Friday, April 20, 2012

Mini Veggie Pizzas!

I had some sauteed onions, mushrooms and bell peppers in the fridge that were just sitting there. I was hungry, but not sure what to make.

I preheated a pizza stone in the oven at 425.

I took a sandwich thin, opened it and spread a teaspoon of olive oil on each half. Then I crushed a clove of garlic, and divided it on each half.  On top of the garlic I layered 1/2 cup of the sauteed onions, mushrooms and bell peppers (that I had warmed in the microwave.) Finally, I placed a slice of mozzarella cheese on top.

I baked it for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

Nutritional data (for two halves):
Calories:     386
Fat:            23.9g
Sat fat:         7.5g
Chol:            22mg
Sodium:      482mg
Carbs:        31.7g
Fiber:           6.3g
Protein:         18g

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Grilled Cheese, Trevor-style
Serves 1

1 sandwich thin
2 slices sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup previous prepared sauteed onions/bell peppers/jalapeno peppers
Cooking spray

1.  Pre-heat non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
2.  Build your sandwich with the veggie filling between the two pieces of cheese
3.  Spray the cooking surfaces of the sandwich thins with cooking spray and lay in skillet.  Turn when the bread begins to get golden brown.
4.  Cut in half and serve.  I like mine with fresh mashed avocado.

Nutritional data (excluding the avocado and watermelon):
Calories: 411
Fat: 26.7g
Sat fat: 12.8g
Chol: 59mg
Sodium: 520mg
Carb: 28.3g
Fiber: 6.4g
Protein: 19.7g

This sandwich is fairly high sodium, mostly due to the cheese. I don't make this often, but it is a wonderful comfort food dinner. The mashed avocado and watermelon wedge balance the fire of the jalapeno in the veggie filling.

The veggie filling is simply 1/2 onion, 1 bell pepper (I prefer red) and 2 jalapenos, diced but not seeded.  Saute in a little olive oil until everything starts to get very soft and caramelized.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wouldn't A Mulligan Be Nice In Life?

From the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

a free shot sometimes give a golfer in informal play when the previous shot was poorly played.

You don't have to play golf to understand the concept of a "mulligan". It is Monopoly's "Get Out of Jail Free Card". Or when the spinner in the game of Life catches on the peg between two numbers, forcing a new spin.

Okay, but those are just simple board games. Well, what about when you are speeding down the interstate and suddenly a patrol car pulls up behind you, red and blue lights flashing. And the officer just gives you a warning.  Or having an imminent deadline on a major project that you are not even close to completing and the boss calls you to tell you that the deadline has been moved out a month. Maybe it is the doctor's office calling you with news that the suspicious mole that had him worried was found to be absolutely benign.

Mulligans are real. They happen, but in almost every instance, they happen outside our control. In golf, they happen when your playing partners agree to give it to you. Or the officer decides that he/she does not want to issue you a speeding ticket. Even the "Get Out Of Jail Free Card" is given to you by random chance.

But we all have the chance to grant ourselves a mulligan. We can decide that enough is enough and we are having a "do-over". We might change our eating habits. Change our patterns of activity. Spend more time with family and friends. Buy a bike. Learn to run. But we give ourselves the mulligan.

Beginning a weight management journey is a major mulligan. It is the opportunity to recreate who we are, and possibly make ourselves into who we want to be. We make the choice; it cannot be not thrust upon us. We choose the specific path we wish to take (although the path is never exactly as expected, nor as short as desired.)

And when you begin that journey to self-growth, if you have a bad day--or bad week--you don't quit the journey. You reach into your emotional golf bag and pull out another mulligan. You just start over. Don't berate yourself for poor willpower, or lack of motivation. Simply say to yourself, "That was a bad shot. I'm taking a mulligan" and move on.

