Thursday, March 31, 2011

What's In Season?

I read this neat little article over on WiseBread the other day- it's a nice organizational tool to keep handy for your frequent trips to the grocery.  I thought I'd start and end this month with useful grocery tips!  Keep in mind that depending on your locale- this list may not hold entirely true, but I have found it helpful here in Cleveland!  Again- while these fruits and veggies are in season, that doesn't mean they're local.  I know pineapples aren't Cleveland born, but I love 'em anyways.

WiseBread- Fresh Fruits and Vegetables By The Month

image via

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Edamame Hummus

I don't know if you've had Trader Joe's Edamame Hummus before... but it is a miracle of food.  It has this perfect, velvety texture that is just incomparable to any dip I've ever had before.  I had some friends over for dinner on Saturday night and decided that I was going to attempt this delicious food for an appetizer.  After looking around for some recipes, I settled on a hybrid of this one from The Delicious Life and this one from Food Network.

The result- tasty, tasty, edamame hummus that turns out, isn't really hummus at all.  Hummus, by definition, is made from chickpeas.  Oh well, that's neither here nor there, I'll call it whatever I want.  If TJ's can call it hummus, I can too.  Warning- this recipe is kind of a pain in the ass.  Delicious, but I don't know if skinning the edamame is really worth it.  Yes- it has that texture I was looking for, but it'd probably be just as tasty without the 2 hours of soy-bean skinning.

Edamame Hummus

12-16 oz bag of frozen, shelled edamame
1/4 C Tahini
1/4 C water
1-2 cloves garlic
Zest and Juice from 1 lemon- keep zest separated
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
1-2 tsp Kosher salt or Matt's Mix
1/2 tsp. ground cumin

Cook/steam your shelled edamame.  If you have a thousand extra hours, peel the tiny skins off of each edamame bean.  Yes, I did this.  Again, not sure if it was worth it.  Combine all ingredients save 1/2 lemon zest in the food processor.  Process!  Once you reach a smooth, consistent texture, sprinkle the remainder of the lemon zest over the top of the hummus, and eat!  I paired mine with carrots, pita triangles, cucumbers, red pepper and cauliflower.  All good.

Or- if you're feeling real lazy, just pop into your local Trader Joe's and pick up their edamame hummus.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Minor Setback

I knew it would happen at some point that I'd step on the scale and instead of going down, it'd go up.  That happened last night at weigh-in.  My first reaction- this isn't the same scale I usually weigh in on!  I felt like begging to weigh in on the "right" scale.  Could that have been the problem? 

My second reaction- where's the nearest McDonald's?  Why don't I have any girl scout cookies in the car!?  Lets just say it was a really good thing I stayed for the meeting.

The theme of last night's meeting- ways to get back on track.  It's like they read my mind.  Looking back on the week, I ate well, but could have been a little more careful.  Instead of exercising, I watched a lot of TV.  Tips I picked up this week:

- There's no such thing as failure- only feedback.  Learn from your mistakes people!  Don't let a small gain (or even a large one) be the reason to shove bad food in your pie hole.  Don't let your discouragement get the best of you.

-  Look at your past accomplishments and failures.  What worked and what didn't?  There's a reason you're back at Weight Watchers for the 3rd time- change your outlook, change your body, change your life!  Don't settle into old habits!

-  Have realistic expectations and goals!  Will I lose 20 lbs in a week? or a month?  NO!  Losing weight slowly might be frustrating- but you're setting up life long habits, and it's much better for your health.

-  Eat food that doesn't make you feel deprived.  If you really want McDonald's, have a small burger OR fries, but don't do it on a regular basis.

-  Don't view your weight losses as "lucky" things that happened to you- they happen because YOU are making this program work.  It's not luck- it's your willpower and strength.

-  Reward your self in positive, non-food ways.  At milestones, I like to pick up a new kitchen gadget that will encourage me to cook more and stay on track.

By the end of the meeting, I felt renewed and ready to go.  I ended up cooking myself a delicious turkey burger with avocado and grilled brussels sprouts for dinner last night- healthy and satisfying.  I had two (only two!!!!) Girl Scout cookies for dessert and felt really great.

Hopefully next week will be back to losing!

Week 10: +.2
Total: -10.8

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Recipe Round Up

So... this was supposed to be a weekly thing, right?  Oops.  Seeing as how I last did one of these on February 23rd (exactly a month ago!), it's an "every-once-in-a-while-when-I-feel-like-it" thing now.  Deal with it.

