Monthly Archives: June 2009

Zucchini-Feta Gratin from Cooking Light

Zucchini-Feta Gratin

It seems like I haven’t made a new recipe in ages. I may be exaggerating a bit, but I’ve just sort of been making a little of this and that. I haven’t made a “big batch” recipe in weeks! With the warmer weather, I’m just happy putting fresh things together and calling it a meal. I ended my little kitchen hiatus today by making a Zucchini-Feta Gratin using this recipe from Cooking Light Magazine. 

This was an easy recipe, and it resulted in a dish that could be a great choice for entertaining too. I love dishes that look more complicated than they really are. Mwa ha ha ha. Tricky. 

I followed the recipe with only a couple of tweaks.

  • I grilled my squash on the griddler instead of steaming it. Extra flavor? Yes, please!
  • I used a mix of yellow squash and zucchini for a more colorful dish. Plus… that’s what I had in the crisper.
  • I used fresh mint from the pot on the balcony instead of using dried mint as directed in the recipe. Why use dried when I have fresh out on the balcony?!

Let me show you how easy it was:

First, I layered the rice and feta mixture in my pie plate, after spraying the plate well with cooking spray:

Rice CrustI made extra rice this morning when I was cooking the rice for this recipe, and I had one of my favorite little breakfasts– rice, sugar, almond breeze and berries. I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving rice, milk and sugar. YUM! It was a favorite when I was a kid, and it has stood the test of time for me.

Brekkie BreakOk. Back to the recipe. Sorry about that! I love my milky sweet rice! After I had the rice crust in the pie dish, I grilled my squash on the Griddler. Y’all know I love my Griddler. Here he is:

Griddle me This...While the veggies were getting tanned, I chopped up some balcony pot mint:

Minty Fresh GoodnessThe mint went into a bowl along with some freshly ground nutmeg. Nutmeg and eggs are a match made in heaven! I bought some lovely brown eggs at the farmer’s market yesterday (along with the squash and the feta!!) This was a farmer’s market dish for sure!

Eggs

I love pretty brown eggs! 

Once the veggies were grilled, I mixed them with the other half of the feta, the salt and the pepper, and then filled my little rice crust. I sort of used my fingers to spread the veggies around in a nice even layer before I poured the egg mixture on top. After I added the egg mixture, I gave the dish a little tilt–this way and that– to make sure the egg mixture made its way all around the dish.

Ready To BakeIt went into the oven, and forty -five minutes later, I enjoyed a nice wedge of gratin with some TJ’s turkey meatballs (my answer to quickie “meatloaf” for one), and some sliced fresh tomato.

Lunchy LunchWhen I was a kid, I remember how my parents and grandparents would cover a whole plate with fresh tomatoes from the garden after a big dinner. They would add a little salt and then tear into them. It was kind of like the salad course. Me? Did I appreciate the gorgeous, red, homegrown Arkansas tomatoes? Nope. I hated them. What was I thinking??? Crazy.

I got the tomatoes on my lunch plate at the farmer’s market yesterday from some Hanover, VA farmers. They were SO good and very flavorful! I just added a little salt. I wonder where I got that idea? Ha! I think my tomato experience is a good example of why you should try foods that you might have hated as a kid! 

The gratin had a nice flavor, and I love that the edges of the rice crust got a little crispy and browned. I loved the flavor of the fresh mint contrasted with the salty feta. YUM!! I’m sure this would be great made with brown rice, but I’m trying to use up some things from the pantry. This seemed like  great time to use some white rice that has been around for awhile. I’m sure this would be good with steamed veggies, as directed in the recipe, but I’d encourage grilling them if possible. It was delicious, and I can’t wait to have it on my dinner plate over the next few days.

Now that I’ve had a nice lunch, I think I’ll take my bicycle out for another spin. I don’t believe I’ve introduced you. Meet Coby:

CobyYou can’t tell in this photo, but he is sort of a Cobalt blue color– hence the name: Coby. Coby and I went out yesterday for a ride, and it was not smooth sailing. I can’t believe it, but it was our first trip out this summer. Time is getting away from me! Before we left, I aired up the tires using a new pump I bought awhile back. Before I was even a mile from home… the front tire blew out. Ugh! We’d barely gotten started.

Feeling the need to take care of the problem ASAP, I walked Coby to a nearby bike shop. While there, they repaired the tire, and they also adjusted the derailleur because I mentioned that the chain always pops off when I try to shift down into first. I live in an area with some pretty big hills, and downshifting definitely makes them easier to tackle. Forty minutes later, thinking all was well, I hopped back on and resumed my trek. I couldn’t wait to shift down into first. I just knew it was going to make the hills much more tolerable. Feeling confident on the first big hill I came to, I clicked my little gear shifter and… the chain popped off again. Aargh!

I put the chain back on, wiped my greasy paws on some bright green grass, and then enjoyed a pretty nice ride. I did not try to change gears again, but I’m sure that just made me burn more calories on the dastardly hills. 

I bought Coby last summer after being passed by bikers while walking/running on the local trails. It looked like fun! How about you? Do you have a bicycle? Do you ride to work?… for fun?… as a serious athletic endeavor? Does your bicycle have a name? 🙂 I like to go on long rides on the weekends for a bit of a break in my cardio routine. I also love riding down to Old Town Alexandria and having a little picnic by the water. Riding to places that always seemed far away certainly made my world feel smaller. I kind of like that feeling sometimes!

