked potato instead.)

That means that you, too, can eat a special meal, something that you really want but are afraid it will put you over budget. Just make sure that you balance your day so you spend your calories wisely.

My replacement Fitbit arrived today! That was pretty fast, because I ordered it late Saturday evening, and it arrived in five business days. I already have it charged and programmed. Tomorrow, we will go for a walk (wow, I'm making is sound like it is my pet or part of my family) and I will finally have a better estimation of calories burned.

I hope everyone has a great Friday and a wonderful weekend! Tomorrow will be a challenging day because I will be at my parent's home, celebrating my father's 80th birthday. My mom usually puts out a pretty nice spread of food so I will need to make careful choices. We'll see how it goes!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Scrambled Eggs with Sauteed Leek

Scrambled Egg with Sauteed Leek

3 large eggs
2 small leeks, sliced (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salsa (I used an artichoke-garlic salsa)
Preferred seasoning (I used Penzey's Sunny Paris salt-free blend)
1/2 avocado, mashed

1.  Slice the leeks the long way.  Separate the leaves and rinse under running water to make sure all dirt is removed.  Slice across the grain in 1/4 inch slices.
2.  Heat a non-stick skillet over med-high heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Add leek.  Saute the leeks until they begin to brown.
3.  Reduce heat to medium.
4.  Scramble the eggs, pour over the leeks.  Let the eggs cook until beginning to set, then scramble them until cooked to your desired level of hardness.
5.  Top with 4 tablespoons salsa, and 1/2 mash avocado.

Nutritional Data:
Calories:           475
Fat:                   39.4g
Sat fat:                8.1g
Chol:                 635mg
Sodium:             432mg
Carbs:               12.7g
Fiber:                  6.8g
Protein:             20.4g

This is a fairly big breakfast. You can certainly make it smaller by using only two eggs, or just three egg whites. You can reduce the sodium load by using less salsa (or no salsa).  But this is a meal that will keep me going all morning. 

And it was delicious!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Shirataki Lo Mein

Shirataki Lo Mein
Makes 3 servings, approximately 2 cups each

2 packages Shirataki (tofu) noodles (8 ounces each)
1 medium onion, sliced
8 ounces fresh mushrooms sliced
6 ounces snow pea pods, chopped
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1-2 tsp fresh gingers, crushed and minced

1.  Drain shirataki noodles in a colander. Set aside.
2.  In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon sesame oil over medium-high heat. 
3.  Add onions and mushroom, saute until the onions are beginning to get soft.  Add pea pods, carrots and the fish sauce.  Saute until the carrots are hot but crunchy.
4.  Add bean sprouts.  Toss to mix.  Remove from heat, and set aside in a bowl.  Cover to help it stay warm.
5.  In the same skillet, reheat the remaining sesame oil.  Add the crushed garlic and ginger. Stir for 1 minute.
6.  Add the drained shirataki noodles.  Toss occasionally for 2-4 minutes.
7.  Add noodles to vegetables in bowl.  Gently mix together.

Nutritional Data:
Calories:     194
Fat:             10.1g
Sat fat:          1.3g
Chol:               0mg
Sodium:       438mg
Carbs:         21.3g
Fiber:            6.1g
Protein:         7.2g

Note:  If you are concerned about sodium, eliminate the Thai fish sauce.  That will reduce the sodium per portion to 42.3mg.  However, you will need to add more spices to help bring additional flavor.  In that case, double the garlic and ginger, or add Chinese Five Spice blend.

Waiting for the Fitbit

Day four without my Fitbit. I'm not worried. I'm not frustrated. I'll be okay. (If I keep repeating those statements, I'm sure I'll start to believe it.)

Yesterday, out of curiosity--okay, desperation--I went to the county fairgrounds and searched the area that I was in when I lost it.  I didn't find it. But I tried! It's not that I am superstitious, but my I wore my Fitbit through almost all of my weight loss. It was my constant companion, my silent partner. I really didn't need it. I rarely ate the exercise calories that I burned. But it was a great reminder to keep active.

