Archive | January, 2012

The Slice-o-Matic Debacle and Au Gratin Potatoes

30 Jan

There are few things (food-related or not) that I love more in this world than cheese.  My cheese tray is one of my most treasured kitchen items (it sits out all the time in a place of honor above my sink), and I love cheesy anything in recipes.

(Look at that delicious cheesy goodness!!!)

It’s really no wonder I was attracted to an au gratin potatoes recipe on the Weight Watchers website.  After making it, I made some modifications to the recipe that keep it light but infuse more flavors that I enjoy.  And, of course, a requisite for au gratin potatoes is the cheese factor.

A funny thing happened while preparing my au gratin potatoes.  My sweet, sweet man bought me a slice-o-matic one night as a surprise gift.  I’ve been dealing with my dull, awful kitchen knives for months, but I’d been longing for a mandolin.  Unfortunately, I do tend to have little clumsy accidents and ligaments tend to get cut up — and my beautiful sous chef decided that a slice-o-matic is a safer option than a full-blown mandolin.  Gosh, I wanted the slice-o-matic to work so badly.  Not only was it a cute gift, but it seemed like a nice concept.  But, no.  It was awful to use, and more of a hinderance than a help.  I ended up having to slice most of the potatoes myself.

(total slice-o-matic failure)

However, the au gratin potatoes is pretty easy to prepare, and although it is not the perfect menu item for a weeknight due to the long cooking time, it’s fairly easy to prepare ahead of time.

Au Gratin Potatoes

adapted from a Weight Watchers recipe

4 Weight Watchers points plus value; 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 large raw onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 2 lbs. uncooked Yukon gold potatoes, thinly sliced (preferably not by a slice-o-matic)
  • 1 cup low-fat shredded Cheddar cheese
  • some salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Hungarian hot paprika, to taste (my taste tends towards 2-3 tsp)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Spray a baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.  I like an oval baking dish for this recipe.
  3. Take a large pot (I use my trusty Creuset Dutch oven) and melt the butter.  Add the sliced onion and cook for about 5 minutes.  It should smell heavenly and buttery in the kitchen.
  4. Add the flour and stir.  Slowly pour the skim milk into the pot and stir it all together.
  5. Add the potatoes and mix so that everything is covered and stirred together.  Wait until the concoction starts to boil.
  6. Stir in the cheese, paprika, salt, and pepper.  Mix everything all together and turn off the heat.
  7. Pour everything into the sprayed dish and smooth out the surface of the dish.
  8. Pop it into the oven for an hour uncovered.
  9. Remove the dish from the oven, cover with foil, and cook in the oven for another 20 minutes.
  10. Let stand for about five minutes, cut into 8 pieces, and enjoy!

When I’ve made this dish, I’ve let it stand and then put it in the fridge and saved it for the next evening.  To re-heat, put it in the oven for about 15-20 minutes on a low temperature (around 250).  Check to make sure it is heated through before serving.

Look at the beautiful end result!  It gets delicious and crisp all on its own!  Yummy — and actually healthy for you!

And as for my weigh in last week — I lost weight, and I feel better and better.  I did realize this weekend (which shouldn’t have come to a shock to me!) that I never meal plan for the weekends, and so I’m usually more on track Monday-Friday, and I’m eating Chipotle twice within a 24 hour period on the weekends (not that that happened this weekend or anything…).  It’s on my radar now, and I am going to try to plan my meals for Saturday and Sunday next week too!

We are doing “Meatless Monday” tomorrow — I hope it goes well!  It’s our first attempt!

Advertisements

Weight Watchers Update

24 Jan

For the first time since joining Weight Watchers, I used more points than my allotment for the week. What?!?

Sidebar A: Clearly, I didn’t accurately track during the holidays. I probably ate 10000 times more than my points allowed. For shame.

Sidebar B: Hey, I tracked through all those grazing periods… good for me!!!  (And trust me, this was not my first reaction… guilt and shame must have their day before any sort of re-framing happens.)

The way online Weight Watchers works is that you have a certain amount of points per day (based on age, weight, gender, health conditions, whatever else they use) and then you receive a certain amount of playing points per week.  I weigh-in on Wednesdays, so from Wednesday-Tuesday I am allotted 26 points per day and 49 “anytime points” per week.  This is brilliant.  I am allowed to indulge and go to Restaurant Week with my friends (www.baltimorerestaurantweek.com) and not feel guilty.  I am also allowed to have 1/2 cup of Turkey Hill Light Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream at least 3 nights a week… alright, it’s more like 5 nights.

So, the first week back on track? I go over. I blow it.  But I’m trying to focus on the positives, and even though I’m engaging in some negative behaviors right now, I am still overall in a better place than I was during the holidays.

