Thursday, February 23, 2012

Quick Tip: #1

I just wanted to share a quick tip that I came up with last night.

The boyfriend and I had salmon, broccoli and brown rice for dinner and I felt like sprucing up the rice a bit. Being a devout lover of all things fried, I decided I wanted to try an oil-less fried rice.

Instead of oil or butter I put some chicken broth and soy sauce in a large pan, let that heat up with some frozen veggies, garlic and a scrambled egg, then added my day old brown rice and voila!

It was pretty damn good for having zero oil added.

My boyfriend asked me where I heard this idea from, and I just pointed to my brain. Sometimes, I'm just freakin' brilliant.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Comfort Food: Volume 2

Meatloaf. If you like meat, you like meatloaf, but you only like your mom’s meatloaf—it seems to be some sort of rule, that no one makes meatloaf better than your mom. 

I don’t remember my mom ever making meatloaf, so I’m on my own here. I understood the general idea behind it—meat, breadcrumbs, egg, seasoning, bake.

In the interest of the blog and my lifestyle, the goal here was to make an All-American meal but as Californian (aka. Low-Cal) as possible. The meatloaf recipe has tons of veggies and is basically as low cal as meatloaf gets, while the mashed potatoes have a low-cal, high-vitamin surprise that no one saw coming! This turned so good that I didn’t even take the time to take a decent photo of it. Enjoy.

Meaty Veggie Loaf
1 lb 85%-90% lean ground beef
1 lb lean ground turkey
6 cloves of garlic (more or less)
4 carrots, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
½ a red or yellow onion, diced
1 c. whole wheat breadcrumbs
1 med. Egg
garlic powder
cayenne pepper
salt & pepper

1 c. ketchup
1 ½ tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. Honey
garlic powder
cayenne pepper
salt & Pepper

1.    Preheat oven to 350 Degrees.
2.    Mix / Squish (with your hands) all of the meat together until it all looks the same color.
3.    In a separate bowl, combine breadcrumbs, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper (I didn’t include measurments—use whatever amounts you feel best, usually about 1-2 tsp. of each, maybe less of the cayenne)
4.    Crack your egg on top of the meat, add breadcrumb mixture and all of the chopped veggies, mix thoroughly with your hands until everything is mixed completely.
5.    Place meat mixture into greased bread pan and squish down into all corners, pack it as much as possible.
6.    Make your glaze by whisking ketchup, honey, brown sugar and seasonings together. Use seasonings to your liking. I made my glaze a bit on the spicy side and it really complimented the meatloaf well. 
7.    Pour glaze ontop of packed meat.
8.    Place in center rack in oven for 1 hour.
9.    Let sit for 2-5 minutes after taking out of oven.

Garlic Mashed (Cauliflower) Potatoes:
2 heads of roasted garlic (how to)
6 small/medium red potatoes, quartered
1 head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
½ c. light sour cream (check ingredients—should be cream and cultures only)
2 tbsp butter (I used what we call “fake butter,” Brummel & Brown’s Natural Yogurt Butter)
¼ c. chopped scallions
salt & pepper

1.    Plan ahead, roasting garlic takes about an hour. I started this while I was preparing my meatloaf, I also have 2 ovens—so it made this step fairly easy.
2.    Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add potatoes, cauliflower and some salt. Boil until potatoes are tender (about 20 minutes)
3.    Drain water and add sour cream and butter, smash potatoes and cauliflower together with a smasher (you can also blend, if that’s what you like—I like my potatoes chunky, so I smash)
4.    Add garlic and scallions and smash again. Salt and pepper to taste.

The cauliflower in this recipe is really subtle, which is the point—mashed potatoes with fewer calories. The texture is a little thinner than regular mashed potatoes and my boyfriend said he could taste the cauliflower, but I have a feeling if I hadn’t told him it was in there, he wouldn’t have known. I also placed the potatoes on top of a bed of steamed spinach, to add some greens.

It takes a little time and planning to make this meal, but it was totally worth it.

It was filing, comforting and awesome! And everyone knows that meatloaf is even better the next day when its in between two slices bread, so this was also a great (and healthy) lunch.

Next up on the Comfort Food Files: Cajun Chicken Pasta
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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Love (and Chocolate) Day!