Enjoy the day! Play your way through the game, and do not let anyone hold you back.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Baked Salmon and Barley Pilaf

Baked Salmon with Tomatoes, Mushrooms and Spinach
Serves 4

4 salmon fillets, 4 ounces each
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 cup (45 g) baby spinach, chopped
1/4 cup (60ml) sun-dried tomato salad dressing (your favorite brand of preference)

1.  Preheat oven to 375F
2.  Spray a 8x8 pan with cooking spray. Lay salmon fillets in the pan.
3.  Mix together all remaining ingredients, and cover the salmon.
4.  Bake for 25 minutes.

Nutritional data:
Calories:      235
Fat:            11.1g
Sat fat:         1.8g
Chol:            70mg
Sodium:      255mg
Carbs:         5.1g
Fiber:          0.8g
Protein:     25.2g

Barley Pilaf
Serves 4 (1/2 cup portions)

1/2 cup uncooked barley (quick cooking type)
1 cup water
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
Cooking spray

1.  Bring water to a boil. Add barley, cover, reduce heat to a simmer.  Let simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until the water is absorbed.
2.  Spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray.  Saute the mushrooms over medium-high heat until hot and soft.
3.  When the barley is done, stir in the mushrooms and peas. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Nutritional data:
Calories:       68
Fat:                0g
Sat fat:        0.2g
Chol:             0mg
Sodium:      9.4mg
Carbs:       15.3g
Fiber:          2.3g
Protein:       2.4g

Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette (made for the simple salad in the picture)
Serves 1

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Penzey's Raspberry Enlightenment
1/4 teaspoon Penzey's Sunny Paris salt-free herb blend

Nutritional data:
Calories:     149
Fat:              14g
Sat fat:           2g
Chol:             0mg
Sodium:      2.5mg
Carbs:         5.8g
Fiber:             0g
Protein:       0.1g

What Is YOUR Goal?

Oh, I know what "the goal" is. You want to reach a specific body weight, or have a certain body fat percentage. 

But what do you want to do after the goal is reached? What future plans do you have that will keep you focused on the challenge of staying at goal weight? You need to do two things (in my opinion) when you reach your goal. First, you need to set a new goal, and second you need to find something to plan for the future.

I've written about it here before, but I'll say it again for anyone new. When I reached my goal weight, I became depressed. My entire focus for eight months (losing weight) was gone. I felt lost. When I decided to make a new goal of running the 10K Bellin Run that helped me get out of my funk. (The fact that my knee has stopped cooperating has not changed my attitude. If I can't run it--and right now, running is not an option--then I will walk it.) That goal helped me create a new focus, greater physical fitness, which in turn helps me stay at goal weight. This is a goal that will never really end, just as my goal of staying at goal weight has now become my everyday life. Those two goals complement each other, each making the other easier.

But the second part is different. I think it is important to have a future plan, something to look forward to with anticipation, to keep the motor of motivation running fast. I have two such plans. The first is my hike of the Mountain-Bay Trail, from Green Bay to Wausau and back (about 180 miles round trip.) That is my first solo hike.  Hell, let's be honest. It is my first hike, alone or in a group. This is a test run, and if the hike is not horrible, it will be repeated next year with my wife. And some day down the road, probably after retirement, we will walk the Wisconsin Ice Age Trail.

I have another future plan. My wife and I are taking a driving trip to the east coast later in June. For about two weeks, we'll hit multiple points in New England and along the Great Lakes. That is another reason to keep my focus on health, fitness and weight maintenance, because I intend to enjoy the foods available on the east coast. Seafood, in other words. We will do a lot of walking on that trip, but a lot of eating, too. I've never been to that part of the country before, and I want to completely enjoy it.

On both trips, I will continue to make blog posts so you can keep up with my activities, and my meals. It will be a BLAST.

So, what is YOUR goal? What special plan have you made?

Good luck in all your goals. You CAN achieve them, because like Smokey the Bear says, "Only YOU can prevent goal achievement!"