Oh, I almost forgot! I had another Coconut Cream Pie Holey Donut yesterday before my ride. I promised to try to take a photo since the last couple of tries have failed. Here it is:

Coconut Cream PieThis one is my favorite, favorite, FAVORITE of all of the flavors I’ve tried. I’m enamoured.

Speaking of my being enamoured… don’t forget that you still have a few days to save on hottie Jay Robb’s products using a promotion code especially for Just Sweet Enough readers. Check out the bottom of this post for more info.

Now, I’m going to pack a snack and take Coby out for another spin. Wish me luck!

I hope you are having a stellar weekend! I also hope you’ll try the yummy Cooking Light gratin recipe if you are looking for something new to do with summer squash. If you have a garden (or a neighbor with a garden), a bumper crop (or a big bag of squash left on your doorstep in the dead of night) is always a possibility. I know you will want to have this recipe up your sleeve! Ciao for now, y’all! 🙂

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Filed under cooking, Cooking Light, diet, Farmer's Market, Fitness, Food, Recipes, Uncategorized, Vegetarian Recipes, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Griddle Me This, Griddle Me That…

…Griddle Zucchini and Sausage (low-fat…). Summer is here, and I don’t know what I’d do without my Griddler!! More about that later. Let’s begin at the beginning. Here are yesterday and today’s brekkie bowls. The only difference is the shape of the bowls.

Yesterday:

Square MealToday:

Well Rounded MealI did it, friends. I ate Mr. Banana Man. I finished off the last two crazy banana locks this morning! This is the same bowl as usual: oat bran, five grain cereal, Jay Robb’s Vanilla Whey Protein Powder, bananas and TJ’s Peanuts, Berries and Almonds. Yum! 

I snapped photos yesterday, but I didn’t have time to post. I hope you won’t mind seeing double today! I hate to waste my photos! 🙂 Yesterday’s lunch was another picnic special. Yogi would approve! I even ate outside with friends, so it was a real al fresco picnic instead of a picnic of the fake desk variety.

Hey, Boo boo...I love my picnic lunch!!! I was so glad to hear that several of you have nice memories of Yogi and Boo Boo!! What fun!

Today’s lunch was different, since I was working at home, but it shows a similar approach to lunch.

Tuna Fish and Tater Totties... sort of...What’s the same? Well, aside from the obvious mini pitas, this is another meal made up of lots of little things. I love little bits of this and that. Yes, I am a fan of tapas! Both of these lunches involve some fresh produce and some protein. That’s a typical lunch formula for me. If you think you have nothing healthy to toss into your lunch bag, consider making a little snack plate like this one!

Today’s plate includes a Dr. Praeger’s Potato Pancake. One of my mother’s favorite little lunches involves tuna salad and tater tots. I thought of her today. This is no tater tot, but it is pretty darn close! I also have some Trader Joe’s triple layer hummus on the side. If you have a TJ’s nearby, and you haven’t tried this hummus, trust me. It’s GOOD!! It’s one of my favorite hummus flavors for sure!

The tuna salad has hardboiled egg, sweet pickle relish and dijon mustard along with a tiny bit of light mayo and some Greek yogurt mixed in with the tuna for a bit of creaminess. There’s just enough mayo for a mayo flavor, but it gets most of its creaminess from the Greek yogurt. That’s one of my favorite salad tricks!

Yesterday, I snacked on a few graham crackers with peanut butter (as usual), and I also had an afternoon stroll to Tangy Sweet where I tried a bowl of their strawberry fro yo. 

Berry Yummy Fro YoSigh. I do love Tangy Sweet.

This afternoon, I had some sweet and creamy treats too. I sent some skim milk, blueberries and half a packet of Weight Watchers vanilla chai smoothie mix for a little ride in the Magic Bullet, and was rewarded with a yummy and brightly colored smoothie. 

True Blue

After that, I had a blueberry Oikos with some coconut on top. I don’t know why I’ve never added coconut to my Greek yogurt before. Umm…. yum! It was a nice addition. I’m sure this won’t be the last time I put this pair together!

Berry CoconuttyThis afternoon, I also had a tiny little snack bowl:

Snick SnackA few chocolate almonds, a smidgen of granola and a few butterscotch chips made the perfect snack close to dinnertime when I just needed a little something to tide me over until dinner.

So…. Dinner. My title pays tribute to my favorite summertime dinner making gadget: my Cuisinart Griddler. It’s great for me, since I don’t live in a place where I am allowed to have an outdoor grill. It also makes dinner preparation SUPER quick. I love grilled veggies, and this is a nice way to grill them right in the kitchen.

I took a package of TJ’s chicken sausages out of the freezer yesterday, and I had zucchini and other veggies in the crisper. Those ingredients are definitely the makings of several dinners for one. Last night’s plate:

Din DinI’m now out of my Dr. Praeger’s Potato Cakes. 😦 Last night’s dinner was good. Tonight? Well, not to get all Emeril on you, but I kicked it up a notch. Should I say it? I shouldn’t say it, right?

Bam!It has to be said. BAM! Yes, inspired by Mara, I whipped up some quick polenta for one, and it made this one of the best quickie dinners I’ve made in a long time. The whole thing was done in ten minutes!

