Category Archives: Vegetarian Recipes

Soup Weather

Lying MugThe mug. It lies. If I had a “Curried Carrot and Squash Soup” mug in the cabinet, I would have used it, but this seemed like a good alternative. 🙂

It seems like Labor Day flipped the switch on fall weather in D.C., and I’m not complaining! The weather this week has been decidedly fall like, and I’m loving every minute of it. In fact, it inspired me to make a warm, cozy and spicy soup with things I had on hand, and I wanted to share it with you.

I had a pile of yellow summer squash, a partially eaten bag of baby carrots and the usual staples of broth, onions, nut butter (of course!) and Greek yogurt (as always!!). Add to that, the variety of spices in my spice drawer, and a creamy soup was imminent. I used lots of spice, because I love a little burn, but if you aren’t a fan of spice, you could certainly use a bit less curry powder, give it a taste, and add more if you decide you want to kick it up a bit. What’s better than roasted veggies? They are always just the way I like them– nice and sweet!

Carrot Roast

Squash Roast

Pot of Coziness

Sweetie’s Curried Carrot and Squash Soup

Ingredients:

Cooking spray

3/4 pound baby carrots

1 1/2 pounds yellow squash, quartered and cut into 1/2 inch slices

salt

1/2 tsp olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 tsp curry powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp ground red pepper

1 Tbsp. almond or peanut butter

1/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Spray two baking sheets with cooking spray. Layer the baby carrots on one baking sheet. Spray the carrots with cooking spray and then sprinkle them with a bit of salt. Layer the squash chunks on the other baking sheet. Spray the squash with cooking spray and sprinkle it with a bit of salt.

Place both sheets in the oven. Roast the carrots for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they become soft and start to brown. Roast the squash for about 25 minutes, stirring the mixture at the halfway point. 

Heat 1/2 tsp olive oil in a 3 1/2 quart saucepan. When the oil is hot, add the onions and a sprinkle of salt. Reduce the heat and cook the onions for seven minutes, or until they become soft. Add the squash, carrots and broth to the saucepan, bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. 

Add the curry powder, cinnamon, ginger, red pepper and nut butter to the veggie mixture. Using a blender, carefully puree the veggie mixture in batches. I usually remove the stopper from the top of the blender container and hold a dish towel loosely over the opening to allow some steam to escape while the veggies are pureeing. They are hot and they will spatter so be careful!

Add all of the pureed vegetables back to the saucepan. Stir in the Greek yogurt, and heat the mixture through on medium heat. Add salt to taste.

This makes 5 or 6 servings

The roasted veggies make it slightly sweet. The spices make it cozy, and the nut butter and Greek yogurt add creaminess as well as protein. This soup is low calorie with a high satisfaction factor. That’s a match made in heaven!

I’ve been having this for lunch over the past few days, and I’ve been looking forward to it each time. While packing my lunches this week, I realized it has been awhile since I have made a big batch type food for my lunchtime munching. I love having a hearty and filling soup ready to go in the morning, and then being able to match it up with whatever suits my whim– peanut butter on an Arnold’s sandwich thin, hummus and pita, cheese and crackers, whatever! I know that the soup will guarantee that I will have a full tummy, and that’s a good thing! Soup is also one of my favorite ways to eat my veggies. 🙂

Since the weather is cooling off, I thought I’d give you a little flashback with links to some of the soup type things I’ve made and blogged about in the past:

“Big Batch” Bulgur Chili

Cleaning Up the Apartment Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup

Creamy Cauliflower and Cannellini Soup

Just Sweet Enough Pinto Bean Soup with Tomato Chipotle Ketchup

“Not Going to the Store” Garlic Scape, Eggplant and Red Lentil Stew

“Project: Clean Out the Freezer” Spinach and Sausage Soup

Super Quick Lentil, Carrot and Tomato Soup

My little trip down memory lane reminded me of several things I need to make in the cooler months to come. I see bulgur chili in my near future for sure.

Bulgur ChiliMmmmm…..

Most of the soups I make are created using what I have on hand. How about you? Do you have a favorite soup, stew or type of chili? Is there one ingredient that always inspires you to whip up a pot of comfort?


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Filed under cooking, diet, Food, Greek Yogurt, Lowfat, Recipes, Soup, Squash, Uncategorized, Vegetarian Recipes, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Lightened Squash Casserole a la Sweetie Pie

Squash Casserole

I try to eat a healthy diet. Really, I do. As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up eating lots of vegetables. They were just typically smothered in cheese or pork fat. I’m so happy that I now enjoy my vegetables naked or with simpler preparations. That’s not to say that… sometimes… I miss some of the old recipes.

Yellow squash might be one of my favorite vegetables. What’s your favorite veggie?