Monday, April 16, 2012

Two Delicious Desserts

Grilled Pineapple
(1 pineapple will make 6-8 slices)

1 fresh ripe pineapple
Chocolate sauce
Whipped cream

1.  Preheat your grill.
2.  Slice the pineapple into 3/4 slices.  Leave the skin on.
3.  Oil the grates. Lay the slices on the grates. Turn when they begin to get brown.
4.  Remove.  Serve with chocolate or caramel syrup, and whipped cream.

The pineapple is also delicious without toppings, or as part of an ice cream sundae.
Nutritional data (pineapple alone, without toppings):
Calories:     42
Fat:           0.1g
Sat fat:         0g
Chol:           0mg
Sodium:    0.7mg
Carbs:       11g
Fiber:       1.2g
Protein:    0.5g

Kahlua Mousse
Serves 4

4 tablespoons (60g) sugar
1 tablespoon water
3 whole eggs, separated
2 ounces Kahlua

1.  Reserve 1 tablespoon sugar. Place remaining sugar and water in a small microwave safe bowl.  Heat until the water is boiling rapidly.  Remove and set aside.
2.  Whisk the egg whites in a grease-free bowl until they are stiff.  Slowly add the sugar syrup while beating until combined thoroughly.
3.  Heat water in a sauce pan until gently boiling. Place a medium-sized bowl over the pan, with the water in contact with the bottom of the bowl.  Place the 3 egg yolks, the remaining sugar and the Kahlua in it and whisk until thick and frothy. This will take about 5 minutes.
4.  Whisk the egg whites into egg yolks.
5.  Optional step:  Fold in 1/2 of an 8 ounce container of whipped cream.
6.  Divide between 4 glasses.
7.  Chill in the refrigerator.  Top with whipped cream and a dusting of cocoa powder.

Nutritional data:
Calories:     158
Fat:             5.8g
Sat fat:        2.5g
Chol:          165mg
Sodium:       65mg
Carbs:       18.9g
Fiber:             0g
Protein:       5.2g

Variations include using Bailey's Irish Cream, Grand Marnier, Amaretto, Frangelico, or just about any flavorful liqueur.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mexican Corn

Mexican Corn (healthier version)
Serves 4 (approximately 1 cup portions)

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (about 30 tomatoes)
2 cups frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Cumin and black pepper, to taste
1/2 ripe avocado, diced

1. Heat non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil. When hot, add onions.
2. Saute onions for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add minced jalapeno, sauteing this for 2-3 minutes.
4. Add cherry tomatoes, cumin and black pepper. Saute for 2-3 minutes.
5. Add corn.  Saute until everything is heated through (about 8-10 minutes.)
6. Stir in avocado.

Nutritional data:
Calories:     149
Fat:             6.9g
Sat fat:           1g
Chol:             0mg
Sodium:         9mg (This is why this version is healthier!)
Carbs:       33.5g
Fiber:          4.8g
Protein:       3.6g

Rain In The Morning ...

But it was sunny and nice in the afternoon. I was able to get my lawn mowed for the second time this season. I finished about half of it with my reel mower, but I found that most of the backyard was far too long and the mower just wouldn't roll through it. I needed to fire up the rider to finish. Now I will start my summer schedule for mowing with the reel mower, which is to cut it every four days. When I cut it that often, it rolls easily and keeps the lawn looking great.

If you have a lawn that is a quarter acre or less, I would suggest using a reel mower. Frequent cutting is best for a healthy lawn. They are inexpensive and use no gasoline, so consequently they add no carbon to the atmosphere. They are quiet. You can mow your lawn early in the morning while your neighbors sleep. (Then they can wake up to the sight of your newly mown lawn, which could drive them crazy. Fun!)

And, last but not least, it is a great workout. This is another case of using routine activities to increase my calorie burn. One hour using a hand mower burns about 430 calories (for a person of my build.) That is a nice workout and does not take any extra time away from anything else. Like parking in a distant parking spot at work or never taking the elevator, these are all ways of slightly modifying my daily routine to maximize my exercise level.

