Friday, April 29, 2011

Meaty Green Bean Casserole

These are some of my favorite things: weddings, princesses, and lace. Yes, I was one of the crazies who woke up early just to watch the Royal Wedding. I wanted to wake up at 5 to watch the whole thing but my body just wasn't having it. So I woke up at 6 and tuned in just in time for the vows! And that dress. Did everyone else think it was just perfect in every way?! Simple, gorgeous, modern and completely royal.

Another one of my favorite things? Green Bean Casserole. Who says its only allowed on Thanksgiving? NOT ME.

Meaty Green Bean Casserole
adapted from Peas and Thank You
serves 2-3
  • 10 oz frozen green beans
  • 4 oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 link Tofurky Italian sausage, sliced*
  • 4 oz water chestnuts, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used soy but I'm sure whatever milk you have will be fine)
  • 3 Tb. flour
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce, liquid aminos, or more soy sauce
  • 2 Tb. nutritional yeast
  • 2 slices whole wheat bread
  • 1 Tb. Earth Balance spread

*Tofurky sausages are surprisingly high in both calories (270) and protein (27g)! So I only used one link. However, if you're using a different sausage make sure to read the label to see how much you would need for calories and protein.

Cook the green beans according to package directions, but stop 2 minutes early and shock the beans in an ice water bath to stop the cooking.

Saute the sausage, mushrooms, water chestnuts, and garlic in a skillet over medium heat until browned and warm, about 5-6 minutes.

Meanwhile, process bread slices and Earth Balance in a food processor until fine crumbs form.

In a small bowl, thoroughly combine broth, milk, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and flour. Add to pan and heat until thickened and bubbly, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the nutritional yeast and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Turn off the heat and add the green beans.

Pour into a 2 qt casserole dish and top with bread crumb mixture. Bake at 425F for 20 minutes.

Nutritional information (for 1/3): 353 calories, 9.6g fat (1.6g sat), 52g carbs (12g fiber), 21g protein

Nutritional information (for 1/2): 530 calories, 14.5g fat (2.4g sat), 78g carbs (18.5g fiber), 32g protein

Mama Pea strikes again. Deeeeeelicious. I could drink that sauce. I'm a HUGE fan of green bean casserole and I loved having this as my main meal. The portion size depends on how much you want/how many calories you need.

Yesterday was my birthday (23...I'm gettin old, guys...). I made tofu tacos (which I have to tweak before posting) and had a massive pile of guacamole with some chips on the side. ;) Followed by Apple Pie a la Mode (one of my top 3 favorite desserts) and a game of Mario Party 8 on the Wii. Because I'm 4 years old inside.

Did you watch the Royal Wedding? What did you think of the dress??

What are your top 3 favorite desserts?
Molten Chocolate Cake, Apple Pie a la Mode, and Cheesecake ...and I think they're still my favorites because I don't have them that often, which makes them special!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Alexia Harvest Saute with Sausage

Yesterday was a very exciting day. One of my coworkers won a contest on a local radio station for a free limo lunch. So 6 of us ladies at work got to take a 2 hour lunch and ride to a free lunch in a limo. It was pretty sweet! I ate half a veggie quesadilla and tried my first fried pickles and mushrooms. I'm not a fan of fried food (I know, I'm weird) but those mushrooms were the BOMB. Just give them to me without the breading ;)

Then, back at work, we got our "Happy Administrative Professionals Day" baskets at work. I look forward to this all year long. Because I get these fabulous cookies. Once a year, I get to eat the entire sleeve of the best cookies ever and then pass the rest of the goodies out to my coworkers.

Thennn, I come home to a lovely package sitting on my doorstep from my friends at Alexia Foods! More samples for me to try and incorporate in recipes?! YES, PLEASE. I couldn't eat wait a day to try out the first product.

Alexia Harvest Saute with Sausage
serves 2
  • 1 bag Alexia Harvest Saute
  • 1 Tofurky Italian sausage link
  • 4 oz mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup frozen broccoli florets*

*A last minute addition so it's not in the picture but I noticed there was barely anything green so I needed to amp up the veggies!

Thaw the frozen olive oil in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes. Chop mushrooms and slice sausage.

Add oil to a skillet and heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add sausage, mushrooms, harvest saute, and broccoli, if desired.