Now that I am at goal weight, it is actually even more important because it gives me a more accurate measurement of my calories burned. As odd as this sounds, I really do not want to continue losing weight. I am happy where I am. That means I need to eat as much as I burn. However, if I don't know how much I am burning, I must simply guess. And I don't like that. If I guess too high, I will gain a bit (and as much as I don't want to lose more, I REALLY, REALLY don't want to start regaining!) And if I guess too low, then I continue to slowly lose weight. (Which is really not a major deal, but I made a goal of a specific weight range, and right now I am one pound under the low end of that range.)

My new Fitbit should be here by the end of the week, and we will have a joyful reunion. I really do recommend the Fitbit to everyone that I talk to unless they already have a heart rate monitor. The Fitbit is small, easy to wear concealed, records movements automatically, and then automatically transmits the data to LoseIt (of course, that assumes you are using LoseIt.) Just as LoseIt makes logging your meals easy, Fitbit makes recording exercise even easier.  (End of non-compensated commercial for my Fitbit.)

Being at goal weight is good. It feels great to be here. But is it just as much work as losing the weight, because I can't lose my focus. I am still following a calorie budget. The only difference is that the budget has an additional 500 calories a day, and now I eat my exercise calories. It also requires that I look for calorie-dense and yet nutritious foods that are now sodium filled.

It would be easy to hit my calorie goal. A few pieces of pizza would do it. But that would also blow my sodium levels out of the water. So my careful consumption will continue. Stay tuned to see how I make my way through this new maze.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Beer Festivals and Frustrations!

Last night, I attended a local beerfest. In case you don't know what that means, in this case it is a fundraiser for the local Jaycees club, held at a the county fairgrounds.  About 30 breweries were in attendance, pouring their beers for the 750 people that paid $35 to drink for four hours.  I was there representing my college, giving away the four beers that my students brewed at a recent beer science seminar.

It was fun.  I drank very little, partly because I needed to drive 40 miles home, and I don't need a drunk driving arrest to add excitement in my life, and partly because I had tasted most of the beers that were available, but mostly because I didn't want to burn my budgeted calories on beer.

Life is a series of choices. I could have chosen to have some beer.  A couple of pints over a four hour session would not have been an arrest concern. And I could have drank those calories because I had room in the budget. But I chose to eat a nice meal after the fest instead of drinking beer.

I have decided that although I have a large budget of calories to "spend" (about 2,500 now that I am at goal) I still only want to spend them on things that are really worth it. I don't want to eat average food, I want food that is delicious. That way, when I log my calories, I know that I am getting good value for the budget.

The beer that I am pouring above was a Scottish 60 Shilling ale. I think it was the best beer that I brought, and it was the first tank that we emptied.

The frustration that I referred to in the title was the fact that I went to the fest wearing my Fitbit, but when I got home it had fallen out of it's holster.  I took the empty holster off my belt when I got home, and that really irritated me. I wear it all the time, and now I need to order a new one. (And for those of you who do not know me, I am as frugal with my money as I am with my calories. I don't like spending either if I don't need to.)

There will be another festival in about six weeks. I'll be pouring at that one too. And I will duct tape my Fitbit to the holster!

French Toast

French Toast

(The picture is actually two servings.)

2 slices of bread, your preferred type (I used Healthy Life 100% Whole Wheat)
1 egg
2 Tablespoons milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Mix egg, milk, vanilla and cinnamon. Heat a non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray.

Dip bread into egg mixture and flip to let both sides soak in the egg.

Lay on heated griddle.  Turn when brown on the edges (2-3 minutes.)  I served mine with just a dusting of powder sugar.

Nutritional data (for two slices):
Calories:     172
Fat:              6.1g
Sat fat:         2.9g
Chol:         214mg
Sodium:     295mg
Carbs:         1.4g
Fiber:          5.7g
Protein:     11.3g

My son preferred his served like this:

He added whipped cream and maple syrup.  Yeah.  It looks better than mine!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Snapshot in Time