I only made half a serving of polenta, which was plenty for me. I mixed in some cheddar, and saved some to put on top. I also topped it with some griddlered red bell pepper (yes, the same one I’ve been eating all week… it was big!) and some fresh basil from the balcony. I love polenta when I eat it in restaurants, but I really never think to make it for myself. This was so good! I can’t believe I’ve been missing out!! It took no more time than making my morning oats. Easy peasy!! It was so delicious alongside my grilled zucchini and my chicken sausage. Not to be boring, but I’m pretty sure I know what I’ll be having for dinner tomorrow evening!

I also have some visions of future polenta breakfasts. Oh yes. I have some ideas for sure. Grits are grits, right?

In addition to my evening griddling, I’ve also been diligent in my Holey Donut sampling duties. Last night, I tried the vanilla coconut donut.

Coconutty!Sorry the picture looks sort of electric. I love my blue plates, but they sometimes make for crazy photos!

Tonight, I tried the vanilla crumb donut (and a different camera angle).

D'oh-nutWhat can I say? Not surprisingly, they were both really good. I prefer the coconut donut over the crumb donut, but that’s just because I really love coconut. I’ve had to make a “one per day” rule for these little gems, but I think that just makes me enjoy them more. It would be easy to eat the whole box! “Wholey Donuts?” They are THAT good!

I tried one other new thing today:

RefrescanteThe package says that it is “like sticking a straw in a coconut.” I have tasted coconut milk straight from a coconut before, and, yes– that is what this was like. It was good, and it was refreshing. It wasn’t, however, a taste that captured my heart. I would have it again some time, but I’m not going to be making emergency runs to Whole Foods for a Vita Coco fix. It’s kind of sweet, and it does taste sort of like coconut. I don’t know. It was just a little… weird. I may have to try another one soon just to verify my feelings about it. Hmm. Yes. I think there may have to be a second taste test on this one. The jury is still out.  

This has been quite a day. I’m not really one who keeps up with celebrities, but I was certainly saddened by the loss of both Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. I remember watching Charlie’s Angels as a kid, and I have nice memories of singing “We Are the World” in my elementary school music class. Along with the metro crash this week, and the turmoil abroad, the news is even more depressing than usual. Here’s hoping for some happy news in the days to come!!

I can offer you this bright spot: I want to remind you about the opportunity to save $$ on Jay Robb products purchased from his on-line store using a special promotion code exclusively for Just Sweet Enough readers. For more info, check out yesterday’s post. I have a little Jay Robb in my bowl every morning! If you can’t find these products in a store near you, this is a chance for you to save a bit of money and summon some Jay Robb’s love right to your door. 

Now, I’m going to turn off the television, and finish the book I’m reading. I love knowing that I get to start a fresh new book in the morning! Here’s wishing you a very happy Friday and lots of happy news! Ciao for now, y’all!

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Filed under Bananas, cooking, D.C., diet, Food, Frozen Yogurt, Greek Yogurt, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers

Heeeey, Boo Boo… What’s in Your Pick-a-nick Basket?

Hey, Sweetie Pie! Long time no post! I’ve been quite remiss in my posting lately, but I’ve had a lot of things on my plate. 🙂 I’m in the midst of a bit of a personal project, and I’ve been pretty slammed at work too. The days seem to be getting away from me, even though it’s staying light until late in the day. I love the longer days this time of year! How about you? It would be ridiculous for me to try to catch you up on all that I’ve eaten since last week, but I hope you’ll enjoy a few highlights.

Breakfast is easy enough. In an effort to eat all of my baby bananas, I’ve had the same breakfast every day since my last post! It goes something like this…

Baby NannersIt’s a mix of oat bran, five grain cereal, Jay Robb’s vanilla whey protein powder, agave nectar, baby bananas and TJ’s PB&A. Yum! The only variation over the past few days has been the amount of agave nectar. I realized that I really don’t miss it if I leave it out altogether. Making my cereal a bit less sweet only makes the flavor of the sweet bananas pop even more. Yum! If you are intrigued by Jay Robb and his whey protein goodness, be sure to check out the bottom of this post for a little announcement!

In addition to my breakfast reruns, I have also enjoyed basically the same lunch every day. I liked last week’s picnic lunch so much that I’ve sort of adopted it as my standard over the last week or so. Do people still watch Yogi Bear? Do you get the reference about Boo Boo and the pick-a-nick basket in my title? Am I old? Don’t answer that…

Picnic!

Hey boo boo, what's in your pickanick basket?I fill a container with a nice assortment of fruits, and then have some protein in the form of cheeses and perhaps a hardboiled egg on the side. I love all of the fresh berries and cherries available this time of year, and I love nibbling my way through a big colorful bowl of fruit. It is a definite bright spot! The cheeses (cheddar, Iberico, goat cheese, ricotta… whatever is in the fridge) along with the hardboiled egg add a nice bit of hunger smashing protein, and the fruit is very filling too. This is absolutely a collection of food that I’d take on a picnic. I love it!

The ricotta in the second photo is slightly sweetened with honey and vanilla. It’s another awesome product from one of my favorite vendors at the farmer’s market: Blue Ridge Dairy. The slightly sweet ricotta smeared on the strawberries is to die for!!

I’ve also had a number of the same snacks over the past few days. Including:

Doodles

Nanner Crackers

Weetabix GoodnessPeanut butter, low fat graham crackers, Weetabix, baby nanners… So many possibilities!