After I finished the lawn, I made dinner for the family. I fired up the grill and made one of my flank steaks. But when I was serving it, I sliced it very thinly across the grain and prepared all the ingredients for a taco bar. We had tomatoes, Vidalia onions, fresh cilantro, avocado (both in slices and mashed into guacamole), black olives and cheeses. For taco shells, I used 6 inch La Tortilla Factory Smart and Delicious tortillas. We also had plain Greek yogurt, fresh limes and salsa for toppings. 

I served them with a new version of Mexican Corn, with much less sodium than my first recipe. And it tasted even better. (Recipe to follow in a separate post.)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Grilled Shrimp and Strawberry-Spinach Salad

Grilled Shrimp and Strawberry-Spinach Salad
Serves 4

Strawberry-Spinach Salad

In an large bowl, toss together:
6 ounces baby spinach
1/2 cup sliced, toasted almonds
8 ounces fresh strawberries, sliced

To toast the almonds, heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add almonds and saute dry (no oil.) Toss occasionally. The almonds are done when they begin to turn light brown.

Make the dressing:
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons Splenda (or 5 tablespoons table sugar)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon poppy seeds (optional)

Pour dressing over spinach and strawberries. Toss to coat.

This salad does not make a good leftover salad. The spinach wilts, and the strawberries get mushy. Eat it freshly made.

Nutritional data:
Calories:     142
Fat:           10.5g
Sat fat:           1g
Chol:             0mg
Sodium:       39mg
Carbs:         9.8g
Fiber:          3.5g
Protein:       4.5g

Serves 4 (8 ounce portions)

I used 2 pounds of large shrimp (purchased peeled and deveined for ease of preparation), thawed and put in a Ziplock bag. I added 2 tablespoons olive oil and tossed to coat all shrimp.

I preheated my grill and place a vegetable basket on the grill.  When it was hot, I coated it with canola oil, and put the shrimp in the basket. I lightly seasoned the shrimp with Penzey's Sunny Spain.

I put the lid on the grill, and let them cook for 2 minutes, then stirred them around. I repeated that three time. The shrimp are done when they are white and no longer translucent. (Small shrimp cook faster.)

Nutritional Data:
Calories:     200
Fat:              2g
Sat fat:         0g
Chol:        280mg
Sodium:    270mg
Carbs:          0g
Fiber:            0g
Protein:       38g

Friday, April 13, 2012

Weight Loss Does Not Mean Flavor Loss!

I like desserts. I am not big into cakes, but torts, pies, brownies and other bars are one of my guilty pleasures.

Of course, when trying to find a healthy weight, many times those are the foods that eliminated first in the quest for lower calorie consumption. But that can backfire, because denying yourself the treats that you really want will only lead to irresistible cravings, which can lead to uncontrolled binges when you finally decide to satisfy your needs.

Here are two ideas that are not bad (when you eat the correct portion size, of course.) The first recipe has a few steps and the second one is quick and easy.

You CAN eat delicious snacks and desserts, and still lose weight. Remember, the key is always portion control. And don't make a lot at one time. And bring any extra for your coworkers, to prevent you from eating all of it.

Lemon Bars Serves 24

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
8 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups powder, divided
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
The grates zest of 2 large lemons (approximately 2 teaspoons)

To make crust:
1.   Preheat oven to 350F
2.   Mix flour and light brown sugar using a food processor or pastry blender until fully incorporated.
3.   Toss butter chunks in and combine with processor or pastry blender until the butter is cut into pea-sized pieces.
4.   Sprinkle crust into an ungreased 9x13 pan as evenly as possible. Press down with your hands or a spatula to create a packed surface.
5.   Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown.

To make filling:
6.   While the crust is baking, beat eggs with an electric mixer until well blended.
7.   Add vanilla extract and 3/4 cup of the powder sugar.  Mix well.
8.   Add lemon juice and remaining powdered sugar. Mix until all sugar is completely dissolved, then mix in the lemon zest.