Ah, the good old days. Do your remember when:
A first class stamp was 25 cents.  Gasoline was $0.97 a gallon.  A dozen eggs cost 96 cents.  The average cost of a new car was $15,400.
The Billboard Top Ten for the year included hits from Bad English, the Bangles, Tears for Fears, Martika, and Warrant, as well as Gloria Estefan, Donny Osmond, NKOTB, Richard Marx and Debbie Gibson. Batman, starring Michael Keaton, was the top grossing movie, while Driving Miss Daisy took the Best Picture Academy Award.
Roseanne was the most popular TV show in the US, with The Cosby Show, Cheers, A Different World and America’s Funniest Home videos (back then it was all still on video tape!) round out the top five.
In US sports, the San Francisco 49'ers won the Superbowl, and Joe Montana was the league MVP.   The Oakland A’s won a world series that was interrupted by a major earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter Scale and killed 69 people. A more Wisconsin view of sports showed that Lindy Infante was the coach of the Green Bay Packers, Don Majkowski was the quarterback and finished the season with a 10 and 6 record, while the Milwaukee Brewers, under manager Tom Trebelhorn finished the season at 81 and 81.
In the news, the Exxon tanker Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil in the Prince William sound of Alaska, hundreds of protesters were shot in China’s Tiananmen Square, and Congress bailed out the savings and loan industry with a $168 billion bailout (some things never change!)
The year? 1989. 

That was also the last year that I weighed less than 186 pounds. That was 23 years ago! The musical styles and movies have changed since then but it feels good to be back in a similar physical shape. 

But here is my question to you.
Where were YOU in 1989? Where are you NOW? More importantly, where are you going in 2012, and what are you going to do to achieve your goals?
It is up to you. Every day is a new day. Every day is a chance to start over. Make your decision, and work for what is important. The changes will not happen overnight. But the decision to start the changes can happen in a heartbeat.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mushrooms and Beef in Cream Sauce

Mushroom and Beef in Cream Sauce

Makes 6 servings

12 ounces beef roast, cut into ½ inch cubes
16 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 ounces red wine
4 ounces water
8 Tablespoon (4 ounces) of reduced fat cream cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided

3 cups uncooked whole wheat wide noodles

Prepare the pasta as directed on the label. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a non-stick skillet, saute the onion for 3-4 minutes, and then add the garlic and mushrooms.  Continue to cook over medium-high until everything is soft, approximately 3-5 minutes. Remove from skillet into a large bowl, set aside and keep warm.

Return the skillet to medium-high heat. When hot, carefully add all meat.  Season the meat with pepper as needed, stirring to brown all surfaces. When the meat is browned, add to the bowl containing the cooked mushrooms.

The skilled will probably have meat and mushroom residue adhering to the sides and bottom (also called fond.)  Pour the wine into the skillet, deglazing the pan.  Then add the cream cheese, return the skillet to medium heat and stir until the cheese has melted and is mixed with the wine.  Add the water and mix well.

Return the meat and mushrooms to the sauce, and stir to coat.

One serving is 1 cup pasta (or less) and 3/4 cup stroganoff.

Nutritional data (of the stroganoff):
Calories:               226
Fat:                       11.4g
Sat fat:                  4.4g
Cholesterol:       59.5mg
Sodium:               137mg
Carbs:                   6.7g
Fiber:                    1.1g
Protein:               20.8g

Nutritional data (of 1 cup of cooked pasta):
Calories:               180
Fat:                          1g
Sat fat:                  0.0g
Cholesterol:        0.0mg
Sodium:               15mg
Carbs:                   41g
Fiber:                    6.0g
Protein:                   8g

Changes Over Time

People have asked for a series of pictures that show me over the years. I don't have any going back to very far, but I can go back to 2005.  So, watch where I've been:
June, 2005

July, 2006

October, 2006.  This was probably my greatest weight at 315+.  (I had stopped looking at the scale when I hit 295 pounds.)

June, 2007

Nothing from 2008

Down to 223 pounds, spring 2009  Success!!!

Weight is creeping back up, December 2009

May, 2011.  Back to 265 pounds, in my largest size clothes. 
This picture was the trigger that started me back on the road to better health.

November, 2001
The day I was in Onederland at 198 pounds.