The past few days have also included a few egg beater dinners. I made an omelette a couple of nights ago…

Din DinLast night, I made an especially tasty frittata with egg beaters, red bell pepper, ham, cheddar and fresh basil snipped from the pot on my balcony. 

FrittataliciousBoth dinners involve egg beaters, ham, cheddar, and red bell pepper. However, the meals are different enough that I don’t feel like I had the same dinner twice. I really love having a lot of versatile ingredients ready to go so that I can have a filling dinner ready in a hurry! The basil really made the frittata snazzy, and my basil plant was happy to get a bit of a pruning.

Speaking of my balcony plants, my first little sugar snack tomatoes are ready to be eaten!

Sugar SnackI also have this cute little bell pepper that’s growing larger every day:

Bella BellI’m obviously not expecting to feed myself with my balcony harvest, but it’s still nice to have a few things growing outside my door. 🙂

In other news, curiosity got the best of me. I ordered some Holey Donuts!! They came on Friday, and I’ve been doing my best to sample each of the flavors I ordered so that I can tell you, my dear reader, all about them. Yes, I do it all for you. 🙂

Holey Moley!They arrived at the door in a freezer package, and they were still frozen solid. I was impressed! 🙂 I got several different kinds including chocolate crumb and toasted coconut:

Chocolate Crumb

Toasted CoconutI really LOVE anything involving coconut, and the toasted coconut flavor is so good! The coconut cream pie Holey Donuts… I can’t even begin to tell you how good they are. They are my hands down favorite so far. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a good photo. I have some left so I’ll try again the next time.

Holey Donuts aren’t cheap, and they can be tough to resist, so I’m not planning to restock my freezer once these are gone. However, they’ve been a great treat, and they really are as yummy as other bloggers have made them out to be. If you just can’t resist donuts, a shipment of these might be a worthwhile investment for you. I think they’d make a fun gift for a sugar loving health conscious friend too. You can be both of those things, right? I’d be happy if these little gems showed up at my door!

In case you aren’t familiar with them, they are cooked in a way that greatly reduces the fat (and calories). They arrive frozen, and you gently thaw them in the micro just before eating. I’m still trying to find the perfect number of seconds that will make the donut soft and warm without melting the icing. They really are delicious, and I don’t miss the heavy greasy feeling that you get from a normal donut.

I ordered mine after receiving an e-mail offering a free half dozen swirl donuts with an order of three assortments. If you sign up on their website, Holey Donuts will send you e-mails with special offers. They really are awesome, but it’s worth waiting for a special offer to get a little more bang for your buck. 

In case you can’t tell from the foods in this post, I haven’t really been doing a lot of cooking. Ok. I haven’t really cooked anything lately! The warmer weather and my busy schedule have really sort of moved my focus from food to other things. I’ve decided that’s a good thing as I was becoming a bit too focused on my eats anyway. I’m really just enjoying collecting the fresh items from my fridge and making a meal of them. The picnic lunches are among my favorite lunches ever. 

I also think it’s so interesting how my appetite changes with the weather. I definitely want to eat rich, warm, comforting foods when it’s cold out. Now that it’s warmer, I’m happier with lighter fresher fare and less preparation too. Have you noticed any changes in your appetite coinciding with the change in season?

I have some garlic scapes that I need to use, and I’m still planning to make my favorite scape recipe soon. I need to eat the rest of the hummus in the fridge first. Is that a hint as to my favorite scape recipe? You bet! 

Now, I have some laundry to fold and some blogs to read so I need to wrap up. I did, however, promise you a bit of Jay Robb’s news. Are you ready???

I add Jay Robb’s Vanilla Whey Protein Powder to my breakfast bowl almost every morning. It’s also perfect in breakfast cookies, and it makes an awesome smoothie mixed with a bit of fruit, milk and ice. I’m a huge fan! If you’ve been wanting to try sexy Jay Robb’s products, but haven’t found them at your local store, I have a deal for you!

Jay RobbThe folks at Jay Robb’s contacted me and offered to give my reader’s a discount on orders from their on-line store. I really do like the product a lot, so I was very happy to be able to provide a discount to my lovely readers. You can get 15% off using the special promotion code, BLOGJ9TJSE, between now and July 4th. If you are looking for a way to add a little protein to your day, this stuff is great!! It’s also lower in calories than many of the other protein powders I’ve scoped out. Oh, and… it’s yummy!

I keep the vanilla whey variety on hand because it’s so versatile. I have tried the chocolate and strawberry flavors of the whey powder, and I really liked them as well. I know that there are other JR products that I haven’t tried, including the egg white and rice protein products, and, if you try them, I’d love to know what you think!

That’s all I have for tonight! I expect to continue with my sporadic posting for awhile, but I’m not planning to go anywhere! I’ll be around, and hopefully, in the kitchen a bit more. Although, I have to recommend the no cook lunch pick-a-nick!!

I hope you are having a good week, and that all is well in your neck of the woods. Ciao for now, and check out Mr. Jay Robb if you haven’t already!!!

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Filed under Bananas, diet, Farmer's Market, Food, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Mr. Banana Man and Random Portion Size Reminders

Hi!! I hope everyone is having a good week. Tomorrow is Friday, you know. Woo hoo!!! As usual, I’m ready for the weekend. How about you? Any big plans? 