Valentines Day has always been a very pleasant holiday for me. My mom would always give me some type of Valentine treat and my dad would bring all his girls flowers. I’ve never seen it as the romantic holiday that it's intended to be. While I will admit that it became a tad more romantic to me when I met my love two years ago on Valentines day, to me it’s really more about love all around and, of course, SWEETS!

This year rather than making cupcakes or brownies for the office, as is the tradition, I decided to try something that was at the very least a teeny bit more health conscious.

Chocolate Filled Berries.

It was SO easy it’s almost criminal. I got a baskets of Raspberries and Strawberries and that hardening chocolate that you always find in the produce section (I would have liked to have found a more glamorous dark chocolate, but I was strapped for time and energy, so I went with what was easy—even though it may have cost me a couple calories and healthy points).

I set all the raspberries upright with the hole facing up, then used an apple corer to cut a hole in each strawberry and faced them with the hole facing up. Heated up the chocolate according to the package, then poured it into a pastry bag, cut a tiny hole in the bag, filled the raspberries, then cut the hole larger to fill the strawberries. Put them in the fridge to harden and voila!
It was so easy and so much cleaner than dipped strawberries. They were super easy to transport and a major crowd pleaser—not to mention a lot healthier (and maybe even yummier) than the cupcakes I made last year.
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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Eating Healthy Out of Town

Last Friday my boss asked if I could go down to Santa Monica and help out with our store there. 

Of course. 1. any excuse to not be at my desk 2. I have nothing better to do.

My only dilemma, honestly, was how would I stay on track with my exercising and healthy eating? The fact that this is now considered a dilemma in my life is a pretty good sign and actually makes me pretty happy. 

So I'm on day 2 of my trip. Honestly, I thought this would be harder than it is. It's probably a little easier considering I'm in one of the health meccas of the world (fad or not, its true).

I checked into my hotel and no-joke, there was a restaurant litterally across the street from my balcony that specialized in healthy, organic, grass fed, vegan and gluten free foods.

Up until this point I had almost decided to just give up on the healthy thing for a couple days because I really didn't feel like putting too much effort into my dinner plans.. but this was clearly a sign from the the health gods and I had no choice but to go forth.

Aside from the service, the place wasn't half bad (and they had Stone IPA--so really how could I complain?). 

Then, the health gods shined down again when I was planning dinner--my friend from college suggested that we go to a place called "Tender Greens." At this point I was almost irritated that I wouldn't be indulging in a wonderfully juicy cheeseburger. This place, however, was great. If you have one near you, try it. Easy, inexpensive, delicious. 

This morning I decided to go to a place that I had eaten at before, it's a great greasy spoon kinda place (don't judge). Here's how I made it better for me than it could have been (while still getting what I want): I ordered the Eggs Benedict with Hollindaise on the side (portion control) and when she asked if I wanted potatoes, tots (!!), or fruit, I stayed strong and got fruit, even though tots are my FAVORITE. 

As for exercising, I haven't done any intense training or anything, there's a 24 Hour Fitness that I may go to tonight or I may do some Netflix Pilates later on in my room, but either way I've been walking everywhere and don't feel too bad since I've been eating so well. 

I'm mostly just intrigued with how easy it was to not eat like crap while out of town. Even when a part of me wanted to indulge, there were just too many ways for me to stay on the straight and narrow. It's nice to see I'm not the only one trying to change my eating habits and that its becoming easier and less daunting to keep on this path.
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Monday, February 6, 2012

Milk: The Great Debate

I love milk. It’s creamy and filling and just makes me feel all warm and gushy inside. That said, I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t a debate over which milk to buy.

Growing up we always had to buy 2 types of milk. My mom would only drink whole milk—it’s what she grew up on, who could blame her? My sister agreed with my mom, but my dad and I didn’t want the added calories so we went with 2%. Two gallons of milk in the fridge takes up a lot of room, but when no one will budge, what can you do?

I’m having the same dilemma now. My boyfriend and I have been swaying between whole milk and 2% and organic vs non-organic for months now. We’ve tried them all and now we’re just really unsure of where we land on the whole (no pun intended) subject. It’s a much harder decision than you’d think.

Do we go with what tastes best? (Whole Organic Milk). What tastes good but is cheap? (Whole Non-Organic Milk). Or what’s best for our waist line? (2%). Sigh.