January, 2012

You can change yourself. It takes work. You need to decide what you want, and then work for it. It may not be easy, but nothing of value is ever easy.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Portabella Panini

To make one panini

1 ciabatta roll
1 portabella cap
1/2 ounce goat cheese
1 teaspoon (heaping) sun-dried tomatoes, diced
1 cup baby spinach, chopped a little
1 slice of onion
Cooking spray

1.  Heat your panini pan over medium heat. (I don't have one, but I use my George Foreman grill set to 340F.)
2.  With a spoon, carefully scrape out the gills on the underside of the cap.  This step isn't required, but it will make the mushroom cap have a better texture when cooked.
3.  Spray the pan.  Lay the onion and portabella cap in it.  Turn the cap after 2 minutes.
4.  While that is cooking, slice the ciabatta rolls. Carefully carve out some of the bread from the top and bottom halves.
5.  Spread goat cheese on the bottom half.
6.  When the onions are soft, lay them on bottom half. Top the onions with the portabella.
7.  Spread the sun-dried tomatoes on the portabella.
8.  Fill the top half of the roll with the spinach.
9.  Lay the completed sandwich in the pan or on the grill and place the weight on it or put the lid down.
10.The panini is done when the crust is golden brown and the sandwich is flat.

Options:  Replace the sun-dried tomatoes with fire-roasted peppers.  Use feta cheese or a slice of Swiss instead of goat cheese.  Use arugula instead of spinach.  Add a slice of tomato.  Add avocado.

Nutritional data as made according to the recipe):
Calories:    224
Fat:            3.3g
Sat fat:       1.3g
Chol:        7.5mg
Sodium:   505mg
Carbs:     37.1g
Fiber:        3.2g
Protein:     9.7g

Knees and Needs

I've been pushing my body to jog further and faster, in preparation for the Bellin Run, and I was experiencing increasing endurance.  Until I started to develop sharp knee pain in my left knee last Sunday. Since then, I was only able to get three to five minutes before the pain became too intense. Being a nurse, and a guy, I was trying to "play through the pain", but that wasn't working. This was not muscle aches. This was sharp and deep knee pain, under the patella.  Similar to when I tore my mensiscus in my right knee.
I decided to listen to many people about my knee. I am going to give my knee 10 days to rest. No jogging.  Rest and recuperation. In my zeal to prepare for the Bellin Run, I over-did it. I was pushing for longer and longer times each and every day. I never took a day off to let my knee recover. Knees NEED time to heal, grow stronger, build toughness.
Instead, I will focus on the weight machine (upper body only) for the next 10 days. Then I will get on the treadmill and start with a fast walk for a short time (3-5 minutes). I will take a day off after walking, and hopefully then be able to increase duration and speed incrementally.  However, if the knee pain returns, then it's back to my orthopedist to see what a doctor can do for me.
I am not going to worry about how this will affect my performance in the Bellin Run. One thing at a time! (That's something that I need to work on.)
I weighed in today, and recorded a weight that was unchanged from Monday. That doesn't mean the weight was completely unchanging day to day.  But I am feeling more in control at what I call my "balance weight range." Every day is a minor difference. A tad up, a tad down, a day of no change. Lather, rinse and repeat. It's only been exactly one month since I reached my goal, so we are eleven months from feeling like I am really grasping this phase of my life.
Don't get me wrong. Every day is still a challenge. I was at a convenience store today, and it is attached to an Arby's. I smelled the food, and I really wanted it. But I know that my meal plan for the day doesn't include a sodium-laden beef sandwich.
I hope that as you make your own progress that you never start to think, "It will be so easy when I reach my goal weight!" The reality is that the only changes to my meals is that I have 500 extra calories to eat, and that I am eating most of my exercise calories now. I still log my foods. I still have cravings for things (potato chips) in quantities that I shouldn't eat. But I am learning that I don't NEED to eat those things, or those quantities, to feel good. In fact, exercising self-control feels better than I could explain.
I purchased my LoseIt "Goal Achieved" t-shirt. I am proud to have earned the right to buy it. But I really feel like the shirt should read, "Goal Achieved. Now on to the NEXT goal".
We are all on a journey to better health and weight management for the rest of our lives.  Unless you are willing to risk returning to a previous physique, you will need to continue to consider your meals before eating. In the words of my son and many other wise people, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."  Logging all food consumed gave me success. Logging will keep me successful. I won't think that "I have this figured out, I don't need to log" because I truly believe that while you success over a short period is possible, the act of logging your food creates ownership of your actions. It shows an acceptance of your responsibilities.
I'm still logging my meals and exercise, one month into finding my "balance weight range". I will be logging 11 months from now, and even after that. I want to keep the new me. I like the new me. I hope that you succeed and find the new you. 
Pictures of a new meal will probably be posted tonight.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Spinach Pizza