SquashAs a kid, we would sometimes have it boiled down and mashed with butter. Other times, it might find its way into a stir fry with other things from the garden. My faaaaavorite way to eat it, however, was in a cheesy squash casserole. 

I was recently reorganizing my pantry as part of my pantry clean out effort, and I came across a forgotten can.

Mysterious and DeliciousI bought these when making a green bean casserole for a holiday get together sometime back. Yes, the can has the word “New!” on it, but these are anything but. Anyway, I feel like this is a true confession of some sort. Yes. My name is Sweetie Pie, and I had a can of fried onions, that strange ingredient that shows up frequently in casseroles and at southern potluck parties, hanging out in my pantry. I decided to ignore the list of somewhat mysterious “ingredients” and whip up a lightened version of an old favorite. I can’t tell you for certain what these are really made of, but, um… I can tell you that I kind of dig them in a casserole. 

Din Din

Sweetie’s “Lighten Up” Squash Casserole

Ingredients:

1 pound summer squash, cut into 1/4 inch slices

1 cup chopped onions

cooking spray

3/4 cup egg beaters

2 Tbsp. skim milk

4 ounces grated light sharp cheddar (I used Cabot 75% reduced fat cheddar but any cheese (reduced fat or not) would work)

1/2 cup French fried onions

1/2 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. dried mustard

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Steam the squash until it is tender. It took about 8 minutes for my slices to steam in a metal steamer basket set into a pot of boiling water. 

While the squash is steaming, saute the onion in a skillet coated with cooking spray or a bit of olive oil.

Spray a 2 qt. casserole dish with cooking spray and set it aside.

When the onions are tender, probably after about seven minutes of cooking, add the steamed squash to the onions and continue to cook for about three minutes. During this time, use the edge of your spatula to break up the squash and incorporate it with the onions. This will also help to dry the squash out a bit which should help to prevent a soggy casserole. Remove from the heat.

Squash chopperyWhile the squash cools a bit, set aside half of the cheese and half of the onions to use as a topping. Combine the remaining half of the cheddar cheese and fried onions in a medium sized bowl along with the eggbeaters, milk, salt, pepper and spices.

Gradually add the squash and onion mixture to the egg beater mixture, stirring while you add the warm ingredients to keep the egg from scrambling.

Pour the mixture into your casserole dish, and then top it with the remaining fried onions followed by the remaining cheddar. Pop it into the oven and bake it for 35 minutes or until the egg is set and the cheese starts to brown on the top.

Oven Ready

I divided mine into six servings. 🙂 

I’ve got to get to bed, but before I go I want to say a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my Aunt Nancy. I ate some of my homemade ice cream this evening and had a little celebration of my own in her honor. 🙂 It was always so nice having my aunt and uncle close by, and I always looked forward to spending time with them in the Ozarks each summer. My brother and I would get to go swimming in nearby creeks and rock quarries, visit Branson and Silver Dollar City, pick blackberries in the woods, feed the flying squirrels and just generally have a great time at their house each summer. As the song goes…. “Thanks for the memories…” and a very happy birthday to you!

Now, I’m off to bed. Tomorrow is Friday. Woo hoo!!! Ciao for now, y’all and have a great weekend!

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Filed under Casserole, cooking, diet, Food, Lowfat, Recipes, Squash, Uncategorized, Vegetarian Recipes, Weight Loss

Making My ‘Scape

I finally made my ‘scape…. my garlic scape concoction! Hi!! I hope you had a great fourth of July!! My weekend has been quite busy, but I’ve had lots of fun. Here’s a recap!

Friday:

Having a Friday off is such a lovely thing. I got up, had a leisurely work out, and then I finally got around to mixing up a batch of garlic scape bean dip. You might recall that I bought some garlic scapes at the farmer’s market a long time ago, and I promised to share my favorite recipe. The original recipe was published in the New York Times last year, and the recipe can be found here. I’ve lightened it up a bit by using only 1 Tbsp. of olive oil, and I don’t think it’s missing a thing! The Times also had a very interesting article, that I really enjoyed. You can check it out here if you’d like to read more about scapes.ScapesScapes are the stems that grow out of the top of a garlic bulb, and they are the part of the garlic that would flower if left intact. They have a very strong garlic flavor, and can be used much as you would use garlic. The tips of my scapes had gotten a bit dried out from all of the time spent languishing in the crisper, but otherwise, they were good to go. 

I removed the dried out parts, and then chopped up 1/3 a cup of scapes. Those went into the food processor with 1/2 tsp. of sea salt and 1/4 tsp. of black pepper. The scapes have a pretty serious heat on their own, so it doesn’t take a lot of black pepper to spice it up. I also added the juice of a lemon. I whirred it around in the food processor until the scapes were pretty finely chopped.