Grilled Pineapple with Mascarpone Cheese
Zucchini Black Bean Enchiladas
Spaghetti with Lemon and Olive Oil (made with WAY less cream and olive oil, and added shrimp and asparagus)
Grilled Brussels Sprouts (wow wow wow is all- I'll be blogging about these soon)
Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas

I'm sure there were more, but these were the top five off the cuff.  It's been a delicious month!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Grilled Pineapple with Mascarpone Cheese

Mmmmmmm pineapple!  They might not be local, but they ARE in season right now.  You may have noticed their spiney skins and crazy hair dos at your grocer recently and skipped them over because they seem like a lot of work...  Personally, I have always enjoyed pineapple, but never purchased a whole one, due to the fact that I had NO idea what to do with them.  I've been toying with the idea of grilling fruit lately, and happened to have a pineapple on hand, so this happened. Well, ladies and gents, cut 'em up and grill 'em and thank me later.

This is a pretty low point dessert, since fruit is zero Points+!

Grilled Pineapple with Mascarpone Cheese

1 pineapple, sliced into spears (if you're not feeling adventurous, just buy a precut one)
5 Tbsp Mascarpone Cheese
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract

**Note about buying whole pineapples- buy your pineapple a few days before you want to use it- store it upside down for a few days in a vase or jar- it lets the juice that settles at the bottom of the pineapple reintegrate with the rest of the fruit.  This pineapple tip brought to you by my friend Renee!**

Slice the top and bottom off of the pineapple, then slice the skin off of the remaining fruit.  Once skin is gone, cut pineapple around core in chunks, then slice those chunks into spears.  Or really, however you want to get that fruit off of that pineapple.  That method just seemed to work for me.

Spray grill basket with cooking spray.  Lightly dust pineapple with cinnamon, then place spears in grill pan.  Over medium heat, grill spears approximatley 4-6 minutes per side, or until you have nice grill marks on each side of the spear.  This should take 8-12 minutes. 

In a seperate bowl, combine Mascarpone cheese, sugar and vanilla.  Stir until completely combined.  Put a dollop of mascarpone cheese mixture on your spears, and serve! 

Serves approx. 4, depending on how large your pineapple is.  4 Points+ per serving.

The fruit caramelizes and gets this toasty charred flavor that pairs perfectly with the creamy, slightly sweet Mascarpone cheese.  It's the perfect end to any summer time meal... I'm planning to make this as much as possible before pineapples go out of season again!

Monday, March 21, 2011

West Side Market

Cleveland is proud to be home to the West Side Market- an open air market featuring hundreds of local vendors that sell everything from meat to fish to fresh fruits and veggies, as well as hard to find ethnic foods and spices.  I rediscovered the market when I moved back to the Cleveland area- and I appreciate what a gem this place is more and more every time I visit.

For someone like me who is making a real effort to buy locally and in season, this place is a god-send.  Every vendor I talked to knew every detail about their product- the meat vendors could tell you what sort of diet the animal was fed, as well as it's living conditions and where it was raised.  The fish vendors shared the difference between farm raised salmon and wild caught, and have a good relationship with all of their fisheries.  The cheese mongers were probably my favorite... mostly for the samples.  The vendor at Meister Foods even told me about the raw honey they sell- how the honey is centrifuged from the combs and where the hives are in Ohio.

Not all of the food is local- but the stuff that isn't is sourced very carefully, and the extensive knowledge of the product is still very evident.  At Mediterranean Imported Foods, they have a large selection of the best olive oils, feta cheeses, mustards and chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, AAAACK!  

As for what I took home on Saturday... I got a big bag full of goods.  Honey, mascarpone cheese, Parmesan cheese, Viennese sausage, Tahini, halva, jasmine rice, coffee and Pierogi's!  Lets just say that I'll be blogging about making hummus and what to pair with grilled pineapple; and breakfast on Sunday morning was awesome with pierogi's with our eggs and bacon instead of hash browns.  

Early Saturday morning seemed like a great time to go, as long as you can plan on being on your way out by 10 or 10:30 am.  The market gets PACKED around 10:30 or 11- so you get less time to really talk to the vendors if you have questions.  Don't be afraid to ask questions!  Ask to feel your fruits or veggies and to smell the fish you're buying.  Ask where the honey or cheese is made.  It's your money, your food, and your body that you'll be feeding, so you should care what goes into it.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Another Pleasant Surprise

I'll be honest, stepping on the scale on St. Patrick's Day wasn't something I was really looking forward to.  I thought (again) that for sure, I'd be gaining this week.  However, I managed to lose another .8 lbs!  Maybe I should stop being so negative in my head about my own progress.  I'm usually able to see the positive in most things... but for some reason, I've never been able to look at my own weight loss in a positive light. After the fact it's easy, when I know I've lost weight; but prior to meetings, I'm always fraught with feelings of insecurity and certain doom.

This week I'd like to focus on non-scale victories.  I didn't go to the meeting this week, so this can be my make-up homework.

My pants are looser, my face looks less full and I've become a whiz in the kitchen.  I'm allowing myself to have a good time when I'm out with friends, and am developing something called "Self-Control" when it comes to eating.  Ten pounds also seems to be when people really start to notice you're losing weight... a compliment here and there feels good too.

Week 9: -.8
Total: -11.0

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Seasonal Food

This counts as eating seasonally, right?  I think I'm in trouble.  They're not dangerous as long as they're still in the box...

Zucchini Black Bean Enchiladas

Can you tell I'm on a zucchini kick?  I think mostly I was just so amazed at my food processor's shredding abilities that I just kept feeding it zucchini.  The result- too much zucchini for just one Zucchini Feta Pie.  So what did I do with the extras?  I made enchiladas, of course!

This was my own little creation- the ingredients were greatly influenced by what I had in my fridge- yours will obviously vary if you're just throwing this together, but I've learned almost anything tastes good when rolled up in a corn tortilla, smothered in salsa and cheese and baked.

Zucchini Black Bean Enchiladas

1/2 C Black Beans
1/2 C Shredded Zucchini, with water released
1/4 C Corn Niblets
1/4 C Chopped Red Onion
1-2 Cloves Crushed Garlic
1 tsp Olive Oil
1/2 Lime
1/4 Tomato
1/2 C Shredded Cheese (I used Monteray Jack)
4 6" Corn Tortillas
2 Tbsp Sour Cream
1/4 C Salsa
Salt, Pepper, Chili Powder, Cayenne Pepper
1/2 Avocado

Preheat oven to 350º.  Spray glass baking dish with olive oil/cooking spray.

Sautee onion, garlic, zucchini, corn and black beans until tender.  Add to taste salt, pepper, chili powder and cayenne pepper.  Add fresh tomato at the very end, as well as juice from half of a lime.  Fill corn tortillas with zucchini/bean mixture, add a sprinkle of cheese.

Roll up and place seam side down in a glass baking dish.  Once all tortillas are in pan, cover with sour cream and salsa.  Sprinkle remainder of cheese over enchiladas.

Bake at 350º for approx. 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and edges of tortillas are browned.  Serve with avocado, eat!!!

Serves 2, approx. 9-10 Points+ per serving (with avocado.)  This also greatly depends on the ingredients you choose.

Admittedly, these are messy, and not very pretty to look at.  But they taste delicious.  They have a little kick from the cayenne, so be careful how much you add.  In retrospect, these would have also been delicious with a little jalapeno mixed in.  Another vegetarian dish for the books, and believe me, you will NOT miss the meat.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy PI Day!

Happy Pi Day, everyone!  In honor of 3.14, I'd like to share with you one of my favorite PIes- Katie's Zucchini Feta Pie.  I'll be making this tonight, but it's great any other day of the year too.  It's delicious, healthy, vegetarian, and makes GREAT leftovers.

I'll let you go to her blog to get the recipe, but I promise it's awesome.  

Photo via The Well-Fed Newlyweds

Friday, March 11, 2011

Halfway There!

This week was a genuine surprise.  I still counted everything I ate this week, stayed below my extra points, but I really didn't think I was going to lose this week.  And yet, I did.  1.4 lbs!  It tipped me over the 10 lb mark, which is a huge accomplishment for me.

What I've learned thus far:

1. Cooking has been a HUGE help.  I don't feel like I'm dieting at all- I feel like I'm eating better than ever.  I still make recipes with heavy whipping cream, I just cut back on the amount I need.  Sure, a recipe can call for a cup of oil, but do you need the whole cup?  Most of the time, no. 

2.  Cutting out processed foods from my life- awesome.  This hasn't been that difficult since I've been cooking more.  I do find I'm spending more at the grocery, and going more often; but I'm also eating healthier, whole foods.  I tried drinking a can of diet coke the other day, and I couldn't take more than one sip, it just tasted like chemicals.

3. Educating myself about what I put in my body has helped me stay on track.  Once you know what is in most processed food, or how it's made, it's difficult to stomach.  Therefore, it's really easy to stay away from.  Same with factory farmed meat, eggs, cheese and milk.  I still have a long way to go here, but I feel like I'm making great strides.