To finish:
9.   As soon as the crust is finished, reduce oven temperature to 300F.
10. Pour filling over hot crust (it will smell incredible!)
11. Bake for 30 minutes, or until firm.
12. Cool and cut into 24 pieces.

Nutritional data (for one piece):
Calories:      112
Fat:              4.7g
Sat fat:         2.7g
Chol:           45mg
Sodium:       40mg
Carbs:       15.7g
Fiber:          0.2g
Protein:       1.8g

The next time I make these, I will use lime juice instead of lemon and make this more like a key lime pie.

Chocolate Crunch
Make 10 servings, 1/4 cup each

1 cup Wheat Chex (or similar breakfast cereal)
1 cup pretzel sticks (broken in half)
1/4 cup whole unsalted roasted almonds
3 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate chips (Ghiardelli are excellent)

Combine first three ingredients in a bowl. Melt the chocolate chip in a microwave or carefully in a metal bowl over simmering water. (Do not get any water in the melted chocolate or it will seize and immediately develop a terrible--and irreversible--texture.)  Pour the chocolate over the other ingredients, and stir to coat.

Spread mixture onto wax paper-lined baking sheet and refrigerate until the chocolate is set.  (According to the original recipe, this can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days. I can't vouch for that. It has never lasted for 5 days in this house.)

Nutritional data (for one piece):
Calories:      100
Fat:              4.4g
Sat fat:         1.1g
Chol:              0mg
Sodium:        40mg
Carbs:       13.9g
Fiber:          1.7g
Protein:       2.3g

My next variation will be to add mini-marshmallows, or use different nuts.  I also think a blend of semi-sweet and white chocolate would be nice.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Not Every Meal Needs to be Difficult ...

... but hopefully every meal is delicious.

This morning I made a very simple meal, using my 5 quart slow cooker. I won't give a specific recipe, because you can vary to fit your tastes this almost infinitely.

I lined the slow cooker with a plastic liner (which I think is one of the greatest creations because it makes cleanup effortless.)  I added one cup of red wine.  If you prefer, you can use white wine. Or beer. Or apple cider. Or orange juice. Or cola. Or any stock. Or water (if you want to be boring.) Then I added 2 pounds of baby carrots, which I had partially cooked in the microwave for about seven minutes. I peeled and cut an onion into wedges, and threw it on top of the carrots, along with three cloves of garlic (crushed and minced.) I laid a pork roast on top of the vegetables, and placed eight small Yukon Gold potatoes (skins on) around the meat.

I sprinkled Penzey's Mural of Flavor on the pork, place the cover on the slow cooker and at 11am I turned it on low. It was done at 5pm.

You can vary this however you want. Use beef, venison or chicken instead of pork.  Instead of carrots, use green beans, pea pods, or bell peppers (they will not need to cook for the full six hours.)  Instead of onions, use chopped leeks. Add Brussels spouts. Add tomatoes. Add jalapenos and season the meal with a Southwest-style seasoning. Instead of potatoes, use turnips or cauliflower.

This is how my meal turned out:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

So What Does Everyone Else Eat?

The meals in this blog are generally evening meals, our family dinner. Assuming our 16 year old son is at home (not always the case), we all eat the same thing.

Breakfasts are a different matter. I like eat a very robust breakfast, while my wife's is smaller. And when it comes to eggs, I like more eggs for breakfast than she does and I have different preferences for what I add to the eggs. Our son, who likes to sleep as long as possible before arising for school, eats in the car or when he gets to school. Consequently, breakfasts are frequently more "made to order" for each of us.

I'm not going to give specific recipes for these pictures, just a description of the ingredients and their nutritional data.

Here is what I had for breakfast:

That is three whole eggs in one tablespoon olive oil, with sauteed jalapenos and sweet mini bell peppers and three tablespoons of natural peanut butter and 1/4 cup sliced fresh strawberries folded into it. (This is for the peanut butter lover.)

Calories:    733
Fat:            60.2g
Sat fat:       11.4g
Chol:          625mg
Sodium:      370mg
Carbs:        18.9g
Fiber:           5.2g
Protein:      30.4g

My wife enjoyed this breakfast:
Two whole eggs, sauteed mushrooms (4 ounces fresh) and one tablespoon shredded cheese. No olive oil, just cooking spray.

Calories:    192
Fat:            12.8g
Sat fat:         3.8g
Chol:          425mg
Sodium:      186mg
Carbs:         4.7g
Fiber:          0.6g
Protein:     15.3g

Our son, the late-riser, enjoyed this meal on the go:
Okay. It's not gourmet. It's not overwhelmingly healthy. But it isn't bad. He likes yogurt, the fiber bars are good and filling, and the pop tart? Well, yeah, the pop tart isn't healthy. This gets him out the door and started.  When he gets the lunch I pack for him, it gets a little healthier:

These meals take a little time to prepare (about 10 minutes.) I get up earlier than I need to so that I can make this meal, but I do have a few shortcuts. For the eggs, I saute the veggies the evening before so in the morning, I just need to warm them in the skillet and add the eggs. The lunch is simple to put together because I prep the veggies and fruit the night before, and only need to assemble the sandwich fresh in the morning. (Again, planning and organization are the key to enjoying life.)

We try to start our days with a meal together and end our day with another meal together. Life is too hectic to ignore the opportunity to start the day with a filling meal and some time with the important people in your life. It is relaxing to sit down to a nice breakfast and is quiet with only our dog whining a little (hoping that something will fall to the floor.)

Getting up a half hour early is worth it. I hope you are able to take the time to enjoy your meals, too.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The best laid plans ...

Yesterday was the final beerfest of the season. My wife and I attended and poured beers that my Brewing Science students made on March 3. The event went very well. In one respect, it was MUCH better than the brewfest in February, because this time I did not lose my Fitbit!

We try to plan our day carefully when it comes to meals. My wife and I had planned to eat at a local restaurant only three blocks from the brewfest site. We were going to be at the venue early, set up, and go eat, so instead of eating a lunch, we had a simple breakfast in mid-morning. We arrived at 2:30pm and quickly unloaded. The brewfest didn't start until 4pm so we had plenty of time to enjoy a meal.

And then we found out the restaurant doesn't open until 5pm. (The joys of small town life!)

We were looking forward to our meal at the little place, and consequently, we did not bother to pack any snacks. Not smart. The brewfest was offering food, but bags of pretzels and popcorn were not going to work.

So we worked our table and poured a lot of beer. We even had a chance to sample some locally produced beers and wines. (My wife's favorite wine was Parallel 44's Frozen Tundra, and my favorite beer was a toss up between Titletown Brewing Company's Busted Nut and O'so Brewing Company's Dank.) And we waited for the event to end. We waited impatiently. When the clock hit 8:00, I had my gear disconnected and loaded in the van in eight minutes and were on the road. By now the place we were going to eat was open, but the quiet leisurely lunch was not an option anymore so we just drove home and stopped at a pub near our house.
That greasy bacon-cheese burger and the mound of steak fries was sooooooo good!

And this morning, the scale suggests that I gained 3.4 pounds since yesterday. So what happened? It was a combination of a few things, all striking at once. Our food choices were not a good as if we had cooked them at home, and everything was heavily salted. I drank very little water yesterday, and for four hours I was essentially standing still just pouring beer. Lack of large muscle activity, combined with low water intake and a high sodium infusion resulted in a lot of fluid retention. (almost two liters of water.)

I am not worried about that gain, because we all know it is temporary. But my point is that you can make careful plans for every meal of the week and sometimes your plans will fall apart. All you can do if that happens is to get going and get back on track. Every day is a new day, and a new chance to redefine yourself.

Don't let yesterday's problems pollute today's attitude.

And when you are in an unplanned situation and do not have your usual meal choices, choose something really good and enjoy every bite.