BlitzThen, I added a can of great northern beans that I had drained and rinsed. I didn’t have cannellinis in the pantry, and I knew that these white beans would work just fine. Hooray for the pantry!!

BeansI continued to puree the mixture. When it was pretty well blitzed, I drizzled in 1 Tablespoon of olive oil with the processor still running and continued to puree until it was smooth.

Mmmm....I love this stuff and eat it as I would eat hummus! The scent of garlic really hits you when you take off the lid. Scapes are amazing!! If you can’t find scapes, you could make a similar mixture with a few cloves of garlic in place of the scapes. 

I put some scape dip into a La Tortilla Factory wrap (I was so excited to finally try these!!), along with some sliced cucumbers and Cabot 75% Reduced Fat Cheddar, and voila! I had  a tasty wrap to take to a little pre-National’s game tailgate. 

It's A Wrap!

I was wearing a new dress, and you can see part of it in the photo. It loved it because it had a lot of crazy colors, but… it might look like a tablecloth. 🙂 

I also made a batch of butterscotch blondies (sitting in the chair in the above photo), using a recipe from an old Cooking Light cookbook, “Low-Fat Ways to Cook Family Favorites,” and took some to share with my friends. Sadly, the recipe isn’t on-line and it isn’t my own, so the best I can do is tell you about the cookbook. It’s a good one, by the way!

Butterscotch BrowniesThe Nat’s lost to the Braves, but the game was still fun. The racing President’s are always a highlight.

Poor Teddy!Poor Teddy Roosevelt never gets a break. At least he keeps trying! Way to be a role model, Teddy!

Saturday:

Saturday morning, I went for a walk with my friend, Mrs. W, and then she and I went to the farmer’s market. I loaded up on berries this week, as well as cherries, summer squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, and some chive cheese. Yum.

After our walk and our visit to the market, we lunched on leftover gratin, garlic scape and white bean dip, farmer’s market cucumbers and tomatoes, and some Berry Cherry “Ice Cream.” It was a tasty lunch. I love having leftovers that I feel good about serving to a good friend. She happens to be a vegetarian too, so it was awesome that I had my vegetarian gratin to share. Yum!

Last night, I had another friend, MG, over for dinner. I “griddlered” a farmer’s market pork tenderloin, basted in a bit of barbecue sauce, along with some zucchini and yellow squash. I made some oven fries– both sweet and regular potatoes, and boiled up a couple of ears of corn.

Happy Fourth!It was a healthy dinner, but I think it had a fourth of July feel to it. Oh, Griddler. I love you! Did you eat something festive on the fourth?? I forgot to get watermelon, and I was bummed about it!

For dessert we had more blondies and more Cherry Berry “Ice Cream.” Then, we headed up to the roof of my building to watch the fireworks on the National Mall. There is a clear view of the mall and the monuments from our rooftop, and it’s fun to see all of the smaller displays along the banks of the Potomac as well. I wanted to show you my view, but I never figured out how to take a good photo. This should give you some idea:

Boom!!Directly below the fireballs, you can kind of make out the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building if you try. We have a great view, just not an awesome photographer. Ahem. 

While MG was over, I also made an overly gooey batch of brownies to repay him for watering my plants while I was in Alaska. I do have my kitchen flops, from time to time, and I shouldn’t have tried to do a minor tweak to a previously untested recipe! Silly junior mints. The brownies tasted good, but a spoon might not be a bad choice of utensil. 😦 Sorry, MG. I say– microwave them and top with with ice cream. Yes. I’d eat that for sure!

Sunday:

I woke up with a serious hankering for French toast. I haven’t had it in ages! I mixed 1/4 cup of eggbeaters, 1 1/2 T. of unsweetened vanilla almond breeze, 1/4 tsp. of sugar and 1/8 tsp. of vanilla extract together. I soaked two slices of multi-grain bread in the eggbeater mixture, and then I cooked the slices in a nonstick skillet coated with butter flavored cooking spray. I had some lovely raspberries that I bought at the farmer’s market yesterday as my side dish, and there was a little bit of maple syrup on the top. I love that I could taste the vanilla in the egg mixture. I didn’t completely drench it in syrup, the way I would have back in the old days, and I like that it stayed a bit crisp as a result. It really hit the spot!

French ToastAfter my special breakfast, I decided to take Coby out for a ride on the Custis Trail. Get ready for a quick switch from French toast to feet. I thought I’d warn you. There was no good segue that I could think of for this one! 