1 Boboli Whole Wheat crust

Mix together, and spread evenly on the crust
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed/minced

Layer each on top of the crust:
2 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup (or more) fresh mushrooms, sliced
6 Spanish olives, chopped
6 Kalamata olives, chopped
3 ounces baby spinach, chopped
3 Tablespoons crumbled Feta cheese

Bake t 450 for 10 minutes.  I cut it into quarters for four servings.

Nutritional data (for 1/4 of the entire pizza):
Calories:    362
Fat:            13.8g
Sat fat:            3g
Chol:         11.5mg
Sodium:      656mg
Carbs:        54.4g
Fiber:           9.1g
Protein:      12.1g

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Green Salsa Chicken and Cumin Corn

Green Salsa Chicken

4 boneless-skinless chicken breasts, 5 ounce each (approx.)
8 tomatillos, husks removed
½ cup onion, sliced
1 cup diced bell peppers, any or all colors
4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Herb blend (ideally a southwestern spice blend)
1 lime
Cooking spray

Sprinkle chicken breasts with spice.  Place in preheated non-stick skillet.  Cook approximately 5 minutes per side. Remove from the skillet, cover and set aside.

Spray the skillet with cooking spray.  Place tomatillos, skin side down in skillet.  Do not stir, let them begin to lightly char (5 minutes over med-high heat) then flip over.  Let them continue to cook for additional 5 minutes.  When done, remove from skillet and roughly chop.  Place in a bowl.

In a separate small skillet, coat with cooking spray and add onion and diced pepper.  Cook until beginning to soften, then add to bowl of tomatillos.

Grate the lime to remove ½ tsp zest.  Squeeze lime to get 2 tablespoons juice.  Add juice and zest to tomatillo-pepper-onion mix.  Toss.

Serves 4 (1 chicken breast and approximately ¼ cup of salsa)

Nutritional data:
Calories:          183
Fat:                  9.8g
Sat fat:              2.6g
Cholesterol:     75mg
Sodium:           223mg
Carbs:              8.7g
Fiber:               2.4g
Protein:            17.3g

Cumin Corn
1 cup (5 ounces) frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
¼ cup onion, diced
¾ cup bell pepper, diced, any colors
2 tsp olive oil
¼ tsp ground cumin (or more, to taste)
Black pepper to taste

Serve 4 (1/2 cup portions)

1.       Heat non-stick skillet with 2 tsp olive oil.
2.      Add onion and bell pepper to oil.  Stir frequently, until heated through, and beginning to get tender.
3.      Add cumin and black pepper.  Stir in thawed corn.  Stir until the corn is beginning to get tender and is heated through.

Nutritional Data
Calories:      63
Fat:            2.8g
Sat fat:       0.3g
Chol:            0mg
Sodium:    1.9mg
Carbs:        8.6g
Fiber:         1.7g
Protein:     1.6g

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Zucchini-Potato Pancakes

Make 4 pancakes, each about 4 inches

1 small (6 inch) zucchini, shredded, skin on (approximately 1 1/3 cup)
2/3 cup shredded cooked potatoes (approximately 5 ounces)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp black pepper

1.  Gently mix together.
2.  Pre-heat a non-stick skillet over medium and spray with cooking spray.
3.  Divide batter into four portions (approximately 1/2 cup each.)
4.  Fry until the edges begin to brown (4-5 minutes).  Turn and continue until finished cooking.

Top with plain Greek yogurt, applesauce, or butter and maple syrup. Or serve at breakfast with a single fried egg on top of each pancake.

Nutritional Data:
Cal:  86
Fat:  3.3g
Sat Fat: 1.2g
Chol: 107.2mg
Sodium: 105.4mg
Carb: 8.7g
Fiber: 0.4g
Protein: 5mg

Pumpkin Protein Pancakes

Makes 2 servings of 4 pancakes. 