4.  Writing this blog has also helped me stay on track- I have a diary of what works, what doesn't, and hopefully, a reminder down the road that it IS worth it.  Thank you to anyone who reads this, and to all the blogs that inspire me to live healthier.

5.  I've realized that this isn't about the weight loss, it's about becoming a more educated, healthier individual.  Positivity works wonders.

Week 8: -1.4
Total: -10.2

Thursday, March 10, 2011

List of Fives

Some days it is harder than others to be grateful for the good things in life.  Because some days, it looks like this outside: 

Bleak, no?  Winter has never been all that depressing to me, but it is the spring days that I always think should be uplifting and warm that turn out to be gray, rainy and cold that are the worst for me.  Some days it is hard to find beauty in life.  Today is one of those days.  That being said, I think days like these are the most important to really push yourself to be grateful for the wonderful things that are holding you up.

Today I am grateful for:

1. Customers who acknowledge and thank you for your hard work in getting a job done quickly and well.

2. Being able to bring my dog with me to the office.  Puppy snuggles are the best thing when you're having a crap day.

3. Cooking blogs.  Being in the kitchen has become a big part of my life as of late, and gaining inspiration from others kitchen trials and tribulations are a great way of escaping.

4.  Actual mail.  Nothing is better than getting a card or letter in the mail from a loved one, and every time I do it brightens my day. 

5. Love.  I feel blessed everyday to be loved, and to have someone to love.  Nick, this is for you.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ladies Night In!

From one of our more adventurous, Lady Gaga themed nights
Every Tuesday my girlfriends and I have ladies night.  Sometimes we'll go out to eat, see a comedy show, have drinks or just go to someones house.  Once a week we put other things on hold and get together for ladies night.  Does that mean we're loud? Yes.  Does that mean we're obnoxious? Of course.  Is it one of the best nights of my week?  Absolutley.

It's been one of those weeks... just stress leaking out of every pore.  I hosted a last minute Ladies Night dinner at my house last night and made Katie's fabulous Tex Mex Stuffed Shells.  We ate cookie dough out of the tube.  Went through several bottles of wine.  I couldn't be happier about it.  Sometimes you need to just forget everything else that is going on and just have some girl talk.

Living healthy isn't just about the food you put in your body- it's about keeping your friends and loved ones close, feeling calm and relaxed, and just letting go every once in a while.  I'm weighing in tomorrow, and while I know it probably won't be a big loss this week, I'm glad I got the chance to decompress with my ladies.

Like I say- 'everything in moderation' applies to everything, and last night it applied to cookie dough out of the tube.

Monday, March 7, 2011

This Is Your LIFE

This is hanging on my bedroom wall as SOON as it arrives.  What a great message to wake up to every morning.  Live Your Dream and Share Your Passion.  These are words to live by.

Holstee Manifesto

Thursday, March 3, 2011

It's In The Doing That Brings About The Being

Weight Watchers was crowded last night!  Apparently, Jennifer Hudson's frequent day-time-talk-show appearances have made an impact on people... it was standing room only at last night's meeting.  It was a nice meeting- I lost a half pound- a pat-myself-on-the-back worthy amount.  My week was sort of stressful, which equals not too much time in the kitchen.  When I did cook, it was a lot of throwing veggies/beans/noodles in a pot or skillet for dinner and reheating them for lunch.   Not that that's a bad thing- still healthy and not boring, but not really worth sharing the "recipes."

To recap the meeting-  the quote of the week was: "It is in the doing that brings about the being."  Talk is talk- and action is action.  Talking about making better choices in the kitchen is different than going to the grocery store, buying fresh fruits and veggies, and making a healthy meal.  Practice what you preach!

I also need to take the time to remind myself that this is NOT just about the weight loss- see if you can follow me here, it is... AND it isn't.  It's about changing my outlook on what I put in my body, being comfortable in my own skin and making the most out of my life.  The weight loss is important, but it's not on the top of my list.  "Will you help teach me about this... what is it?... New Way?"

Creeping in on ten- weekly stats:

Week 7: -.6
Total: -8.8

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Bread Code

I guess they don't bake on Wednesdays or Sundays?
Woah!  How did I not know about this before?  Apparently... those little tags on bread are for more than just keeping the bags shut... they are an indicator for when the loaf was baked!! Stumbled upon this cool article today, use this to select the freshest loaf next time you're picking up bread at the store!!

**In some instances a tag might contain a date rather than a color- keep in mind this date is the SELL BY date, not the baked on date.**

via The Daily What