Along the way, I did something rather ungraceful while turning abruptly onto a little wooden bridge on the trail. Yes. My toenail is purple. Coby is fine, and the rest of me escaped unscathed, but I’m just not sure what this purple toe is going to do. I guess we will wait and see. I strongly suspect the toenail will not be with me much longer. Ewww, right? I hope I didn’t gross you out too much. At least I didn’t post a photo. I thought about it. 🙂

Ok, back to food…

I wanted to use the rest of my garlic scapes as well as two eggplants I bought at the farmer’s market so I decided to make a quick stew for dinner. I had to improvise a bit to avoid taking my purple toe to the store, so I used things from the pantry. Here’s what I came up with:

Din Din“Not Going to the Store” Garlic Scape, Eggplant and Red Lentil Stew

Ingredients:

1 tsp. olive oil

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp. chili powder

2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. salt

cooking spray

1/2 medium sized onion, chopped

1/4 cup of garlic scapes, chopped

2 medium sized eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes (undrained)

1/3 cup dried red lentils

1 1/2 cups of water

Salt to Taste

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a deep sided skillet. Add the cinnamon, chili powder and cumin, and heat the spices, while stirring, for thirty seconds. They should become fragrant. Add the onions, garlic scapes and a few sprays of cooking spray. Cook over medium high heat for seven minutes, or until the onions start to soften.

Add the eggplant to the pan, along with 3/4 tsp. of salt, stirring well to incorporate the onions, and let the mixture cook down for eight minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the can of tomatoes, the lentils and the water. Stir well. 

Increase the heat as needed to bring mixture to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 20-25 minutes, testing to be sure the lentils are tender. If the lentils need longer, make sure that there is still some liquid in the pan, adding a splash more water if necessary, and let it simmer a bit more. Mine were done in 20 minutes.

Give it a nibble and add extra salt, if needed, to suit your tastebuds.

Red lentils are key in this dish when it comes to using dried lentils. They cook the fastest of all of the lentils, and they will get tender in the time it takes for your veggies to nicely stew. If you wanted to substitute any other lentils, I would recommend cooking them first. If you decide to do that, I would reduce the water in the stew to 3/4 a cup.

Makes approximately 6 one cup servings

FinThis stew made a yummy dinner atop a bowl of rice, and my apartment smells amazing!! I’ve used the rest of the scapes, and my eggplants have been saved from a few more days in the crisper drawer. Hooray!

I worked out with my trainer this evening, despite the purple toe, and I think I may need to put some ice on it now. The pain wasn’t bad during class, but now it is not feeling so happy. I’m off to find an ice pack.

Thanks for making it to the end of this very long post. I had a lot to tell you about!

I hope you have a great week!! Ciao for now, y’all. 🙂

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Filed under Cooking Light, D.C., Farmer's Market, Fitness, Food, Recipes, Uncategorized, Vegetarian Recipes, Washington, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers

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

Springtime Market Potato Salad and a Quick Weekend Recap

Pretty PoppiesI’m a little behind on posting, but I’m going to do my best to get you caught up on what I’ve been up to this weekend, a few of my favorite eats, and a recipe that I’m really excited about. Here goes…

The photo of the gorgeous poppies at the top of the post, and the photo of the beautiful arrangement below were both taken at the farmer’s market yesterday. The market was really hopping! I can’t resist taking photos of the beautiful flowers, but I didn’t actually bring any home with me… this time.

Beautiful!This is what I did buy:

My HaulNow, I recognize the fact that the tomatoes are out of season, but I was in the mood for some so I picked them up anyway. They are only so so. The other purchases from yesterday, the radishes, green onions, asparagus, pink lady apples (out of winter storage, I believe…), the lettuce and the Greek yogurt holding up the tomatoes, are all pretty awesome!! There is also a basil plant and a bell pepper plant in the midst of the veggies. Time for more balcony gardening! Just look at these pretty radishes:

Radiant RadishesI was never a fan of radishes as a kid because I thought they were too “hot.” Now, I really like them!

I decided to slice up the rest of my Blue Ridge Dairy smoked mozzarella from the market a couple of weeks ago, along with one of my tomatoes and some fresh basil in order to make myself a quick caprese salad for lunch. There’s a little balsamic vinegar and sea salt on top too. After seeing all of the fresh things at the market, I wanted a fresh lunch.

CapreseI followed up my salad with an interesting and delightfully crunchy sandwich:

Crunch!Tribe chipotle hummus and sliced radishes on an Arnold’s sandwich thin made for a surprisingly yummy combination!!

After lunch, I sliced up my Derby Day brownies, and fixed them on a plate with a little mint sprig from the pot of mint on my balcony. Then, I headed over to my friends’ house to watch the horsies. 🙂

Derby Day Brownies!When I go to my friends’ house, I get to hang out with my favorite puppy dog in the whole world, Inga. Isn’t that face adorable!?

What a Pretty Girl!