Mix together:
4 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
¼ c water

1c Kellog’s All Bran (Place the cereal in a blender or food processor and crush a little.)
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 scoop (4T) whey powder

Pour scant ¼ c onto non-stick skillet lightly oiled.  You may need to press the batter down a little to get the correct thickness.  Turn when the batter starts to set (2-3 minutes over medium heat.)  This is very thick batter, and bubbles will not form on the surface. 

Serve with whipped cream, sautéed bananas, warm apple compote, peanut butter or Greek Yogurt.

Nutritional Data (per pancake, without toppings)
Cal:           44
Fat:           0.6g 
Sat Fat:     0.1g 
Chol:        6.8mg 
Sodium:  73.3mg 
Carb:        8.4g 
Fiber        4.8g 
Protein:    5.1g 

Pancakes (Two Ways!)

Sometimes I just need to try new things. Occasionally it is simply a modification of a known recipe and other times it is a completely new recipe. I have an example of each today.

Breakfast was my protein pancake, but modified to make it a Pumpkin Protein Pancake.

This is a case where experimenting brings new rewards. I really like my basic protein pancakes, but I wanted to try something new.  I swapped out the applesauce and subbed in a lot of canned pumpkin.  Then I fried them on a griddle over low heat, for longer than usual, and topped it with vanilla yogurt with a touch of cinnamon.

Thursday evening I made pancakes as a side dish, using a completely new recipe. I made zucchini-potato pancakes. I grew up enjoying very good potato pancakes, and was never able to make them as good. Crispy on the outside, moist in the center.

But I hit a home run on this recipe.  I served it as a side to a simple top sirloin steak, with sauteed crimini mushrooms and Vidalia onions on top.

The pancakes were the star of this meal. Light and still substantial. Crispy and tender. And very flavorful!

Finally, an update on my training for the 2012 Bellin Run. Today, I was able to jog at 5.3 mph, for 12:03. I broke my first goal this morning because I continuously jogged 1.06 miles (1.69 Km). Today's run music was Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run, and Boston's Foreplay/Long Time.

It's a start! I hit my first jogging goal, and know that the rest of the goals are just waiting for me. My plan is to continue to increase my running time by about 45 seconds a day, and then ever Saturday I will increase the speed on the treadmill by 0.1 mph. Doing that will have me at 6.2 mph and a little over a 1 hour run time a few weeks before the Bellin Run. I want to run it in 60 minutes (or a touch under.)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Planning Ahead and Supporting Soundtracks

So much of life seems random. We all encounter unexpected challenges. Planning what we can is a way of keeping a grasp on the reins of life, even if it is just our meal planning.

A few days ago, I made Herb-Crusted Chicken Thighs with a Feta Sauce and Mexican Corn as a side dish. It was a great meal. But although I knew that I would only need 4 pieces of chicken for the meal, I prepare eight pieces.  "Planned overproduction" is a nicer way of saying "I made leftovers."  When you plan for this, it makes meals later in the week much easier and quicker to prepare.

Today's lunch is a salad based on that earlier meal. I made a base of Napa cabbage, baby spinach and mixed greens. I topped it with one portion of Mexican corn, one Roma tomato diced, and 1/4 cup fresh blueberries. I topped that with one chicken thigh, cubed. For a dressing, I used one portion (1 tablespoon) of the feta sauce and thinned it with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Nutritional data for this meal:
Calories:    523
Fat:        35.3g
Sat fat:     8.1g
Chol:     89.8mg
Sodium:  729mg (almost from the Mexican corn)
Carbs:    33.5g
Fiber:       9.1g
Protein:  24.1g

My running is improving daily.  Today I broke the 10 minute mark (jogged for 10:02, which is 0.87 miles at 5.2 mph) and felt really good about it.  My knee started to hurt a little at about the 3 minute mark, but I pushed through it and the pain resolved.  I think I need to make sure I am warmed up better next time.

It helps to have music to help me push through the discomfort. I am not close to the point where jogging is "fun" yet. It is still work, but with the right music on my iPod it becomes less work and more of a achievable goal.  Here is one piece of music that has helped me make progress:

I like the insistent and pervasive nature of the brass and bass line, combined with the bright choral voices that seem to be locked in a chase with the heavier tone underneath. It seems to be a musical interpretation of death's implacable assault, and the realization that death is part of life at the end of the piece.

Note:  Out of curiosity, I just Googled the piece. It is based on a 13th century Latin hymn, Dies Irae (Day of Wrath). It is pretty much as I interpreted it. Huh.  I honestly did not know that until I Googled it. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Protein Breakfast Bake, Apple and Spice Variety

Mix ingredients together, pour into greased loaf pan (approximately 4”x8”).  All version bake at 350F for 14-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.  Do not overbake.  Serve warm (or cold) with whipped cream, Greek yogurt, or maple syrup.  Can be kept in the refrigerator, covered, for up to a week.   (The flaxseed is optional, and is a great way to boost your Omega-3 fatty acid level.  When you use the flaxseed, one portion has 1.3 grams of O-3 fatty acids, which is approximately the same as 4 fish oil capsules!)
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 medium apple, cored, skin on, chopped
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
½ c dried rolled oatmeal
1 tsp cinnamon (or apple pie spice blend)
1 scoop (4 Tbsp) vanilla protein powder
2 Tbspn milled flax seeds
½ tsp baking powder

Nutritional Data:
Cal:            263
Fat:             5.2g
Sat Fat:       1.0g
Chol:           27mg
Sodium:     140mg
Carb:          34.g
Fiber:          6.2g
Protein:     17.9g
My transition into maintenance (oh, I just cringe at that word) is getting smoother. I have found a few new goals to work toward and that is what will keep me going.

And, for the record, I am not going to refer to it as that word anymore. In my mind, that is a stagnant word, descriptive of keeping status quo, of suggesting no further growth. Instead, I am actively pursuing a new balance point in my life. My weight is no longer the key issue (although, the reality is that my weight always be a point of consideration) but now I am focusing on greater physical fitness.

I remember back in my elementary school days, working toward the President's Physical Fitness Test (or something like that) which involved running, jumping, throwing a softball, pull-ups (or more accurately described by my demonstrations, "hang-time"), and the worst, the rope climb. I was never an exemplar of physical fitness. I hated phy ed. And of course, I was terrible in all those tests.

Fast forward four decades. Now I have a different perspective. I no longer am comparing myself to classmates like  Jeff Dellenbach (who later played center for the NFL Dolphins, Patriots, Packers and Eagles), nor to any of the other faster and stronger kids of my school. I am competing against myself. I am comparing what I do today with what I did yesterday.

I started training for my 10K. When I was running earlier, before I really started training, I would just go outside and run. And would get winded immediately. Now I am working on a treadmill, at a set pace (5.2 mph, no incline at this time) and am timing myself. I guess that rather than jogging outside, I was sprinting. No wonder I was winded after one block.

My progress so far is that on Friday, I jogged 4:21 (min:sec) at 5.5 mph for 0.4 miles.  (A little too fast.)
Saturday, I jogged 6:25 at 5.0 mph for 0.52 miles. (A little too slow.)
Sunday, I was able to jog continuously for 6:45 at 5.2 mph, which was 0.59 miles. (A nice pace.)
This morning, I completed 7:30, at 5.2mph, for 0.65 miles. I was also able to get my breathing back to normal in 60 seconds today after finishing the jog. That suggests that I am increasing my endurance.

My goal is to add 0.05 miles (or more) each day. That will get me to 6.2 miles about 2.5 weeks before the race.

I also bought a bike. It's nothing fancy, but it will get me back on the road riding, for another form of exercise. And I am using my weight machine. (I'll have to get photos of each of those tools soon.) A variety of exercise types will keep things fresh and prevent stagnation.

I have my iPod up and running, with fast-paced music of a wide variety for inspiration. I will start listing my jogging play lists (as soon as I have proper play lists) which should be good for a chuckle or two, because I listen to diverse music. I will soon add a C25K program (or more like a program for 10K races) but first I want to teach myself a good jogging pace, so I will use the treadmill for another week or so.