My big plans today included a big bowl of breakfast. I had oat bran, 5 grain cereal, Jay Robb’s vanilla whey protein powder, agave nectar, a baby banana, and some Trader Joe’s Peanuts, Berries and Almonds ((PB&A)) in the bowl. So good!! Baby banana, Sweetie Pie? Just wait. You’ll see….

Baby Nanners

The baby nanners are super yellow, and super good!

For lunch, I grilled a Trader Joe’s Chile Chicken Lime burger, and used it to make a quick taco salad.

Another Big BowlI put lettuce, red bell pepper and corn in the bowl along with some crunched up light Tostitos and some little cubes of Cabot 75% reduced fat cheddar. I topped it with the chopped up burger, and then added salsa, Greek yogurt and a bit of Tostitos Bean and Cheese Dip on the top. I love salads like this one! I don’t want to discuss the ingredients in the Tostitos dip. I’m sure it isn’t the greatest. Speaking of Tostitos products in jars, I have to confess that I love their cheese dip more than I should. Seriously. It’s perfect when I need a Taco Bell type powdered cheese fix. Sometimes it really hits the spot.

Following my big salad….

Mr. Banana ManIntroducing: Mr. Banana Man!! I bought this huge bunch of baby bananas at the international food grocery store last weekend, and I can’t seem to make a dent in them. I love baby bananas because of their smaller portion size. They’re also really cute! I have a feeling some of these babies are about to get frozen and dipped in some chocolate, since I have so many, but, um… I’m ok with that! I couldn’t resist playing with my food a bit. Mr. Banana Man has vanilla wafer features, a banana mouth and a PB& Company Cinnamon Raisin Swirl PB goatee. alternatively, he has a PB mouth and a big banana ‘stache. I’m not sure which it is. What do you think?

Later in the day, I sliced up a pretty pink lady apple, and then made a very tasty dip.

Hey, Pretty Lady!I mixed 2 Tablespoons of PB2 with a Tablespoon of Greek yogurt and half a Tablespoon of berry jam. It was vaguely cheesecakey, and totally delicious!! This might be my favorite use for PB2 so far. Too bad I’m out of apples. 😦 Luckily, I’m sure it would taste great on a baby banana, and goodness knows I have plenty of those!

Closer to dinner time, I had a little snack bowl.

Snickitty SnackI often have this mix in the evening, but I really wanted it for an afternoon snack today. I think this bowl is a great example of how quickly little bites of things can add up caloriewise. I put about half a serving of Quaker Essentials Crunchy Corn Bran squares, one fifth of a serving of Zoe’s honey almond granola and one third of a serving of Reese’s peanut butter chips in the bowl. This added up to 115 calories despite being little bits of this and that. That’s certainly not a bad total for a snack, but seeing the total is a great reminder of how the little bites add up!

For dinner, I was feeling the urge to use something out of the pantry. I had so much success with my little freezer clean out project, that I’m now trying to clean out the pantry. It was cool and rainy most of today, so it seemed like the perfect day for a bowl of Trader Joe’s turkey chili with beans.

TJ's Bowl of GoodnessThere is some roasted cauliflower hiding under there, and a couple of blocks of Cabot 75% reduced fat cheddar on top. Sometimes a simple dinner from a can is a nice thing. Finding a meal in the pantry is sort of like finding change in the couch cushions. I love a hidden treasure!

For dessert, I had a serving of the Breyer’s All Natural Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream that we bought while my parents were here.

Chocolate Minty GoodnessMint chocolate chip is such a perfect combo! There is a lesson in this bowl too. In case you haven’t noticed, I have ice cream almost every night. I love it!! I always weigh out a serving because it saves me from having a dirty measuring cup, and I know I get a more accurate serving. The other thing I always do is put it in a small bowl. Tonight, I grabbed a regular sized bowl, and I couldn’t believe how empty it looked! Using a little bowl really does make your brain think you are having more ice cream. This also is a good reminder of what a serving of ice cream looks like. The next time I find myself in front of a huge bowl, I should keep this in mind!

After my little dessert, I went to work out with my trainer and do some cardio. I loved reading about your favorite stretches in the comments on my last post! It sounds like the old classics rate pretty high with y’all. They do with me too! Sadly, I was still a bit sore from all of the Tuesday night lunges when I got to class tonight. Of course, there was more lunging. Ugh! I feel like both of my strength training work outs were really good this week, but I suspect that I have another day or two of soreness in my future. What’s that saying? “Pain is weakness leaving the body?” Well, I think I’m leaving a trail of weakness behind me. 🙂

After my work out, I treated some strawberries, 1/2 a cup of unsweetened vanilla almond breeze and 1/2 a packet of Weight Watcher’s Chocolate Smoothie Mix to a little spin in the magic bullet. Yum!! I think this would be an interesting color for nail polish:

SmoothI love chocolate and berries together. Strangely enough, I’m still hungry. I think it’s time for a few almonds and then I’m off to bed. I’ve had a hard time falling asleep this week, so I’m going to have a nice cup of chamomile tea along with my almonds and I hope that will do the trick. 

Before I go, I wanted to tell you that Lucky Taste Buds is hosting a massive giveaway, so be sure to check it out. LTB is always a fun blog to read, and I’ve learned about a number of interesting eats from her site. I highly recommend a visit to Lucky Taste Buds!