I was discussing the fact that I probably shouldn’t have another brownie with Inga, since, as I told her, I had already had one after lunch. This is what she had to say about that:

IngabadingaI stick my tongue out at the idea of no more brownies too. She’s so wise! I really just couldn’t resist posting this picture of her with her tongue sticking out because I thought it was so darn cute!! I hope she won’t be embarrassed. 🙂 While we were discussing brownies, her mom was making mint juleps.

Muddlin'

The smell of the mint was AMAZING! My friends have a ton of it growing in their back yard, and Inga’s dad was out harvesting some when I came in the door. It doesn’t get any more fresh than that! I didn’t take a photo of my finished drink because I was too busy sipping! 🙂 I did get this action shot of my friend adding the bourbon with the simple syrup sitting in the background.

Juleppy

The juleps were yummy, and what an exciting race! I always love checking out the interesting hats and other fashion choices in the crowd too. What fun! After the race was over, the boys went out to fire up the grill and Inga’s mom made this pretty salad.
Big Bowl of FreshnessI’m so jealous of their outdoor grill, since outdoor grills aren’t allowed in my apartment building. This burger was SO yummy! Just look at the melted cheese!! There’s a little piece of grilled chicken hiding in the background too, because it looked so good that, of course, I needed a sample.

Din DinThis dinner was perfect for a Saturday night hanging out on the porch with friends. YUM and YUM!! I had so much fun last night!! Thanks again to my friends for having me over. 🙂

Today, I did a bit more cooking with my farmer’s market purchases and also with a few things out of the fridge. I’m trying to empty out all of my produce before I leave for Alaska next Monday, and I decided that I needed to make another little batch of Cabbage Nests with some cabbage that was in the fridge. I wanted a fried egg today, for some reason, and I decided I might like it on top of a Cabbage Nest. This may seem like an odd plate, with the tomatoes and goat cheese alongside the egg and the cabbage, but it was actually pretty good! Yay for using up things in the fridge!! Get ready to see a lot of that this week…

Return of the Cabbage NestThe other thing I made today rates much higher than “pretty good.” I’d say that this is freakin’ awesome!!! I made this salad using some of the things I bought at the market yesterday, and a dressing mixture that I came up with last year when I was making a more basic potato salad. I love this recipe, and I love how versatile and low fat the dressing mixture is. You could use it on all sorts of things. Without further adieu…

Springtime Market Potato Salad

 

Springtime Market Potato Salad

Ingredients:

The Veggies:

Nonstick Cooking Spray

1 1/2 pounds of fingerling potatoes, complete with the skin

3/4 pound of fresh asparagus (or more if you prefer), cut into 1 1/2″ pieces

1 cup green onions, chopped

1/3 cup roasted red peppers, chopped

Salt and Black Pepper to taste

The Dressing:

1/3 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt

2 Tbsp. light mayonnaise

3 Tbsp. rice wine or other light vinegar

1 Tbsp. coarse dijon mustard 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Spray a baking sheet well with nonstick cooking spray. Spread the potatoes in a single layer on half of the sheet, and spread the asparagus in a single layer on the other half of the sheet. Spray the asparagus and the potatoes with cooking spray and give them a little sprinkle of salt (about 1/4 tsp). Place in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, place the asparagus in a large bowl, and return the potatoes to the oven for an additional 5-10 minutes, making sure that the largest potatoes are tender. Allow the potatoes and asparagus to cool.

When the veggies have cooled, slice the potato into bite sized chunks and add it to the bowl with the asparagus. Add the green onions and roasted peppers.

To make the dressing, combine all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and mix well with a whisk.

Add the dressing to the veggies, stir very gently, and add salt and black pepper to taste. 

This makes about 6 servings, and the recipe calculator I used says that each serving is cal: 113, fat: 1.5, fiber: 2.6. Of course, you would want to plug it into your own calculator, but that should at least give you a rough idea. That’s not bad for potato salad, and the Greek yogurt really makes it creamy without adding a lot of fat and calories. It also adds a bit of protein. Woo hoo!

I used some fingerling potatoes I had in the drawer, but you could always chop up a couple of regular potatoes and roast them to use in this salad:

Fingerling PotatoesI cut the potatoes into pretty big chunks, and I love the combo of the potatoes and the roasted asparagus!

Asparagus and PotatoesThe onions and peppers really give it a blast of color!

VeggieliciousIf you’ve never bought the coarse dijon mustard, I have to recommend it! I like it mixed with vinegar as a dressing for green salads, and I love the texture of the mustard seeds when I use it in a dressing like this one.

DressingFor dinner, I brought everything together and had a cabbage nest topped with a chicken mushroom asiago sausage and accompanied by a big pile of my springtime market potato salad. Sausage, potato salad and cabbage just “go together” to me, and this was reminiscent of a cookout. It was rainy outside, but I was having my own little indoor picnic!