Bottom line: Get off your bottom. Jog. Bike. Swim. Zumba. Yoga. Pilates. P90X. Find something that gets you motivated and get moving. I used to hate running. Now ... well, let's just say that "hate" is not the correct word anymore. It's a long way from "love". Sort of at the "tolerating" stage. But it is another tool that I need to keep me healthy. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Herb-Crusted Chicken Thighs with Mexican Corn

This recipe could be made using boneless/skinless chicken breasts, but thighs stand up to the heat of frying much better, have more flavor and are juicier.  They have a bit more fat, but I think it is worth it.

Herb-Crusted Chicken Thighs

8 boneless/skinless chicken thighs
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons of your preferred herb/herb blend (I used Penzey's Tuscan Sunset.)

5 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice

1.  Mix panko crumbs and herbs.  Press chicken thighs into this, coating both sides.
2.  Heat large non-stick skillet.  Spray with cooking spray.
3.  Place chicken thigh in skillet.  You may need to make two separate batches.
4.  Pan fry over medium heat, approximately 5 minutes.  Turn over and fry another 5 minutes.
5.  Remove from skillet and finish remaining thighs.
6.  While thighs are cooking, combine cheese, oil and lemon juice, stirring to make a thick sauce.

Serve 1 tablespoon sauce on each thigh.

Nutritional data, per thigh:
Calories: 168
Fat:         9.2g
Sat fat:    2.5g
Chol:       75mg
Sodium: 241mg
Carbs:       5g
Fiber:     0.2g
Protein:   17g

Nutritional data, per tablespoon of sauce:
Calories:  65
Fat:           5.9g
Sat fat:      2.8g
Chol:      14.8mg
Carbs:      1.1g
Fiber:          0g
Protein:    2.4g

Mexican Corn
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 jalapeno, diced (more if desired)
1-2 avocadoes, diced

Makes 4 serving, approximately 1/2 cup of corn/tomato mixture each, with 1/4 avocado on top

1.  Heat non-stick skillet.  Add drained corn, tomatoes and jalapeno.  Cook over medium heat until heated through and the tomatoes start losing their shape.
2. When ready, serve on a plate, and top with avocado.

Nutritional data:
Calories:   115
Fat:             5.8g
Sat fat:        0.7g
Chol:             0mg
Sodium:  262.8mg
Carbs:       15.1g
Fiber:          4.9g
Protein:       2.2g

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Grilled Chicken Wings

3 pounds chicken wings, single joint
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
6 Tablespoons olive oil
8 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp onion powder (not onion salt)
1 tsp ground black pepper

1.  Dry wings. Place in gallon-sized Ziplock bag.
2.  Combine the next 5 ingredients, pour over wings.
3.  Seal the bag.  "Massage" the wings so that the marinade covers everything.
4.  Place in refrigerator overnight.
5.  Preheat grill on high for 5 minutes.  Clean the grate. Rub the clean grate with a paper towel dipped in canola oil to help prevent the wings from sticking.
6.  Grill wings directly on the grate, in a single layer, over medium heat.  Have an aluminum pan to one side, not over heat, that can be used as a "rescue zone" when the grill flares up. It WILL flare up.

(Much of the butter/oil mixture will drip off.  Based on a pre-weight/post-weight, I calculate that approximately half of the butter/oil mix is lost to the cooking process.  The nutritional data reflects that calculation.)

7.  While the wings grill, you can sprinkle them with the spice blend of your choice. I am using a mild Penzey salt-free blend, 33rd and Galena. You could instead use a hot pepper powder (cayenne, chipotle or habanero), or a milder spice (paprika or ancho peppers). You can also use a salt-based spice blend (Old Bay Seasoning or Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning, I like both of these).  Try new flavors and find what you like.
8.  Serve warm or cold. No dressing or dip is needed with my version, but they would taste great with a honey-mustard salad dressing as a dip.

Nutritional data (approximate, as noted above), per piece:
Calories:   112
Fat:            9.4g
Sat fat:       2.7g
Chol:          36mg
Sodium:      98mg
Carbs:        0.3g
Fiber:         0.0g
Protein:      7.6g