The deets: Whole milk has 8 grams of fat and 150 calories per cup, 2% has 5 grams of fat and 130 calories. Organic is awesome and tastes so much better, but it’s $6 per gallon versus $3ish for non-organic.

So I did some research and turns out everyone else is as confused as I am. The best article on the subject is probably this one that basically says, that there are good and bad qualities to all variations of milk and that any study you find on the subject will have another study that says the opposite. UGH! So now what? I have to decide? There isn’t an article that will tell me what to do?? NOOOOOOO!

It’s ok. (breathe) I’m fine.

Ok, this week we’ll go with non-organic because this article says the advantages of organic milk are not worth the price you pay and they may not even be that beneficial after all (plus it’s REALLY hard for me to spend $6 for a gallon of milk when I can spend $3 for essentially the same thing).

Basically, what I’m finding out is that there isn’t enough research to really know what to choose. Some articles say that if you drink lower-fat milk you don’t’ absorb the nutrients promised to you and other say that’s complete bull-hockey (yup.).

I guess, bottom line, if you like whole milk and don’t mind the added calories (it’s only 20 calories more) then go with that—do an extra 2 minutes on the elliptical. If you like the idea of organic, go with that—even though it may not really mean much. Buy locally if you can—that will always be your best option, but just get what you like.

Feeling unsatisfied with that answer? Me too, kinda. Anyone wanna go in on buying a cow? You'll have to do the milking, of course.

P.S. There was no mention of 1% or non-fat milk in this post because I simply do not accept these as forms of milk. If you drink this clear-bluish substance, be my guest, but I won’t even let it near my coffee.
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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Comfort Food: Volume 1

I made Ricotta and Spinach Manacotti last night. I know, right? A TERRIBLE choice when trying to eat healthy, but I was in desperate need of some rich, hot comfort food. There is just something special about warm, savory, usually cheesy dishes that make your troubles just disappear. Unfortunately, your troubles undoubtedly reappear the next morning on the scale.

Comfort food is never going to be your best choice when attempting to healtherize (yup.. I just made it up) your diet. Don’t fear, I’ve figured out a way to work around my new healthy lifestyle and still get what I want (I am a woman, after all).

Check out the recipe below. Please note, everything in the ingredients list is from Trader Joes, except for the manicotti shells. Also, if possible always buy locally grown produce and meats.

Spinach & Ricotta Manicotti:

1 lb 95% lean hamburger meat

1 jar Arrabiata red sauce

1 package of uncooked manicotti tubes (?)

1 bag of fresh (uncooked) spinach

8-10 oz. low-fat mozzarella cheese (grated)

15 oz jar Fat Free Ricotta Cheese

5 oz Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (grated)

1 small handful of fresh basil

1 head of garlic

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

Step 1: Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Step 2: Boil a LARGE pot of water, cook your manicotti for 7 mins—no longer!

Step 3: While water is boiling, brown the hamburger meat and a couple chopped garlic cloves in a medium sauce pan with a little olive oil on the bottom.

Step 4: While Meat is browning, steam all of the spinach (this will take about 3 minutes)

Step 5: Add Arrabiata Sauce to browned meat, stir and simmer.

Step 6: Chop up the cooked spinach, fresh basil, a few cloves of garlic—your choice how much—I used about 5 cloves. Mix all together with entire jar of ricotta and about 50% of the mozzarella and parm reg. This will create a bright green, super fragrant paste-like material. Salt and pepper to taste. Then, spoon the entire contents of the mixture into a ziplock bag, try to get out a lot of the air, close and snip the corner off with scissors.

Step 7: Take a cooled manicotti tube in your hand, carefully squeeze your ziplock bag until your mixture fills the tube. You may need to squeeze mixture into both ends (har har). Place filled manicotti into a deep baking dish greased with olive oil. Repeat until you run out of mixture (I had a few manicotti tubes left over)

Step 8: Carefully spoon red sauce all over the top of the filled manicottis and top with the rest of the motzzerella cheese. Place in oven, bake for 30 mins.

Garnish with the rest of the Parm reg cheese and enjoy with a side salad.

It’s really super easy and I won’t lie, I’ve never been a fan of the idea of low-fat or fat-free cheeses, but in this recipe, you really can’t tell! I promise. 

I'm looking forward to manipulating other comfort foods to make them more health-friendly.. I'll keep you posted.
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