Dinner!Now, I’ve finished my gym time for the evening, and had a bit of chocolate. It’s time to get to bed and get ready for Monday. I’m expecting a busy week as I try to wrap things up in tidy packages so that they will be manageable during the week that I’m away. Wish me luck! I hope you have a great week! Ciao for now. 🙂

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Filed under Asparagus, cooking, diet, Farmer's Market, Food, Greek Yogurt, Recipes, Salad, Uncategorized, Vegetarian Recipes, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Banana Wheat Bran Scones and a New Favorite Eatery!

Good morning and happy Monday! I’m awake earlier than usual for some reason, so I decided to go ahead and tell you about my Sunday. My blogging seems to be running a bit behind my life this weekend, and maybe this will get me back on track! 

I had such an enjoyable Sunday! The temperature has gotten up around 90 here for the past few days, which came sort of out of nowhere. It’s as if the summertime switch has been flipped. I wasn’t hungry for a hot breakfast yesterday at all, so I just had a little bowl of strawberry frosted mini-wheats cereal. I also had a little bit of peanut butter on bread. I definitely feel less hungry when the weather warms up, but I was also trying to eat light since I had a birthday brunch to attend. 

I met up with my friends yesterday at a great neighborhood brunch spot, but there was an hour and a half wait for a table. Too hungry to wait that long, we went in search of an alternative. We decided to go to the Le Pain Quotidien that had just recently opened. I’m SO glad we did! I started off with a hibiscus tea sweetened with organic agave. Isn’t it pretty?

Hibiscus TeaI sat down, opened up my menu and nearly fell out of my chair. The menu was full of amazing choices and… it included the calorie counts for most of the foods!! Holy moly!! This was a dream come true right on my doorstep. The kinds of food available at LPQ are right up my alley. The boulangerie and patisserie selections alone could keep me entertained for a long time. For my lunch, I decided on the tartine with ricotta, mission figs, diced tomatoes, black pepper and organic acacia honey:

TartinesIt was so fresh and amazing! The ricotta was smooth and creamy and went so well with the figs and honey. In case you can’t tell, a tartine is kind of like an open faced sandwich, and mine was made on some amazing whole wheat bread. BLISS! I also got a massive bowl of fruit to go along with it:

FruitifullThis was the perfect amount of food for me, and it was all so very fresh and bright. Speaking of fresh and bright, check out my friend’s gazpacho!

GazpachoWhat a lovely lunch!! On the way out, I couldn’t resist picking up a jar of their praline spread and getting one of my favorites for the road:

Chocolate Croissant to GoI had my first chocolate croissant while I was studying abroad, and I’ve been a sucker for them ever since. This one did not disappoint! Happy Birthday to my friend… and happy new eatery to me. 🙂 

It was pretty late in the afternoon when I got back home after stopping to run a few errands on the way, and I spent some time putting my new plants into pots. I’ll take some photos of my little balcony garden soon so that you can see what I’ve been up to. It’s always nice to look out and see some living and growing things after a winter of staring at empty pots. 

When dinnertime rolled around, I decided to have some more of yesterday’s Buitoni creation along with my own little version of the salad I’d had at Art and Soul. 

Din DinYes, it really was that color! I topped some of the pretty lettuce I got at the farmer’s market with some goat cheese and almonds. That’s always a good start! Then, I got out my new magic bullet. Oh yeah. Magic bullet action! I put in a teaspoon of dijon mustard, a Tablespoon of fig infused balsamic vinegar and three blackberries with the tiniest whisper of salt and gave it a whir. Three little blackberries made for all of that color and gave the dressing an awesome texture and flavor. If only I’d had some watermelon pickles! I think this might be a good alternative to my usual mustard and vinegar dressing mixes.

After dinner, I had a few little snacks that I didn’t photograph including a So Delicious mini-neapolitan ice cream bar. It was a 90 calorie treat that really packed a lot of goodness into a small package. YUM! After my icy treat, I headed off to the Sunday session with my trainer (plus cardio… 572 calories crushed). Yay!!

When I got back to the apartment,  I decided to use up some more of the bananas out of the freezer and make a batch of scones with what I had on hand. In case you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of using up what’s on hand, and that’s why I put so many little options in the recipe. I’ve learned that substitutions are fine in many cases, and there’s no reason to run to the store unless it’s really necessary!  By the way, my recipe is an adaptation of this one from Cooking Light with some of my usual tweaks.