Saute until veggies are cooked and potatoes are browned, about 12 minutes.

Nutritional information (for 1/2): 395 calories, 23g fat (3g sat), 31g carbs (10 g fiber), 19.5g protein

So easy! So healthy! And not to mention so good! I looove easy and healthy meals. This was especially excellent for me because it used up ingredients I already had open in my fridge. I will be looking for these sautes to stock in my freezer for those nights where I just want something easy and nutritious. 

I loved the potatoes in this mix. Normally, frozen potatoes are gummy and don't brown well. These were not like that. They were firm, flavorful, and they browned easily in the skillet. My only complaint would be the lack of green beans. The ones that were there were crisp and perfect...but there weren't very many at all, which is why I added the broccoli. 

What else do I get to try?! Frozen mashed potatoes and a garlic baguette. I'm particularly excited to try the mashed potatoes; the concept fascinates me!

What are your favorite foods to have around for a fast meal?
Mine would have to be veggie sausage/burgers and frozen vegetables!

Disclosure: I received these products from Alexia Foods review. The opinions expressed and recipes used are my own. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Egg, Bean and Veggie Wrap

Whew. Weekends are the death of my healthy habits. The solution for too many sweets? EGGS and VEGGIES. They never fail to fill me up and get my blood sugar back down to normal levels.

Egg, Bean, and Veggie Wrap
based on Self magazine
serves 2
  • 3/4 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2/3 cup frozen peppers mix
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 2 cubes frozen cilantro (or 1/4 cup fresh, chopped)
  • 1/3 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 Tb. fresh lime juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 whole wheat tortillas
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup salsa
  • 1/4 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese

Have I mentioned how much I love the Dorot frozen herbs? They can be hard to find but if you do, grab them! It's so hard for me to buy herbs because they go bad before I use them all...but frozen herbs? I can handle that! :)

In a large skillet, saute peppers and corn until cooked, about 4 minutes. Add beans, cilantro, and spices. Transfer to a bowl and squeeze fresh lime juice onto mixture.

Whisk eggs in a small bowl. Add to a heated skillet and cook until done. Season with salt and pepper

On one side of the tortilla, scoop half of bean and veggie mixture. Top with half eggs and 2 Tb. cheese followed by 2 Tb. salsa. Spread half of Greek yogurt on the other side. Roll tortilla, sealing with the yogurt side.

Nutritional information (1 wrap): 440 calories, 13g fat (4.5g sat), 54g carbs (12.5g fiber), 23g protein

This is pretty much a breakfast burrito. But there are some things that set this one apart. The corn (a surprising addition!), the fresh lime juice, and the greek yogurt. I love sour cream. But it can be hefty in calories. Plain greek yogurt is identical in flavor but less calories, no fat, and more protein!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Vegan Oatmeal Pancakes with Banana Syrup

HAPPY EARTH DAY! I'm really into Earth Day this year. I think it's because I've made strides over the past year to be more eco-friendly. I take my reusable bags everywhere. When I do get plastic or paper bags, I reuse them for litter boxes or housing potatoes. I wash 75% of laundry in cold water and have even cut down my time in the shower (partially to get more sleep but it still counts!). I am currently switching my cleaning products to natural ones. I am more mindful of leaving unnecessary lights on. It's all these little things that really can make a don't have to buy a solar powered house to help! :)

Vegan Oatmeal Pancakes
makes 8 pancakes
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup almond or soy milk (approx)
  • 1 Tb. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tb. flax seeds
  • 1 Tb. brown sugar
  • 2 Tb. Earth Balance, melted

If you don't have Earth Balance, you can use canola oil...although the EB is less calories and I love the buttery taste it gives the pancakes.

Add 1 Tb. vinegar to a large measuring cup. Fill with almond milk until it reaches 1 cup. Stir well. Soak oats in 3/4 cup of milk, reserving the rest. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Grind 1 Tb. flax seed in a coffee or spice grinder. In a small bowl, combine ground flax seed with 2 Tb. cold water. Let sit until 2-3 minutes. Add melted Earth Balance and brown sugar and combine.

Combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add oats, the reserved milk, and the flax mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well.

The batter should be lumpy but well combined.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-heat and spray with cooking spray. Pour 1/3 cup of batter onto skillet and let cook for 2-3 minutes or until edges set up.

Flip pancake and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until fully cooked. Serve hot with banana syrup.

Nutritional information (per pancake): 123 calories, 4g fat (0.5g sat), 16g carbs (1.6g fiber), 3g protein

Banana Syrup
makes 1/2 cup syrup
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 3/4 cup unsifted powdered sugar
  • 1 Tb. lemon juice

Blend ingredients together until well combined. You may have to adjust the sugar to your sweetness, but keep in mind that more sugar increases the calories and carbs.

Nutritional information (for 2 Tb. syrup): 115 calories, 0.1g fat (0g sat), 30g carbs (1g fiber), 0.4g protein

I adore these pancakes. I really think you should try them this weekend. :) And the banana syrup is one of my childhood favorites. The original recipe calls for more than double the sugar though! It's crazy how much my taste buds have changed to where that would have been wayyyy too sweet for me.

shared them earlier on the blog but I really wanted to try them vegan. There's something so fascinating about vegan baking to me. I guess because it hasn't been normal to me during my life. Plus, I wanted pancakes, I was out of eggs, and was currently trying to find less gross ways to use up the almond milk. I've been trying out different soy milks and almond milk lately. The almond milk added a nice flavor to the pancakes but I hated it in cereal and in smoothies. And if you're wondering, I've fallen. in. love. with unsweetened soy milk! I love how becoming a vegetarian has made me so open to trying new foods. Because you have to get creative or vegetarianism could be really boring, I'm always looking for new things to try.

Are you open to trying new things when cooking or baking?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pizza Mexicana

I'm a crazy meal planner. Each week the meal plan and grocery list take 2 hours out of my life to ensure that I get the most bang for my buck. (Which I will be doing a post on very soon!) The only problem is that sometimes I just don't want what's on the meal plan. Sometimes I'm a brat and I get a pre-made pizza from Earthfare. Sometimes they are out of pre-made pizzas because, duh, it's a Friday night. Sometimes I have ingenious ideas on how to make my own pizza out of what I have and some pizza dough...and spend half the money.

Pizza Mexicana
serves 4
  • 1 batch pizza dough
  • 1 can (15oz) vegetarian refried beans
  • 1 Tb. taco seasoning
  • 1 can (14.5oz) diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained
  • 3/4 cup Mexican-blend cheese
  • 1/3 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 1/2 cup frozen peppers, thawed (or 1 large bell pepper, sliced)

I am OBSESSED with the pizza dough at Earthfare. It makes the. best. crust. ever. Seriously. But $2.99 for a batch is pricey so I will be trying to recreate it this weekend....I think they put triple the yeast or somethin... 

Mix refried beans with 1/4 cup water and taco seasoning. 

On a lightly floured surface, shape dough into desired shape and size. (See all those bubbles? I'm tellin ya, it's wonderfully yeasty!)

Spread beans onto dough like you would sauce. Top with drained tomatoes and chiles. (I only used 3/4 of both of these cans.)

Sprinkle cheese evenly on top of the tomatoes. Top with peppers and corn. You can also add some sliced onion here too...but I was lazy and didn't feel like using a knife. ;)

Bake at 425F for 15 minutes. 

Nutritional information (for 2 slices, 1/4): 462 calories, 8.9g fat (2.6g sat), 79g carbs (5g fiber), 18g protein

Look at that crust! It's like deep dish but opposite! I think thin crust has it's place in the pizza world...but mostly, I adore doughy crust. This was also super thick because they give you A LOT of pizza dough at Earthfare and most of the time their pre-made pizzas won't fit on the pizza pan. I really need a pizza stone!

Either way, this definitely hit the spot. I've tried to make similar pizzas before and neither time were they even worth posting about. This one is the bomb. So much the bomb that it has earned the coveted honor of being my birthday dinner next week. Simple and so easy to make! The whole process took unders 30 minutes. I challenge you not to like this pizza.

When ordering (or making!) a pizza pie (said in my best Italian accent), do you prefer thick or thin crust?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Food Journals

I think one of the best ways to track eating progress is using a food journal. This is also called counting calories, which everyone hates to do. But it is the best way to ensure that you aren't eating too much.

I've used several methods over the past few years. First, it was literally a journal. I had a notebook that I wrote down everything I ate in. Later that night, I would use the packaging or the internet to find out the calories and fat for each item. Problem was that if I went out to eat, I wouldn't want to take my journal out and write it down. Some days I would just forget to write all together.
  • Pros: Easy, didn't require any special equipment, detailed
  • Cons: time consuming, would forget things, inconvenient to take notebook out in public, had to look up the calories of individual ingredients and add them

Next, I created a spreadsheet to track my food. I used this for over two years! I made some adjustments for myself and began tracking it in there. It was pretty much the same process as the journal but I could copy and paste days that I had the same breakfast or lunch. And it was set up to automatically add up and show me how many calories I had left for the day. But this formatting had to be done to my specifications (by me!) each time I ran out of room and had to start a new row.
  • Pros: easier to use, copy and paste since my days were normally the same until dinner, automatically adds, organized
  • Cons: on the computer instead of mobile, had to look up each ingredient, formatting had to be redone each time columns ran out

For a VERY short period of time, I used Sparkpeople. SP has an online diary that tracks your food down to the vitamins. I liked seeing the overall nutrition but their database had mostly processed foods (which I avoid) and I still had to add individual ingredients for meals made at home (which is pretty much every night). I also had a problem with the accuracy of some of the user submitted items, but they were labeled as user submitted so I could tell the difference. I did like how they made small goals for each week and month based on your overall weight goal. They had a log for exercise but I didn't use it enough to provide an opinion.
  • Pros: more detailed nutritional information, automatically adds, set goals 
  • Cons: still inconvenient, limited foods database, accuracy of items,time consuming

My latest food journal is by far my favorite. I am currently using the MyFitnessPal app for Android on my smartphone (also available for iPhone and Blackberry). Every con that I had with other programs has been solved with this app. It is so convienent to have it on my phone. I can check while at restaurants to see counts or what I can "afford" that day. They gave a wide database with the non-processed foods that I use. Not to mention Trader Joe's and Whole Foods brand items! When you click to add foods to a meal, it pulls up recently used and most frequently used items so you don't have to search again.

My favorite feature is the create a recipe feature. I cannot rave enough about this feature. It is the reason I downloaded the app in the first place after reading about it in Shape last month. When you create a recipe, you search for the ingredients, add the amounts and serving sizes, and it calculates everything, from calories to vitamin c, for you. You can also add foods that you can't find in the database. This does mean that some of the items are user submitted and you have to make sure the calories make sense. I haven't had as many accuracy problems with this as I did on SP but they aren't labeled user submitted like they are on SP. To search you also need internet. So if you aren't on WiFi, it will use your network. There are also notes that you can add. I use the exercise notes to describe my activity level that day.
  • Pros: convienent, easy to use, lots of unprocessed and organic food items, ability to create recipes, detailed nutrition information
  • Cons: have to have a smartphone (there is an online version but I have not used it), user submitted items not marked, have to have internet or network access
Snack Girl inspired this post with her post on an easy food dairy: taking pictures. I thought this was intriguing so I gave it a try on Friday. Then Saturday. Then Sunday. I had the HARDEST time remembering to take a picture! I finally got it right on Monday...with some pictures missing. Yikes!

I will say that there is something about looking at pictures and seeing exactly what you ate all day. And it was very easy to do, just take a picture. However, I had a hard time remembering to take these pictures. And, I like numbers. And while this points out the types of food I had, it doesn't show how much I really ate. These pictures make it seem like I ate nothing...when in reality, this is 1635 calories! On a day that I do not exercise, this is just the amount of calories I need. (I have a sedentary, 8-5 job.) But even as I look at the pictures, I am slightly deceived, wondering if I ate enough.

For a beginning dieter, this may not be effective. But as you continue to count calories, you begin to learn approximately how much things are and get better as estimating. And by now, I know the calories/nutrients of my favorite foods and can make quick decisions when needed. I think the picture method would be very helpful for those trying to eat healthier but not necessarily lose weight. BUT, like everything else with weight depends on the person. Try a couple different ways and do what works for YOU.

What I love about keeping all my food journals over the years is actually seeing the changes I've made to my diet! I look at even what I was eating a year ago, still a diet littered with processed snacks. Now, if I eat something processed, it's a rare snack! And my dependence on sweets is sooo much lower than it used to be. Dessert happens 3-4 times a week now instead of twice each day. So cool to see how far I've come. :)

Do you use a food journal? What's your favorite way to track/monitor your food intake?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Blondies

I love chocolate. I really do. However, I vastly prefer a blondie to a brownie. GASP. They're just so. darn. delicious. This is not a diet friendly recipe. It is pretty indulgent. And while I always advocate that a healthy diet INCLUDES sweets in 8x8 pan of these is not moderation. So make these, enjoy one...maybe two...and then take the rest to a baby shower. :)

Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Blondies
inspired by Martha Stewart's Cookies
serves 16

Blondie Batter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 6 Tb. butter, softened
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup AP flour (+2 Tb. if super wet)*
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
Cream Cheese Filling
  • 5 oz neufchatel cheese (low fat cream cheese), softened
  • 1 heaping Tb. AP flour
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tb. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tb. butter, softened

*Blondies are more fickle than brownies. If the batter is too wet, it won't cook at the same rate as the cream cheese and then it's just messy. The first time I made them, I didn't need extra flour and the second time I did. It just depends on humidity, etc. Also, the first time I made them with real cream cheese and the second with Neufchatel (low-fat) difference whatsoever. So save yourself the calories and fat. :)

To prepare blondie batter cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add egg whites and vanilla; mix until combined. 

Lightly spoon flour into a measuring cup. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add to butter mixture and mix until combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

To prepare cream cheese filling mix all ingredients together until smooth.

Spray an 8x8 pan lightly with cooking spray. Spread 2/3 blondie batter into pan. Top with cream cheese filling. Drop remaining blondie batter on top of cream cheese, "swirling" it into the cream cheese with your fingers.

Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely in pan before cutting.

Nutritional Information (for 1/16 square): 254 calories, 9.4g fat (5.8g sat), 40g carbs (0.5g fiber), 3g protein

Now, you may look at me and say: that much for 1/16?! But trust me, these babies are INDULGENT. I was completely fine after trying one. Never had a brownie that can do that. ;)

What do you think: blondies or brownies??

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tofu and Mushroom Lettuce Cups

I don't even know how to introduce this recipe. It's from one of my very favorite blogs, Peas and Thank You. Mama Pea always comes up with the best vegan recipes and even has a cookbook coming out soon! I already pre-ordered it last month! :D If you are looking to try tofu but want to disguise it a bit, this is the way to go. They are TASTYYY!

Tofu and Mushroom Lettuce Cups
adapted from Mama Pea
serves 2
  • 4 oz extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 8 oz mushrooms
  • 2 Tb. soy sauce
  • 3 Tb. hoisin sauce
  • 1 Tb. rice vinegar
  • 2 Tb. water
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (can use 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (can use 1 Tb. minced ginger)
  • 1/4 cup water chesnuts
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 4 romaine lettuce leaves 
  • 1 carrot or 3 baby carrots, shredded*
  • 1 Tb. sweet chili sauce, optional

*I would recommend using a large carrot. Shredding the baby carrots made me scared for my fingers. I added the sweet chili sauce as a last minute thing. It was the perfect complement but that's why it's not seen in the picture.

Cube tofu into 1/2 inch pieces. Chop the mushrooms into similar sized pieces. Dice the water chestnuts and chop the cashews.

Add tofu and mushrooms to a lightly sprayed nonstick skillet. Saute over medium heat until mushrooms are wilted and tofu has some color, about 5-7 minutes.

While mixture is sauteing, measure out ginger and garlic. Then whisk together soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, and water.

Sprinkle spices on tofu and mushrooms, Stir well. Reduce heat to low and add sauce. Add water chestnuts and cashews. Stir to coat and let simmer 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.  Pour 1/4 of mixture on each lettuce leaf. Top with shredded carrot and drizzle with sweet chili sauce.

Nutritional Information (for 2 filled leaves): 332 calories, 14.6g fat (3g sat), 35g carbs (4.5g fiber), 20g protein

HOLY YUM. These were beyond awesome. And easy! (It took me less than 30 minutes to make these, including chopping!) And nutritious!! This was a perfect light lunch but it could also be paired with some steamed veggies or a small portion of un-fried rice to round out the meal. And in terms of being filling, this definitely did not feel like a "light lunch". 2 thumbs up, 5 stars, or the top rating of whatever rating system you prefer! ;)

I'm becoming much better at making tofu. I've gotten the pressing and draining part down and I've learned it's just not a step you can skip. If you do, the texture is off. I've also noticed that I'm liking tofu more and more each time I make it. They say that you should feed kids new foods 7 times in order to tell if they really like it. Maybe it also applies to adults with new foods. Hmmm...

I highly recommend this recipe as a starting point for anyone wanting to try tofu. It's easy to prepare and the tofu is in such small pieces, it's hard to pick it out from the mushrooms!

Are you scared or nervous to try tofu?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Southwestern Sweet Tater Tot Casserole

Twitter is good for many things. Social networking. Marketing. Random thoughts. Entering giveaways. Letting companies know that you're dying to try their products so that they send you samples. Ya know, the norm. ;)

After emphasizing my need to try their new sweet potato puffs, Alexia contacted me asking me if I wanted a sample to make a recipe with. I've loved Alexia products since my first taste of their sweet potato fries. Followed by their delicious hashbrowns. Onion rings. And so on and so forth. So, sweet tater tots?! Totally up my alley.

When thinking about making a recipe, I remembered a recipe someone made me when I was younger. This is a vague memory because I have no idea who made it or when but I remember tater tot casserole. So, a vegetarian sweet tater tot casserole? Easy peasy. What goes well with sweet potatoes? Black beans! What goes good with black beans? Tomatoes, bell peppers, and corn. And this is how the recipe making process went. :)

Southwestern Sweet Tater Tot Casserole
serves 4

  • 3/4 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup frozen mixed bell peppers
  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) tomatoes with green chiles, drained
  • 1/2 Tb. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 2-3 oz Mexican blend cheese
  • 49 sweet tater tots, about 16 oz

These measurements include the changes I would make to the recipe. I put too much sour cream which slightly overwhelmed the flavors. I didn't fully drain the tomatoes and it resulted in the filling being slightly too liquidy. And I added the salt because it needed it. 

Saute bell peppers and corn in a nonstick skillet. Remove from heat and pour into a medium bowl.

Add black beans, tomatoes, spices, and salt to the corn and peppers bowl. Combine. Stir in sour cream.

In a lightly sprayed 8x8 casserole dish, pour in the filling. Top with desired amount of cheese.  

Top with sweet tater tots. I wanted mine covered but not completely. I'm sure you could fit another row and maybe another column if you wanted to squeeeze them in there. 

Bake at 400 for 30-40 minutes. Check on tots often during those 10 minutes to make sure they're not too brown.

Nutritional information (for 1/4)*: 428 calories, 15g fat (6.7g sat), 60g carbs (12g fiber), 15.5g protein
*using 3 oz cheese

The problem with casseroles is that they don't photograph very well. This casserole was super tasty though. Especially with the minor adjustments I made, perfect. And I loooved the sweet tater tots! Such good flavor. They were softer than normal tater tots, but that didn't surprise because sweet potato fries are the same way. I'm sure they would have crisped up better on their own as opposed to in a casserole. These babies dipped in some ketchup and mustard....whew. I want to run home and make some now! :)

Now that I've completely convinced you to try them yourself...the sweet potato puffs are only in select stores right now (enter your zip code to find them near you). Right now, they're only at Wal-mart near me but hopefully they'll reach more stores soon. PLUS, Alexia is offering a $1/1 coupon right now. You know me and my 'em!

Disclosure: I received the product from Alexia Foods to review. The opinions expressed and recipes used are my own.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Letting Go with SITS: Workout Perfection

I read a ton of healthy living/fitness blogs. A TON. Like, I can't count them on my fingers and toes. I do this daily. I read about women who work out 7 days a week;  others who find 2 hours in their day to run. Most of the time it's inspiring. It gets my butt to the gym, even when I come up with lame excuses not to go. But can be harmful. Like when I forget that most of these bloggers are lucky enough to blog and write for a living; to make their own schedule. When I forget bodies need to rest to even form the muscles I'm trying to build.

It's so easy to get caught up in working out and losing the point where nothing but perfection will do. In this mindset, if I skip a day, it is the sole reason why the scale won't budge this week. Somehow, all of the healthy eating and the other 4 days of exercise are erased.

On Wednesday, I was grumpy and tired. My body was sore. I had terrible sleep the previous night. I couldn't  pinpoint any real reason for bad mood. But I had to work out, because Thursday is grocery day, which means I won't have time to exercise then either. That's 2 days straight. However, I've been working out really hard lately and maybe my body was telling me it needed to rest.

On Thursday morning (weigh-in day), I had lost 2 pounds. Resting hadn't erased all my hard work from the rest of the week. Success is possible, even without perfection. So, I'm letting go.

I'm letting go of workout perfection. I'm letting go of feeling guilty because I was too tired or too busy that day. Please, do not confuse this with laziness. I am not letting go of those days when I have no good reason except it would be easier not to. I'm letting go of those days where I stretch myself too thin to even have a successful workout. I'm go of those days where I risk injury because my body feels overworked. I'm letting go and cutting myself some slack.

What will you let go of? #SITSLettingGo

**Please know that I am attacking or quitting my favorite healthy living blogs. They are inspiring and healthy women. I just think it's important for me to stop comparing myself to them and striving to be just. like. them. Healthy for them may not be healthy for me. And that's what's most important: being healthy for me.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Snack Attack! Homemade Trail Mix

I am not a dietitian, doctor, or any other way an expert. The advice I have is simply what has worked for me and my knowledge gained through hours of reading on nutrition and food each day.  

I started this blog to document my journey to healthy living. As it's progressed, it's become almost entirely food-based. Which is good. Because the food is my favorite part. ;) But, with a recent re-evaluation of my nutrition, my progress on my goals, etc...I need to refocus. I still have 20 pounds to lose before reaching my goal. Which, to those who know me, sounds insane, I know. And thank you for all of the "No! You don't need to lose weight!" comments...but I really do. I'm much shorter than most people realize because I live in heels. Which means 149 lbs (my current weight) is right there next to the overweight category.

It's frustrating being on such a long journey. It's been over two years since I started to lose weight. I have lost 35 pounds since then. Which is remarkable, and I know that. But, it feels so far away. I was almost 10 pounds lighter last October so it's been a while since I've been successful at weight loss. And past success isn't as comforting as present success, is it? But that's even more reason to start over! It may be that I lose 15 pounds and feel fine. I may only lose 10, gain a ton of muscle, and become the next Iron woman. BAHAHAHA. But I definitely can't stay where I am.

Now, what does all of this have to do with trail mix? a part of re-evaluating my nutrition, I've come up with some excellent new additions to my daily meals. After extensive research, I've found several foods that were missing from my diet that could help me on my final stretch of weight loss. And who doesn't want to share that?! :)

I get a lot of questions about what I eat throughout the day. Everyday, I have three (relatively small) meals and three snacks. This works for me; I'm a snacker. I also have a job where I can eat snacks throughout the day. If I didn't, then I would have create an eating schedule that works. I make sure that my snacks are healthy and not processed. I used to eat granola bars, but they did not keep me full and made me feel sluggish. I also have to make sure that they're not too messy, easy to eat, and inexpensive. No matter how much I love fresh, organic berries, I cannot afford them as a daily snack! Here are some current and past snacks:
  • Baby carrots
  • Apples
  • Bananas (definitely organic - they taste completely different!)
  • Nuts and/or dried fruit
  • Celery and Peanut Butter
  • Organic string cheese with whole wheat crackers
  • Greek yogurt 
My afternoon snack for almost 2 years has been almonds. I love them and they're healthy for me. But, no offense to my almonds, they began to get boring. Then, I would just skip them and be starving by the time I got home and shove the first thing I found into my mouth. I had an idea to change to trail mix to give myself variety. I bought a bag for $4.49 at TJ's and it only lasted a week and a day. Later that week, I was at Whole Foods when I started looking at the trail mixes. The prices were about the same and I really couldn't find any variety that I liked. So, then, I saw the giant bags of nuts, seeds, and fruit and decided to buy exactly what I wanted and make a huge batch. 

When choosing your nuts and seeds, be sure that the ingredients match up. If they're raw almonds, make sure that the only ingredient is almonds, as it should be. Also, I got the cashews and sunflower kernels salted and the almonds unsalted to control the salt a bit. I got roasted because they are crunchier than raw and add texture.

With dried fruit, it's doubly important to read the ingredients. They should be simple (read: cherries, sugar). Dried fruit has gotten a bad rap in the past because of its high sugar. Well, this is true...if you eat 1/4 a bag at a time. But I think dried fruit adds flavor to an otherwise boring snack. And it does provide some of the same benefits as fruit when eaten in controlled portions. I would just stick to one, maybe two, fruit selections to keep the sugar down. And always in small amounts. 

Brilliant Trail Mix
makes about 11 3/4 cups
  • 4 cups almonds, roasted and unsalted (16 oz bag)
  • 4 cups cashews, roasted and salted (16 oz bag)
  • 2 cups dried, sweetened cherries (8 oz bag)
  • 1 3/4 cups sunflower kernels, roasted and salted (1/2 16 oz package)

Get a big bowl. I'm not joking, BIG. This was very difficult for me in this bowl. Mix the nuts together first to ensure distribution.

Add the cherries and kernels. In hindsight, the kernels would be better added to each separate container because they like to sink to the bottom. Pour into air tight containers to store.

Viola! The beauty of this is that you can mix and match to your tastes and nutritional needs. If you don't like dried fruit, you could always use some sort of chocolate to sweeten it. However, you'll get probably more sugar per serving without the other nutritional benefits of dried fruit.

Nutritional Information (per 1/4 cup): 160 calories, 12.5g fat (1.5g sat) 10g carbs, 2g fiber, 5g protein

Wondering where the rest of that fat is? Oh, it's just 3.7g polyunsaturated and 6g monounsatured. Ya know, those fats that increase good cholesterol and fight bad cholesterol at the same time. They also provide energy and help with vitamin absorption. (source) Most of that comes from the sunflower kernels - they're nutritional powerhouses! So try to keep them in your mix when you choose your nuts and seeds. And in case you were wondering, only 3.7g sugar!

And if I couldn't rave about this snack more, let's check the price. There are 47 servings in this trail mix. 47! That's a month and a half! And it only cost $14.82! That's only $2.47 per week.

Any ideas on what should be in next month's mix??

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sweet and Spicy Glazed Tofu

I need to get better at making tofu. At TJ's a block of organic extra firm tofu is $1.79. That's two meals' protein! And yet, I rarely use it because I just do the same old things with it: stir fry and tofu parmesan. And while this recipe is in fact a tofu stir fry (don't judge!), it's a different sauce. And it's beyond delicious. So I had to share it.

Sweet and Spicy Glazed Tofu
from Say What You Need To Say
serves 2
  • 1/2 pkg organic extra firm tofu, cut into slabs and pressed
  • 1 pkg (16 oz) Asian mixed vegetables
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce (or sweet and sour sauce)*
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tb. hot sauce
  • 2 Tb. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp minced garlic (or 1/4 tsp garlic powder)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger

*I used sweet chili sauce because a) it's cheaper and b) it has less sugar than sweet and sour sauce. Also, I think it has a better flavor, instead of just being super sweet. 

After pressing the tofu, make perfect tofu. It takes a little longer to turn each piece, but I promise it's worth it. The end result is crunchy, perfectly done, and tasty!

Set the tofu aside. "Stir fry" the vegetables on medium-high heat. My version of stir "frying" doesn't use oil. I use water. Whaat? I know, it sounds insane. But 1/4 cup water added with the vegetables make them steam = crispy vegetables without the extra calories and fat!

While the veggies are cooking, prepare the sauce in a small bowl by combining the sauces, garlic, and ginger. After the veggies are cooked, add the tofu back to the pan with the sauce. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low. 

After the burner cools down a bit, add the yogurt. Stir well to incorporate. Let cook until sauce has become more like a glaze. Serve with rice. 

Nutritional Information (for half with rice): 451 calories, 5.5g fat (0.1g sat), 79.6g carbs, 5.7g fiber, 22.2g protein

I loved this. For real. Not only did the Greek yogurt provide the creaminess but it also gave it a slight tang. Not too much, just enough to complement everything else. It was also the perfect amount of spice. I find General Tsao's to be the whole purpose is to be spicy instead of to provide flavor

I really do need to step outside of my tofu comfort zone, though. I have 6 tofu recipes over the next two weeks. 1/2 are repeats and 1/2 are new recipes. Eeek. Any tofu recipe or cooking method suggestions?

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