My next weigh-in day is tomorrow.  I have 2 “anytime” points left this week, so I am in better shape than I was last Tuesday.  Ideally, I like to still have between 15-30 “anytime” points remaining at the end of the week, but ideally I’d also like to run for 5 minutes without wheezing up a lung… and some stuff just isn’t going to happen right away!

Eating with abandon sounds like a good idea… but it never is.

(found this on pinterest… it definitely speaks to me!)

 

To set myself up for success this week, I planned my meals better.  I tried to eat out with less frequency (damn this Chinese New Year and all the delectable Chinese food that we had this weekend!).  I tried to get more sleep (hah!).  We shall see tomorrow during my weigh-in how it all turns out.  Besides a slight (devouring) mishap with some wonton soup this weekend, I already feel healthier and more in-control over my eating habits.

My goals for this upcoming week:

  • Cook more at home and try to avoid the always-tempting carryout options.
  • Plan my meals better! I baked one casserole and made oatmeal in the slow cooker that should last us the whole week, but with how busy we have been, I should probably make some sides and another main course for some variety.
  • Work out.  I bought a one-month discounted gym pass for a fitness club down the street from me. They offer zumba classes and a bunch of other things.  I would like to either cash that bad boy in or walk outside if it is nice this week!

More recipes will be posted soon!

 

Ignorance is Bliss

24 Jan

How did I not know about steel cut oats? Ignorance was definitely bliss, because now that I am aware of their tasty existence, I will be eating them every single morning.

20120124-094834.jpg

(Especially delicious oatmeal for a week through the slow cooker! Yum!)

Stuffed Cabbage Casserole

22 Jan

This delicious casserole is enough to on-and-off feed my man and myself for literally a week.  We have a lot of busy nights where it feels like our options are either carryout or leftovers, and this has been our saving grace.  Although it is not a typical stuffed cabbage dish, it has the elements of my childhood favorite — heavy-handed paprika, ground beef, and browned cabbage.  It is a bit time-consuming, but it is worth the time due to how filling it is.  It reheats well, and if you add a dollop of sour cream, it just becomes more magical the more days it sits in the fridge!

It all begins with a ton of cabbage.  So much that you think it is TOO much cabbage.

(Yes, that is my 7.25 quart dutch oven filled to the brim with cabbage)

And browning meat.  And garlic, onions, tomatoes, sauce, deliciousness.

Yumm-o!

And it ends up looking like this:

All layered — cabbage, meat, cabbage, meat. 

And then you pop it in the oven, sprinkle some cheese on it, and bake that bad boy some more… so delicious!

Stuffed Cabbage Casserole

This recipe is slightly modified from Skinnytaste, who had modified it from Kayln’s Kitchen. 

It has 10 servings, and each serving is worth 9 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 lbs. 90% lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic, depending on how much garlic you enjoy in your food (I used all 5, obviously)
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1.5 tsp hot Hungarian Paprika
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1.5 heads of green cabbage, chopped
  • 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes with juice
  • 15 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups of cooked brown rice
  • 2 cups of part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
  2. Spray a large glass casserole dish with non-stick olive oil spray (I used a 13×11 inch dish).
  3. Cut the cabbage in half, cut out the core, and remove the outer leaves.  Roughly chop the cabbage.
  4. Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a large pot (I used my Dutch oven) and cook the cabbage over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, turning the cabbage regularly to get all of the browning bits from the bottom.  Add salt and pepper to the cabbage, to taste.  The cabbage should be wilted and browning, but not totally cooked.
  5. In a large pot (I took my cabbage out of the Dutch oven and re-used that particular pot) or large pan, heat over medium and add ground beef.  Cook Ground beef until it is brown and cook through, stirring to make sure everything has cooked evenly.  Remove ground beef from pot and set aside.
  6. Add 1 tsp of olive oil to the same pot and sautee chopped onion until it starts to soften, about 3-5 minutes. 
  7. Add the minced garlic cloves to the onion, some dried thyme, and paprika; cook for a few minutes.
  8. Add the diced tomatoes with their juice, the tomato sauce, the ground beef, and the water to the pot.  Simmer for about 15 minutes until it is thickening and boiling.
  9. Add 2 cups of cooked rice and cook for another minute, stirring to combine.
  10. Grab the sprayed casserole dish, and take half the cabbage and layer it on the bottom.  Then, ladle half the beef-rice mixture over the cabbage, spreading out so that it is even.  Complete the last layer of cabbage and the final layer of beef.  Wrap everything tightly with foil.
  11. Bake the casserole in the oven for 40 minutes.  Take out the casserole, sprinkle 2 cups of cheese over the casserole, re-wrap the foil, and slide it back in the oven for 20 more minutes.
  12. When the casserole is bubbling, the cheese is browning, and the smells in the oven are basically overwhelmingly delicious, take out of the oven, slice into 10 servings, and enjoy!