Banana Wheat Bran SconesBanana Wheat Bran Scones

Ingredients:

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup teff flour (or whole wheat flour)

1/2 cup wheat bran (or oat bran)

2 Tbsp. butter, chilled and cut into little pieces

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

3/4 cup mashed ripe (or thawed overripe!!) banana

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

1/4 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt (or regular nonfat yogurt)

1 1/2 tsp. almond milk (or skim milk)

1 1/2 tsp. turbinado sugar (or regular granulated sugar)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

Combine the bananas and the brown sugar in a medium sized bowl and allow to stand for five minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the first eight ingredients, AP flour through cinnamon, in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add the flour mixture and the yogurt to the banana mixture, alternatively adding some of the flour and then some of the yogurt until the ingredients are completely incorporated, and stir until moistened. 

Using a rubber spatula “knead” the dough right in the bowl by pressing it down to really work in the butter pieces and then scraping the sides of the bowl. Continue to repeat that action for about 1 1/2 minutes. Alternatively, you could also turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it for a minute or so, but the bowl method is less messy and works just fine.

Transfer the dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat. Press into a 6″ circle using the back of the rubber spatula. Use a sharp knife to cut into but not through the circle of dough, dividing it into eight wedges. Brush with the almond milk and sprinkle the sugar on top.

Bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. It should be browned and should spring back somewhat when pressed on the top. Cool on a wire rack, cut the wedges all the way through and enjoy!

This makes 8 scones at less than 130 calories each according to the recipe calculator I used. Not bad!

[Late breaking edit: Please see this post for a review of the scones. They didn’t turn out to be my favorite thing and, in the interest of full disclosure, I want to give you my thoughts in case you are considering whipping up a batch! If you are trying to find something to do with overripe bananas, you might check out this post for a chocolate banana snack cake recipe that I adore!!]

Photos from the process:

The Dry Team

Coarse Crumbs

Kneading in the Bowl

Before Baking

Oven FreshThese were super quick and easy, and I think you could certainly add all sorts of things to this recipe to suit your taste. I’m thinking that some chocolate chips would be a good addition next time. 🙂 Chocolate!

Now, I’ve got to get ready and get to work. I hope you all have a good Monday, and don’t forget to enter my 100th post giveaway!! By the way, a special welcome to you if you are checking out my blog for the first time! Make yourself at home!! 🙂 

Ciao for now, bloggies!

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Filed under Baking, Bananas, Bread, Chocolate, cooking, D.C., diet, Fitness, Food, Greek Yogurt, Recipes, Vegetarian Recipes, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers

Checking in On My “Pointless” Month and “The Microwave Scrambler”

Happy Friday and happy weekend to you all!! It is officially one month since I stopped counting Weight Watchers points and started with my new approach. It has been a good month, and I’m still very happy with my decision. I promised a weigh-in post today, and I’m happy to deliver.

Before I get into all of that, I thought I’d tell you about my lunch today. I made a batch of black bean taco filling a couple of nights ago, and immediately started thinking of other uses for the beans. The tortillas I use have to be heated in a skillet in order to be good, so an actual taco wasn’t really a lunchtime option. I’d considered the omelette possibility, but I couldn’t really whip up an omelette at work either. I could, however, do the next best thing and make a scramble! At least, I thought I could. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but here’s what I did:

I put my black bean filling and my cheese in a little container, and put 1/2 cup of egg beaters with some salsa in a bigger container. I didn’t think it would be smart to mix them this morning because I was afraid that the beans might soak up the eggs while sitting in the fridge.

Little Bowl

 

Big BowlWhen lunchtime rolled around, I set the cheese aside and heated up the beans. Then, I mixed the beans into the egg beaters and put it in the micro for 30 seconds.

All Together Now

I took it out, stirred it, and zapped it for 30 seconds more. I repeated the process, and, after thirty more seconds, I had a perfectly respectable microwave scrambler in my bowl!

The ScramblerSince I try to focus on getting plenty of protein in my diet, I often favor eggs over bread when it comes to choosing a food “holder.” I think it was just a matter of time before I figured out how to put this to play at work. The experiment was a success, and I have a whole new option for a quick and easy lunch made with leftover veggies and meats! Hooray for the “microwave scrambler!!”

Shifting gears now, if you are a regular reader you may recall that I decided to stop counting points and worrying so much about weekly weigh-ins because it was becoming counterproductive, and I was feeling like I was in a major rut. You can find the post about my decision to switch here. Almost immediately, I decided to start counting calories because I found that I wasn’t comfortable without some sort of framework. I felt bad about it at first, but now I’ve realized that it is a step in the right direction.

I’ll say it again, Weight Watchers worked very well for me. If you are reading my blog and are currently following the Weight Watchers plan, please know that I don’t mean to be negative or discouraging about WW in any way. It is still in my list of options, and I will return to it in a heartbeat if I find that I’m unable to manage my weight with my new approach. I’d just been doing it for so long that I felt like I really needed a change. I stuck with it for the past four years because it DOES work. 

