Real Food for Real Life

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Some things o love...

We have been on Weight Watchers for nine weeks now and I've lost 28 pounds, although Ben has lost an astonishing 42 (men!!).  I had promised when we started that this was not going to become a "diet" blog, a promise I intend to keep, but I wanted to share some things that have become favorites and helped us on our journey.  If you are trying to lose a bit of weight, or just want some easy meal ideas, I hope this is helpful.

Corn tortillas and fat free canned refried beans
I have always preferred corn tortillas to flour, but Ben was slower to come around.  But three corn tortillas are only 2 PointsPlus, as is 1/3 can of the beans.  Bean tacos topped with chopped onion, cilantro, and hot sauce have become a common lunch for me, and only 4 points.  We have been eating a lot of burrito bowls, a la Chipotle, and the beans are always at the bottom of the bowl.

Pre-chpped veg and salad in the fridge
Bell peppers, red and green, onions, halved grape tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, romaine, cabbage, radishes, cucumber...these are some of the things that I've been keeping in the fridge already sliced up and ready to go.  Salads, breakfast omelets, pizzas, tacos, burrito bowls. sandwiches- all sorts of meals come together quickly without too much thought or fuss.

Liquid egg whites and fat free cottage cheese
Most of the foods on my favorites list are not new to me, the exception being the liquid egg whites.  A half cup of these and a big handful of chopped veg are the base of a delicious and easy omelet in a bowl, and come in at one teeny, tiny point.  The cottage cheese isn't new, what's new is how much of it we are eating.  A whole cup is only three points and delicious on a salad with some fresh ground black pepper or fresh fruit.  This is good for a gal now in her forties (yikes) who needs to increase her calcium intake, but doesn't like milk.

Single serve tuna pouches
These easy pouches are only 2 PointsPlus and are available with a variety of seasonings, my favorite being the sweet and spicy.  A small can of drained tuna in water is also only two points, but I really like the ease and variety of these packs, and they are sooo much easier for lunch packing.  The last time these went on sale I bought a dozen; now I'm about out and waiting for the next sale.  I really love the tuna and cottage cheese together on a salad dressed only with balsamic vinegar

 Salsas, hot sauces, and pepper flakes
Again, nothing new here, but the amount of salsa we are eating has skyrocketed with the introduction of omelet and burrito bowls. Salsa and hot sauce are "free" additions to your meal, and in addition to adding delicious flavor, capsaicin has been shown to speed up the metabolism and bring on endorphins, which act to improve mood.  So hurray for the heat, bring it on.

Fat free sour cream (and Greek yogurt), prepared hummus and grainy mustard
We were already eating these things, but have practically done away with out use of reduced fat mayo, which is still pretty hefty in the point department, considering what you get for it.  We haven't missed the mayo at all.  An easy snack that I have been having of late is two slices of toasted whole grain bread, each spread with a tablespoon of hummus for a total of 4 or 5 PointsPlus, depending on the bread I use.  Hummus can be a bit pricey if not on sale, but Aldi offers several delicious varieties for only $1.49 (in SW Ohio).

Red grapefruits and clementines/mandarians
I have become seriously addicted to both, sometimes eating two grapefruits in a single day.  And I don't do any of that silly nonsense of cutting them in half and sprinkling with sugar; I peel and eat them like an orange.  It's a bit time consuming to remove all the pith, but well worth it.  The green apples?  Wish I was enjoying them more, but just not feeling it right now.  Maybe once the citrus is out of season and not so flavorful.

Some other favorites not pictured:  2% milk cheeses and part skim mozzarella  are lower in fat but still provide the melty nature of cheese- the fat free cheeses just don't cut it.  Flat breads for pizzas and wraps- the Flatout brand lights are 3 points each, and the Aldi brand Fit and Active are 2 points each.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Something delicious came of the wine after all...

Beef Stew with FRe Merlot and Rosemary

We have given up alcohol for Lent and, overall, it hasn't felt like much of a sacrifice (note to self, give up dark chocolate next year).   That said, there are some meals that are perfected with the inclusion of a nice glass of wine, so I thought we'd give "FRe" by Sutter Home a try, picking up the Red Blend and the Merlot. The Red Blend wasn't horrible, but sweeter than we like, and seemed rather thick on the tongue. Fair enough, I bought it without knowing whether it would be dry or sweet.

So we opened the Merlot.  Merlot is supposed to be a medium bodied DRY red, so this should have been the one. WRONG. It tasted similar, but yet worse, than the blend. Ben called it bad Welsh's.   Now what to do with these $8 bottles of bad Welsh's?
The Red Blend was doled out in small amounts to flavor clear soda.  Not a bad use, although an expensive way to flavor soda.  The Merlot went into a rich and delicious beef stew.  I have made beef dishes before with pomegranate juice, so I figured  this would not be too  far a stretch.  The ample use of garlic, rosemary, and black pepper counterbalanced the sweetness perfectly.  I will certainly make this again, although I'll probably forgo the $8 FRe and "settle" for a $3 bottle of POM.  Be sure to serve this with a crusty loaf to sop up all the goodness; I served a rosemary focaccia.  Perfect!

Beef Stew with FRe Merlot and Rosemary
1 1/4  lb. lean beef stew meat
2 T olive oil
coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 medium onion, large dice
8 oz baby carrots
12 oz mushrooms, wiped and sliced thick (I used small portobellos)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 t dried rosemary, crushed
1 bay leaves
2 1/2 cups FRe Merlot (or Red Blend, or POM)
1 cup beef stock
1 T cornstarch

Heat the olive oil a heavy bottomed Dutch oven over medium high heat; generously season the beef with salt and pepper, removing any particularly fatty looking pieces.  When the pan is hot, sear the beef in batches, removing to a small bowl as each batch becomes nice and caramelized.  You should be developing a nice and caramelized pan bottom, too.  Flavor. flavor, flavor.

 When the beef is done, add the onions to the pan and cook just until they begin to color.  Add the carrots, mushrooms, garlic, rosemary, and bay leaves; cook another minute or two, until fragrant.  Add about half the wine and deglaze the pan, scrapping up all the brown bits.  Add the reserved beef with any accumulated juices, the remaining wine, and the beef stock.  The amounts of wine (or juice) and beef stock can vary a bit depending on what you have, and how much you need to come almost to the surface of, but not covering the veg and beef.  Bring to a bowl, cover with a well-fitting lib, and place in a 350 degree oven for one hour (or simmer on the stove top if you prefer). 

After an hour, check that the beef is tender, if not, continue cooking a while longer.  Once tender, taste the cooking liquid for seasoning and adjust as needed; I added more salt and MUCH more pepper at this point.  Dissolve the cornstarch in a small amount of water to make a slurry and stir into the pan.  Cover and return to the heat for 15 minutes to thicken.  Serve.  Eat.  Smile.

WW PointsPlus Values:  11 points if serving 4 for dinner, or 7 points if serving 6 for lunch.

Monday, March 4, 2013

A favorite restaurant dish redo...

 Kool Nachos Salad

While we are still eating out on occasion, it has slacked off considerably since we have been on Weight Watchers.  Last Wednesday I had our dinner planned, prepped, and even had the table set, but then found a Facebook posting from a favorite local restaurant.  Ten percent of their sales that day were going to The Caring Closet, so everything was put away and we headed over come dinner time.  Besides having great food (the bleu cheese dressing is a must have), and  reasonable prices, the restaurant has been an ardent supporter of TCC, so will always get our business.

The boy always likes to get boneless wings with sweet BBQ (the wimp) with chips or curly fries (with cheese, please), Ben likes a burger or boneless wings with extra hot sauce (although we have both gone for the triple on occasion), while I have started ordering the Kool Nachos almost every time we go.  Although on the starter menu, these nachos are enough for dinner.  On this visit I asked for the chicken to be grilled instead of breaded and fried, and half the amount of chips.  The chicken did not suffer in the least for the skinny treatment, and I still didn't finish all the chips, so a win win.

All through dinner, Ben was checking out my plate, and said he was going to order it next time.  But in the meanwhile we could make it at home, so that is what we did.  Making this skinny wasn't too tough, but their bleu cheese dressing is the best, so I wasn't even going to attempt to "skinnyfy" it.  I used fat free sour cream for the creaminess and cooling and will save the bleu cheese as an occasional indulgence.  Those with more tender palates may wish to sub BBQ sauce for the hot sauce.

I had already started eating when I realized I left off the jalapeños and olives!

Kool Nachos Salad

For each serving:
2 oz. Baked Tostitos
1 oz. 2% milk Velveeta (we used the Aldi store brand)
1 oz. skim milk
4 oz. plain baked chicken breast
hot sauce of choice, to taste (we used Frank's Extra Hot)
2 handfuls shredded romaine
diced red onion and tomato, to taste
sprinkling of of sliced green (or black) olives
pickled jalapeños (we used mine, because the are the best :)
1/4 cup fat free sour cream

To prepare the chicken:
Take the desired number of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and trim them of all visible fat.  Place the chicken on a baking sheet lightly sprayed with cooking spray and season generously with salt and fresh ground black pepper.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Remove and let cool to the touch before cutting into bite sized chunks; set aside.  I made more chicken than we needed for dinner, so the leftovers are waiting in the fridge for another easy meal.

To prepare the salad:
 Melt the Velveeta with the milk for about a minute in the microwave at 50% power; stir until smooth.  I was making several salads so I did this in a large glass measuring cup, allowing me to easily measure out the correct amount for each.  If you prepare this larger amount, you will need to adjust your cooking time.
Place the baked Tostitos in the bottom of your bowl(s) and drizzle with the cheese sauce; toss to coat the chips with the cheese.
Top the chips with the lettuce, tomatoes, onion, olives, and jaaapeño slices.
Toss the desired amount of chicken in a small bowl with the chosen sauce before piling on top of the salad.
Top with the sour cream.  Eat.  Enjoy.

WW PointsPlus Values:
Baked Tostitos, 3pt  per ounce
Cheese sauce as prepared, 2pt per serving
Chicken with hot sauce, 1pt per ounce, add apt per T for BBQ
Romaine, tomato, onion, jalapeños, and olives (in small amount) are free
FF sour cream is 1pt for a quarter cup

Note:  This post has been edited to remove links and references to the name of the restaurant as it would appear that the ownership was displeased with this post for some reason.  I would hate to continue providing them with free advertising.
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