New obsession

17 Jan

I am trying to eat breakfast on a more frequent basis. Here is my latest obsession:

20120117-092749.jpg

Avocado and toast… And super fancy coffee (courtesy of my mom’s present for the man’s birthday).

Savoring

13 Jan

savor (verb): to perceive by taste or smell, especially with relish; to give oneself to the enjoyement of

Me, circa Summer 2010, with the turkey burger that nearly ate me.

Tonight, I was cooking a few things, and I had to chop up red bell peppers (among many other things). 

(There is something so relaxing about dicing things and getting them precisely right.)

I get in a zone when I’m cutting fruits&veggies — I think part of it is relaxing, but part of it is definitely intense concentration because I have pretty awful kitchen knives and I’d like to keep all of my fingers. 

As I was chopping, I took a piece of the raw pepper. It was sweeter than I expected, and I remembered how I used to bring raw red peppers and goat cheese to lunch in high school every single day.  And I remembered why I loved the pairing of raw peppers — a light crunch, a beautiful texture that looks like pebbled leather, a lingering sweetness — with creamy dips and cheeses.  I remembered why I like to eat vegetables raw, as opposed to roasted, broiled, steamed, sauteed, and otherwise cooked (which are also delicious!). 

I’ve been trying to savor all of the food I’m eating.  I love food — I really do! — but some days, I’m rushing through lunch and neglecting to eat breakfast and scarfing my dinner at 10pm. Okay, who am I kidding?  That’s most days. 

And then, when I eat something decadent and highly caloric, I try to savor the flavors, unless I’m on a binge.  When I’m bingeing, I’m eating everything in sight with no thought about flavor.  And sometimes, when I am busy and eating a healthy lunch as I type away at the computer, I also am not savoring.  Whether I am bingeing or eating healthfully but robotically… same end result.

My goal is to consciously eat.  Whether I am eating a salad or a souffle, I need to slow down and really taste the food.  Revel in it. Delight in the flavors.   And I love fruits, I love vegetables, I love healthy food, just as much as those bad-for-you-yet-soooo-delicious foods.  The trick is to understand what I’m eating, really think about what I am eating, and then relish the flavors. 

I think that savoring my food is one of the keys to continual weight loss.  Not feeling deprived because I’ve fully appreciated and tasted my meal.  I want to remember tasting that red pepper today… and try not to hurry through my foods again, whether I’m splurging on something buttery and delightful, or eating some fruit at work.

Clementine carnage… my new mid-afternoon treat at the office. They didn’t stand a chance.

Getting Back on Track

10 Jan

This is a hard process.  I’ve been on Weight Watchers since the end of summer, and I’ve lost 15-20 lbs.  There is a 5 pound range due to my crazy binge eating during the holidays. 

After my recent trip to Old Town with the future hubby, I said I would get back on track.  No more eating out, no more late-night chocolate, no more fried foods.  I need to find the inspiration to get back on track.

After I had been on Weight Watchers for a month or so (and had been seeing the results), I remember thinking to myself while reading health/fitness blogs, “how can these people plateau and stop counting points?”  I couldn’t comprehend stopping such a good thing.  The unfortunate truth is that after losing about 20 lbs., I hit a totally self-induced plateau.  

I got tired of measuring, tired of trying.  I stopped going to my zumba class, and I got easily discouraged with running.  And then the holidays came, and I was baking cranberry pies with sticks of butter in them and cauliflower gratins with mounds of cheese.  I was eating lots of chocolate and mashed potatoes and hosting a New Year’s Eve party with the theme of “Decadence.”  And then it was my fiance’s birthday, and there was no point in trying to watch what I’m eating just to fail — or so the thought process went.  Excuse after excuse, because after all, it is the holiday, right? 

Which brings me to today, a day in which I planned all of my meals and I tracked all the things I needed to track… until dinner.  Today is my fiance’s actual birthday, and after our long day, he wanted to go out to eat instead of having me cook.  I agreed and we went out to eat.  I ate fries and a burger.  I went over my points for the day.

Usually I spiral out of control with guilt and shame — I feel fat, good-for-nothing, my entire day is shot.  However, I am working on reframing and turning my negatives into positives.  Or, failing that strategy, at least acknowledging where I made good decisions today along with my poor choices.  I did do a good job tracking today, and even though I went out for dinner, I still tracked all of those points — something I hadn’t done in a while. I made good choices for breakfast and lunch.  I have part of my dinner made for tomorrow (Weight Watchers recipe of potato au gratin — if it turns out well, I will post the recipe here).

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I cannot snap my fingers and automatically get back on track.  Maybe I need to start out with baby steps, and just try to track every day.  I want to make better choices and find that motivation again.  I want to break this plateau.