Ciao for now, y’all and I hope you have a great Friday!

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Filed under Bananas, diet, Fitness, Food, Greek Yogurt, Salad, Uncategorized, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Bacon Chocolate and a Day of Healthy Eats

Today has been a pretty typical day, and I decided it was a good day to do a food journal post. I’m trying to really get my eats back in order. I’m up a few pounds, some from the cruise and a little from last week’s treats, and I know it’s time to buckle down and get back on the healthy train. Today went well!

I started off in a rather usual way:

Gritsy Bran!I had a big bowl of “gritsy bran” (half grits and half oat bran) with some vanilla Jay Robb’s whey protein powder and honey mixed in. I topped it off with a lovely banana and a few grams of my new favorite Trader Joe’s snack: PB&A. Peanuts and almonds coated in a berry vanilla coating…. YUM!!! The PB&A combo was a great addition to my bowl, and gave it a little bit of crunch. Lovely!

For lunch, I had a picnic in my lunch bag. On Saturday night, I went to Wolf Trap with some friends to see the Gipsy Kings in concert. This was our fourth year in a row to sit on the lawn and enjoy the GKs, and, as usual, we had quite a picnic! I ended up with some leftover cheese, and I have a ton of fruit in the fridge so a picnic style lunch seemed like a great idea!

Picnic!I had a piece of Iberico cheese and a bit of Danish blue along with some berries, cherries, grapes and a hardboiled egg for an additional hit of protein. I loved nibbling on this lunch!

Speaking of our little Gipsy Kings feast, I found an interesting chocolate bar on Friday, and I knew that my bacon loving friends and I needed to try it. We’ve been amused by all of the interesting bacon products popping up these days including bacon salt, bacon vodka and bacon flavored dental floss. I couldn’t resist adding this to the picnic basket:

Bacon Chocolate?I love chocolate, and I love bacon. I didn’t really think this would be disgusting, but I was certainly skeptical that it would be good. I was expecting chocolate that had a hint of bacon taste, but nothing too dramatic. I was so surprised to discover that this bar actually has crispy pieces of bacon in the chocolate! No joke! Weird? Perhaps. Good? Well, um… yeah. I cannot tell a lie. It actually was really good. Perhaps I need to get over my skepticism about the crazy bacon products and invest in some bacon dental floss next! 😉

Getting back to my lunch, I decided to finish the meal off with a low-fat cinnamon graham cracker topped with 1/2 tablespoon of Bee’s Knees peanut butter.

Mmmm....Who needs a sandwich when you can nibble your way through eats like these??

Mid-afternoon, I decided to have a peanut butter fudge vitatop. I almost always pick one of the chips off before tossing my vitatop in the micro, which explains the empty little chip crater over on the side. 🙂

Vita LoveLater, I had a bowl of Greek yogurt with strawberries and berry jam. 

Greek Berry YoI got some really sweet little berries at the farmer’s market on Saturday, and I’m glad I got two containers instead of one. They are SO good! I love the pink shade they give to the yogurt too. 🙂

I had a camera shy bag of 100 calorie popcorn before heading home to dinner. We got a new microwave in our kitchen at work a few months ago, and I actually go to a different kitchen to make popcorn just because the new microwave turns my popcorn to cinders every time. I stand there. I listen. I still burn the popcorn. It’s worth a stroll up the hallway just to avoid the burnt pieces, and… the burnt smell. Yuck! Today’s bag was just right!

When I got home, I decided to make a quick egg beater omelette, filled with cheddar and ham, and I had some roasted cauliflower and roasted carrots on the side. The melted cheese (that you can’t see in the photo) was the very best part! 

Weird pictureSorry about the unappetizing photo. I promise that it tasted better than it looks in this picture!

I ended my meal with a bowl of Laloo’s Vanilla Snowflake goat’s milk ice cream topped with some more PB&A. Trader Joe, I love you!!! PB&A on top of my favorite vanilla ice cream in the whole wide world made for a fantastic treat.

So Good!!I just finished doing 35 minutes of cardio in the gym following a class with my trainer. Tonight involved a LOT of lunges, and I suspect I’m going to be feeling them tomorrow. Honestly, I’m already feeling the aftermath of the lunges tonight! I think I’m going to go and do a bit of additional stretching before I head off to bed. Extra stretching usually helps, and it certainly can’t hurt!

Do you have a favorite stretch? I love the basic hamstring stretch where you cross one foot over the other, and then bend down and try to put your palms on the floor. I seem to have tight hammies fairly often, and that stretch always makes me feel so much better!! I’ve also enjoyed seeing the increase in my flexibility. There was a time when I could really only touch my fingertips to the floor during this stretch. Now, I can almost put both palms on the floor. Yay!!! Sometimes the little things really do make me feel good. 🙂

I guess I’d better get to the stretching and move away from the computer. Ciao for now, y’all! If you see bacon chocolate at your local store, keep an open mind. 🙂 I’m just sayin’.

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Filed under cooking, diet, Farmer's Market, Fitness, Food, Greek Yogurt, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Sweet Watermelon Sorbet, Peruvian Chicken and a Leftovers Pizza

Hi! I haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth, but I have been super busy! It was so nice having my parents here last week. We had a great time, and we had some yummy eats too. 🙂 I didn’t snap photos of all of my food last week, but I did take pictures of a few of the highlights. I mentioned a sweet frozen treat that we whipped up in my last post, and here it is:

Sweet Watermelon SorbetWe made a big batch of watermelon sorbet using my long neglected ice cream maker. Why haven’t I been using this kitchen gadget on a regular basis??? I vow to put it to good use this summer for sure.

A large watermelon arrived in my vegetable box last week, and if I hadn’t been expecting guests, I’m not sure what I would have done with a whole watermelon! I was so glad to have company here to help me eat it. Unfortunately, when we cut it open, we found out that it was already a bit on the “super ripe” side. It was a little mushy, and, even though we are all watermelon fans, it wasn’t very appealing. My mother suggested freezing it and using it in smoothies. Food waste avoidance definitely runs in the family! I remembered the ice cream maker lurking in the back of the cabinet, and we hatched a plan.

Sweet Watermelon Sorbet

Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups of seeded and pureed watermelon

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. lemon or lime zest

The juice of one lemon or lime

Directions:

Place 1/2 cup of the watermelon puree and the sugar in a saucepan. Heat it to a simmer, and remove it from the heat. This creates a simple syrup. Stir in the lemon/lime zest and the citrus juice. Allow this mixture to cool for 20 minutes. Add the sugar mixture to the remaining 4 cups of watermelon puree. Place the mixture in your ice cream maker, and follow the machine’s instructions. It took about 30 minutes in my Cuisinart ice cream machine, and then we put it in the freezer to firm up some more overnight. 

Freeze-o-matic!Inga’s parents (you know… Inga, my favorite dog…) invited us over for dinner on Thursday evening, and we had this sorbet for dessert, along with some cute little lemon cookies from the store. Inga’s parents made some awesome steaks, tasty Israeli couscous, yummy asparagus and a nice fresh salad for dinner. It was a delicious meal– as always, and it was nice for my favorite parents to meet some of my favorite friends! 🙂 

As you can see from the photo at the top of the post, this sorbet wasn’t smooth like a sorbet that you might buy at the store. I let it sit out a bit before serving because it was quite hard, and I kind of broke it up with a heavy spoon while I was dishing it up. I think it would have been smoother if I had let it sit out a bit longer, but I was too impatient! Maybe I’ll experiment with letting it warm up a bit more the next time I make a batch. At any rate, it was a sweet, clean and refreshing end to a nice meal with family and friends. 

On Friday, I decided to take my parents to check out one of the Peruvian chicken joints in the area. We went to Super Pollo in Ballston, and it really hit the spot!

Peruvian ChickenI had 1/4 of a chicken, white meat only, with some chickpeas and fried plantains. Yum! The green sauce was nice and hot, and it was the perfect contrast to the creamy yellow sauce. I love stewed chickpeas, and the cumin flavored chickpeas might have been my favorite part of the meal. The plantains were sweet and tasted, well, pretty sinful. They were nice and caramelized, and there were even a few super sweet little crispy bits. So good! I decided to go crazy and try an Inca Kola with my meal, and I was a bit disappointed to discover that it tasted just like cream soda. I do love cream soda, but I guess I was hoping for something a bit more… interesting. 

Super Pollo has moist, tender and delicious chicken worth standing in line for, and the price can’t be beat. It was less than $25 for three plates like mine and three drinks. Around here, that’s pretty amazing! If you live in my area, this place is well worth a visit.

After our tasty lunch, we did a bit of shopping and made a quick stop at Trader Joe’s. While we were at TJ’s, I decided to grab one of their whole wheat pizza crusts (out of the refrigerator case) so that we could make a quick pizza for dinner. We did a bit of a fridge clean-out, and it made for a pretty tasty pie.

Pizza PieFirst, I put some Country Bob’s sauce on the crust. Then, I topped it with some spicy ground turkey leftover from the taco salads we had on Tuesday evening. I chopped the leftover grilled veggies from our Wednesday night meal and added them to the mix. Finally, I crowned the pizza with the rest of the ball of smoked mozzarella (leftover from grilled veggie night) and a bit of low-fat cheddar. After eight minutes in the oven on my hot pizza stone, we had a yummy dinner— and a bit of breathing room in the fridge! 

Din DinI had a great time with my parents. We didn’t really do anything very touristy during this visit, but we did see quite a bit of Arlington and Alexandria. They are pros at visiting DC now, and I guess we’ve hit most of the hot spots! I have to say that the leisurely pace they set for the week actually suited me just fine!

I enjoyed lots of delicious food during their visit, but I made plenty of reasonable choices along the way too. I really tried to make sure to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, and I tried to exercise a bit of moderation when it came to the sweets. There was an impulse Moon Pie purchase that could have been a problem, but I made it through. Perhaps it was easier given the fact that I’ve never seen a Royal Crown cola in these parts. If you are a southerner, you know that those things DO go together! 🙂

I know that my posts have been super sporadic lately, and I think I’m in the process of finding a good balance. I love posting (and reading other blogs!!!), but the warmer weather has me spending more time outdoors away from my computer. Things may continue to be sporadic for awhile, but I’m still here! I hope you will keep reading! 

Now, I need to get to bed. Ciao for now, y’all, and have an excellent week!

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Filed under Arlington, D.C., Food, Peruvian Chicken, Recipes, Sorbet, Uncategorized, Washington, Watermelon, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Little Brown Box

What do you think is in this little brown box? 

Little Brown BoxIf you want a hint, just check out this earlier post. As for the specifics– I’ll get to that in a minute! 🙂

First of all, I have to say that I’ve done a pretty good job of healthy eating this week. Usually, when I’m in vacation mode (mine or my parents’…) I tend to eat waaaaay more than I should. My parents arrived on Saturday, and I’ve had some treats but not gone completely bonkers. That’s something I’m proud of! I’ve found a decent balance this week. 🙂 Woo hoo!

Yesterday’s little indulgence came in the form of a trip to The Pita House in Old Town Alexandria. I’d been once before, and I remembered how good it was. We weren’t looking to have a heavy lunch, and this was perfect. First, we started off with an appetizer:

Fool M'DammasWe shared a bowl of Fool M’Dammas, which is simmered chick peas and fava beans flavored with garlic and lemon juice topped with olive oil. We had some delicious warm pita bread to go along with it. 

Then, we each got some sort of sandwich and shared a plate of fries.

The Pita House

I ate my share of fries for sure. I think it’s funny that “back in the day,” before I started really paying attention to what I was eating, I would have shnarfed down some fries without thinking too much about them. Now, I have them so rarely, that they really are a treat. I’m happy that I’ve moved them into the appropriate category– “treat”!  Along with the fries, I had chicken shawarma, my dad had beef shawarma, and my mom had a very tasty chicken and cheese combo. Delish!

Lunch was lovely, and then we just sort of strolled our way up King Street popping into random little stores here and there. I had planned to get a cupcake at a nearby cupcake place, but realized I was too full so I decided against it. Progress!

I was still thinking about cupcakes today (… not unusual really… I do love cupcakes…), and I decided that, while I was at Tangy Sweet with my friend, G,  during lunch, I’d pop over next door to Red Velvet and get a little box of treats to bring home and share with my parents. G and I split an amazing peanut butter cup cupcake while we were there, but I forgot my camera so I can’t show you a photo. Trust me when I tell you that it was quite good! 

I can, however, tease you with this one:

Carrot Cake!Before I tell you all about the rest of the tasties in the box, let me show you the much more virtuous dinner we enjoyed before we got to the sweets. 

Din DinI grilled some green and yellow zucchini and an eggplant on the Griddler, with cooking spray, salt and pepper, and piled them up on a platter. Then, I grilled some sundried tomato and basil chicken sausages and tossed them on top. I added some roasted red peppers, for a bit of color, and my mom snipped a little sprig of basil for a garnish.

Pretty PlatterI love all the pretty colors, and I love the flavor that grilling gives to these humble veggies. If you are on Weight Watchers, I have to tell you that this kind of meal was a common one for me when I was counting points. It’s a great and filling low point meal– and it’s beautiful too! I drizzled a bit of balsamic vinegar over the top of my veggies. I love them that way!

I also toasted up the last two pieces of Trader Joe’s naan from the freezer, topped them with bruschetta sauce and smoked mozzarella, and then popped them under the broiler. Smoked mozzarella might be one of the best foods ever!! 🙂

Cheesy BreadAfter dinner, it was time to open our little brown box. Here’s what was inside:

Cupcake QuartetThe obvious chocolate one is called “b-day” and the website describes it as American yellow butter cake and milk chocolate ganache. In the bottom corner, we have “summertime,” which is a lemon cake with coconut frosting. The next cupcake, moving counterclockwise, is a carrot cake cupcake. They don’t describe it on the website, but I can attest to the fact that this is a pretty classic carrot cake. Finally, there is “key west,” in the top corner, which is a key lime cake topped with white chocolate buttercream.

We had a whole quartet of cupcakes to sample, and we decided to make a little contest out of it. We split each cupcake into thirds, and had a tasting party! My dad and I polished off each section as we went, but my mother kept a little nibble of each so that she could do a more proper job of judging. She was thorough when it came to the frosting. She took her duty seriously!

Serious JudgingLuckily, I didn’t need to taste any of them a second time. My number one choice was a very easy one to make! My mom decided pretty quickly too. My dad, well, he said that they were all good. We tried to get him to pick a favorite, but  he resisted until the very end. I’d say that his desert island cupcake choice would be a magical cupcake with carrot cake, lime cake, lemon cake and b-day cake sections in each one. Come to think of it, that might be a pretty smart way to go!

If my mother and I found ourselves stranded on the proverbial desert island and could only have one cupcake (although, I would prefer a dessert island if given the choice…), we would choose…. drum roll please…

The Champ!“Summertime”

The cake was dense and moist with a lovely citrusy tang, and the icing was rich and sweet. I like just about anything that includes coconut, and this cupcake did not disappoint. It really did taste like summertime. Not only is it my favorite of the four we sampled this evening, I’d say that it beats the peanut butter cup, red velvet, and vanilla bean cupcakes I’ve tried from Red Velvet too. 

Now, of course, I need to figure out the best way to make a healthier version of this little gem. 🙂

So, that’s what we’ve been up to the last couple of days. Tonight, we whipped up a batch of a summery frozen treat, but I’m going to save that for my next post. I hope you are having a great week, and that you’ve enjoyed a special treat and lots of healthy eats today too. 🙂 Ciao for now, y’all!

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Filed under Cake, D.C., Food, Washington, Weight Watchers