I discovered some things about the way I’d been eating when I made the switch to calories and went “pointless.” First, I realized that I might have been eating way too much fiber and not enough fat. Admittedly, if I’d been diligent about eating my daily requirement for oil under the WW plan, that might not have been a problem. I’m not sure, and I don’t love math enough to go back and figure it out. What I do know is that I’ve found some higher fat foods to be much more satisfying than what I was eating before, and I’ve felt more satisfied with my food choices over the last month than I have in a long time.

I also realized that I might have been too good at gaming the system. I might have been eating too many zero point foods of the healthy variety, since I knew my zero point options like the back of my hand, and I’ve learned that even my spinach has some calories in it. Well, I knew that, but now I understand it much better! A calorie is a calorie. Period. There’s no formula to apply. There’s something comforting about that to me. 

WW taught me well that eating a bunch of empty calorie foods, although staying within my points, would not necessarily fill me up. That’s a lesson that has carried over, and many of my meals look just the same as they did while I was counting points. One thousand calories worth of chocolate would never keep me full like one thousand calories made up of oat bran, omelettes, fruits and veggies. I think that keeping that in mind when making day to day food choices is key.

When I decided to go “pointless,” I was also struggling with the fact that my weight had stayed the same for the last few months. When I weighed in on March 20th, I was at 159.8. After a week of going “pointless” I dropped down to 153.8. I was so surprised! I think that there is much to be said for shaking things up. Today, the scale said 158.8. So, am I saying that I lost a pound this month? No. I’m getting better at looking at my weight over the course of time and not pinning all of my hopes on one snapshot weigh-in day a week. My weight had stayed around 155-157 for most of the month, but I don’t think that my weekend of eating Williamsburg’s best helped me out much for today’s weigh-in. The thing is, I’m not so freaked out about it anymore.

When I decided to make the switch, I also decided to make healthy choices and just see what happened rather than making myself miserable with the pressure to keep shedding pounds. This has done wonders for me, but I find that it is one of the things I struggle with the most. I’ve been so much more relaxed with my eating this month, and I’ve enjoyed so many things that I would have avoided before. I tend to fall back into the old patterns of worrying about staying on track in order to have a loss more often than I’d like, but I’ve gotten better about reminding myself that I don’t have to lose when I find myself in situations where I want to be less strict– like last weekend. The thing is, after a month of being more relaxed, I haven’t gained back 50 pounds. I’ve hovered around the same number and even lost a little. I needed to know that it was possible to achieve that, and I’m so very happy about it. 

My goals moving forward are to continue to stay around the weight I’m at now, or somewhere below. I really don’t want to gain anything back, but I’m ok with maintaining where I am. I also want to get better at paying attention to hunger signals. I feel like I’ve made some improvements in this area over the course of the month, but I have far to go. I would also like to focus even more on making healthy choices than on the scale number or the calories logged in my Sparkpeople calorie tracker. In other words, I’d like to keep working on eating more intuitively. 

This is an on-going process, and I know that I’ll always struggle with my weight. After this month, however, I’m even more convinced that the struggle is well worth it AND that I have the tools I need to be successful while enjoying my life. Isn’t that, after all, the best of both worlds?

As an example of the new approach in action, I will leave you with this:

LaLoo's LoveI attended a retirement ceremony this afternoon at work, and I decided that I really wanted a piece of the celebratory cake. I actually decided to have cake before I even went to the party so this wasn’t a case of seeing it and wanting it. I just wanted it. Period. I used to avoid the cake completely and munch on whatever fruits and veggies were available. That’s definitely a healthy strategy and one that I rely on often. Today, however, when I had my heart set on cake, it wouldn’t have been the best tactic for purposes of avoiding feelings of deprivation. I had my cake, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Yum! Cake with frosting is a major treat in my book! Striving for some balanced choices, I decided to finish off my LaLoo’s this evening without the usual side of chocolate cake from the freezer since I’d already had my cake today. I had a couple of reduced fat nilla wafers instead. I feel good knowing that I didn’t deprive myself of something I really wanted, and that I found a way to balance that out without guilt or deprivation. I’m figuring this thing out, one bowl at a time. 🙂 

This is post #99. I’m excited!! You’ll be hearing about my 100th post giveaway in my next post. If things go as planned…. that will be happening tomorrow! For now, thanks for reading, and I hope that my experience can be helpful to someone or, at the very least, kind of interesting. Writing it all out is definitely helpful for me. Thanks for reading it. Ciao for now, bloggie friends!

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Filed under Beans, Cake, cooking, diet, Fitness, Food, Vegetarian Recipes, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers