Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chili Lime Sweet Potato Wedges

I was so excited to try my first idea for Alexia's "Reinvent a Classic" program. And of course my first try had to be with sweet potatoes...because I'm obsessed. Don't worry Yukon, you'll get your shot too. And I'll try to be fair. ;)

Chili Lime Sweet Potato Wedges
serves 2
  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 2 Tb. lime juice
  • 2 Tb. olive oil
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin

To make wedges, I always choose really round potatoes without a lot of curves. 

Preheat oven to 450F. Chop off the ends to make flat surfaces. Cut each potato in half lengthwise.

Lay each half on one of the ends and cut in half. Cut each half into 3 wedges.  

Toss wedges in oil and lime juice. Coat with seasonings. (I sprinkled them on afterwards on the pan but that made the pan all black with excess don't do that. ;) lol)

Bake for 15 minutes. Flip wedges and bake an additional 10 minutes. You may get worried when they're "black" but it's not a bad black! It's the lime juice caramelizing. Which is definitely a good thing! ;)

I could definitely taste the lime juice and thought it was delicious! I used these babies as a "bed" for my black beans and corn, adding some sour cream and salsa...

In case you were wondering, black beans + sweet potatoes is one of my favorite. combinations. ever. And throwing everything into one big bowl may seem weird but it's ridiculously delicious! I'm a big fan of the one bowl concept

Are you a throw-everything-in-one bowl person or does it gross you out?

For more information on Alexia's "Reinvent a Classic" program and to give your input (yes please!!), see this post.

Disclosure: Alexia Foods has provided me with product coupons and monetary compensation for my participation in this program.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Let's Talk about Fries!

I am a huge fan of Alexia products. I think y'all know that from here. or here. or here. ;) So when they asked me to help "Reinvent a Classic", I jumped at the chance! Last year, Alexia asked consumers to choose the next new flavor for their all-natural fry line-up. After 20,000 votes, Lemon Parmesan Waffle fries will be available this fall!

This year, they've enlisted some of the top food bloggers to create new fry creations! Eeek! While I'm not sure about the "top food blogger" part, the pressure is on. Over the next four weeks, I'll be trying different combinations and trying to come up with the perfect fry! And there's way I could do this without y', let's talk about fries!

Answer carefully. (source)
What type of fry do you like best? Russet or sweet potato?
I'm definitely a sweet potato fry girl! I adore them. Buttt, there is always a time for regular fries, which tend to be more crunchy to me.

Does the cut (julienne, crinkle, waffle, wedge) actually make a difference? Which is your favorite?
It depends on my mood! I think the cut of the fry makes a texture my opinion, from crunchiest to softest: waffle, julienne, wedge, crinkle. But if I had to choose, waffle! They. are. just. so. cute.

Do you like simple or complex seasonings on your fries? Any ideas?
I prefer complex seasonings! Warm fries with some sea salt are delicious but I like my mouth to sing with flavor! ;) I have a feeling when those Lemon Parm fries come out, I'm gonna be a huge fan :)

What kinds of condiments do you use to dip fries?
I'm pretty standard: barbeque, ketchup, mustard. My parents are from the west so I grew up eating a lot of "fry sauce" which is a combo of ketchup and mayonnaise. I haven't used that in a while though...I know what I'll be doing next time! ;)

What about you?! 

Disclosure: Alexia Foods has provided me with product coupons and monetary compensation for my participation in this program.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Triple Tangent Tuesday

Welcome to I-ran-out-of-every-household-item-possible-and-have-no-money-to-spend-on-food week. This week the budget was tight so that dinners have been spaghetti. No joke. So since I have no food to show you, I thought I'd entertain you with three random things about myself which I'm seeing all over blogspace lately. Shall we?

1. I have to match, or at least coordinate, my underwear to my bra. It's a compulsion. I will literally go through an entire drawer of  perfectly good underwear to find a pair that matches. I just mean that if I have a pink bra, I can't wear blue panties. Weird? TMI?

2. I take 4 times as long to do a chore if I have music on. Which is the opposite of practically everyone I know. I don't know why I get so distracted with music on. If it's just the TV on, not a problem. But with headphones on, it takes an hour to load the dishwasher.

3. I daydream a lot more than most people do...I think. I'm not sure if this one is due to my job (sitting at a desk all day with periods of nothing to do) but I can't tell you how many times people have looked at me weird because I'm just staring off into the distance.

Tell me some random things about you! (that is if my random stuff hasn't scared you off...)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Easy Sides on MyPlate

I'm a big fan of one bowl meals. Casseroles, stir frys, pastas, salads...basically anything that puts the entire meal in one giant bowl. Sometimes, though, I find myself having a meal more comparable to the standard protein-veggies-grains concept. These are my favorite easy sides for those meals.

Roasted Potatoes
makes 2 servings
  • 2 medium potatoes, any kind, unpeeled (about 12 oz)
  • 1 Tb. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
You can use pretty much any type of potato you want. Reds roast really well but I've also used russets. My favorite? SWEET POTATOES! So nutritious and just melty after being roasted. And feel free to adjust the seasoning to your tastes and the potatoes you use.

Preheat oven to 400F. Quarter the potatoes and toss with olive oil and spices.

Pour into a prepared baking dish and cover with foil. Bake 20 minutes, remove the foil, and then back into the oven for an additional 20 minutes.

Nutritional information (for 1/2 with red potatoes): 200 calories, 4.6g fat (0.5g sat), 37g carbs (4g fiber), 4.5g protein

Honey Butter Carrots
makes 2 servings
from Sunny Anderson
  • 1/2 lb baby carrots (8 oz)
  • 1 Tb. butter (or Earth Balance)
  • 1 Tb. honey
  • 1 Tb. lemon juice

Cook the carrots in the microwave for 6 minutes with 1/4 cup water. Drain and add to skillet with butter, honey and lemon juice. Cook until carrots are glazed. SUPER EASY!

Nutritional information (for 1/2): 123 calories, 5.6g fat (1.8g sat), 19g carbs (2g fiber), 0.8g protein

A while back, Alexia sent me some great products to review. I actually had these absolutely FABULOUS mashed potatoes over a month ago (yikes!) but the "meat"loaf we had them with was much less than stellar so I was waiting to share them.

Alexia Mashed Red Potatoes
makes about 5 servings
  • 1 bag Alexia frozen Mashed Red Potatoes with Garlic and Parmesan
Mashed potatoes in the microwave? I know, I was skeptical too. But these are easy and yet heavenly.

Place bag in the microwave and microwave according to package directions. Pour into a bowl and stir. Seriously. that. easy. There are also directions on the bag for just making two servings. 

I topped mine with some nutritional yeast which was the perfect complement. (and served them with the carrots!) These were some of the best mashed potatoes I've ever had and I was so surprised that they came from the microwave! At first I thought that I wouldn't be buying these because we just don't have a need for 4-5 servings of mashed potatoes...but then I saw the directions for just two servings. These are perfect, easy, and so freakin delicious!

Nutritional information (for 1/2 cup): 170 calories, 6g fat (3.5g sat), 23g carbs (2g fiber), 4g protein 

Speaking of the standard protein-veggies-grains plate, I'm surprised I haven't talked about the new MyPlate that the USDA put out a couple weeks ago.

The new image comes with some guidelines and is supposed to be easier for consumers to make healthy choices.
  • Balance calories: enjoy food, eat less, avoid over-sized portions
  • Foods to increase: fruits and vegetables, half of your grains be whole grains, switch to low-fat or fat-free milk
  • Foods to reduce: sodium and sugary drinks
My opinion? It's more of the same. The USDA is constantly trying to simplify healthy eating. I don't think it should be simplified. I think people should learn to create the time to think about what they're eating. I'm sure some TV time could be sacrificed to plan healthy meals. Just like exercise, you have to make it a priority to eat healthily, not just expect it to be made easier. And where is exercise, by the way? At least that weird side pyramid had a guy running up the side. 

I also think that being non-specific is of no help to the average person with very little nutrition knowledge. Less calories, more fruit and vegetables...DUH. No mention of decreasing artificial ingredients or processed foods...or how not just half of your grains, the majority of your grains should be whole. It always seems to me that the USDA is always trying to walk that line between telling consumers what's really healthy and not pissing off big business. Probably because they are. 

What are some of your favorite side dishes?

What are your thoughts on the new MyPlate?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Whole Wheat Blueberry Banana Muffins

I told you I'm on a muffin craze. I love everything with whole wheat. And not just because it's much healthier for me, but because I truly appreciate that nutty, hearty taste. So when I saw muffins made with JUST whole wheat flour (instead of the normal 1/2 and 1/2 proportions), I was so excited to try them! Then Earthfare tossed me a free pint of blueberries a couple weeks ago and it was a done deal. :)

Whole Wheat Blueberry Banana Muffins
from Daily Garnish
makes 12 muffins
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour 
  • 1 Tb. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg or flax egg (1 Tb. ground flax with 3 Tb. water)
  • 1 very ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup milk (I used unsweetened soy)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

I originally made these with the flax egg. I like using flax eggs while baking because flax seeds are a complete protein packed with omega 3s, antioxidants, and both soluble and insoluble fiber! However, they were kind of dry (which could have been because my banana wasn't very ripe the first time) so this past weekend, I made them again with a real egg. There were definite textural differences. The vegan ones weren't bad, I just preferred the texture of the ones made with the egg. Up to you! (The pictures are the vegan version.)

Preheat oven to 400F. Combine ground flax and water and set aside (if using flax egg).

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugars.

Mash banana with a fork and combine with vanilla, milk, and egg. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and combine until just incorporated. Do not over mix!

Gently fold in blueberries. The first time I made these with fresh and the second time with frozen (not thawed!) and both worked well.

Divide batter into prepared muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes, or until tops are turning golden brown.

Nutritional information (for 1 vegan muffin): 134 calories, 1g fat (0.1g sat), 30g carbs (3.3g fiber), 3.5g protein

Nutritional information (for 1 regular muffin): 138 calories, 1g fat (0.3g sat), 30g carbs (3g fiber), 4g protein

As you can see, the nutritional information barely varies for the vegan one (flax egg) or the regular one (chicken egg). These muffins are tasty and filling, which is exactly what I look for in a muffin. My breakfasts have to fill me up until lunch or they don't make the cut! I preferred the frozen blueberries to the fresh ones only because they were smaller. That sounds weird, I know, but I prefer to have more, small blueberries in each muffin as opposed to a few, larger blueberries.

In workout news, I'm still truckin along with my long workouts. I've scaled back on the use of Jillian DVDs (not because I don't love her!) and amped up my time in the "weight room". The weight room is in the second bedroom and it has the weight bench in it. So I have switched to doing "heavy" weights three times a week. So far I'm benching approx 45 lbs (25 + the bar, which is about 20) and curling about 10 lbs (10 + the bar, which is probably only 1-2). Small, I know, but I love the way it makes me feel! Plus, it's so easy to see improvements when weight training. The reps become easier, or you can increase the weight. It's. just. so. rewarding.

SCORE! Since my post two weeks ago, that's 1.5 lbs a week...which I am extremely excited about! And the best part is noticing the changes in how my clothes fit. I can tell that the weight training is really helping there.  Still having trouble with abs though. I found a couple pilates ab workouts on YouTube that I'll be trying tonight. My main problem with abs is that they're really weak. But it seems that no matter how consistently I train or how hard I push myself, I'm never sore the next day. Which I know isn't everything but if I'm pushing it THAT hard, shouldn't I feel something if it's working??

Do you feel like it wasn't as good a workout when you can't "feel" it the next day?
It depends. If it's something I've been doing a while, like running, then I don't expect to feel it the next day. But if I amp up my speed or train an area that I'm not strong in (ABS!), then I do expect to feel it...and it's kinda disheartening when I don't (ABS!).

How have you been doing on your goals for the week/month?
I'm super proud with my progress so far! Hoping I can keep it up ;)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Edamame Fried Rice

I made a discovery over the weekend. Fried rice is ridiculously easy to make. And doesn't have to cost $8 for a box filled with oil and a ridiculous amount of salt. This was the absolute perfect weekend lunch.

Edamame Fried Rice
from Daily Garnish
serves 3
  • 1 cup dry brown rice, cooked
  • 2 Tb. sesame oil, divided
  • 1 cup shelled edamame
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 3-4 mushrooms, chopped*
  • 3 Tb. soy sauce
  • 1 egg

*These were a perfect last minute addition so they're not in the picture. I cooked my rice in the microwave, which is my favorite way - so easy! I put 1 cup dry brown rice and 2 cups water in a large microwave safe dish and cook for 10 minutes on high and 20 minutes on 50% power. You may have to mess with this depending on your microwave and rice. White rice used to only take 20 mins total and had to add the extra 10 mins when I switched over to brown.

Heat 1 Tb. oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add brown rice and saute for about 5 minutes. This gives the rice that "fried rice" texture.

Add the carrots, mushrooms, and edamame. Cook for about 5 more minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir together leftover 1 Tb. oil and soy sauce in a small bowl. Add to pan and stir quickly to coat.

Here was my favorite part. It was so easy but it just made me feel cool. Bahahaha. Make a well in the center of your pan and crack the egg into it.

Scramble the egg with your spatula; it shouldn't take more than a minute to cook through. Toss completely and serve!

Nutritional information (for 1/3): 435 calories, 16g fat (2.3g sat), 58g carbs (6.5g fiber), 15.5g protein

How good was this? SO FREAKIN GOOD. Seriously. Loved it! It's already on the menu again. I added more soy sauce than the original recipe just because I really like soy sauce. But if you don't or have problems with salt, the original recipe only used 2 tablespoons. I added the mushrooms because I had a couple leftover in my fridge and they were the perfect addition. I was also so impressed on how quick this was. Make sure to get all your veggies chopped and stuff ready to go because the cooking moves quickly.

Now I know that edamame may seem like a weird vegetable to most...but it's actually just "immature" soybeans! Edamame is a complete protein, which means that it provides all of the amino acids, so it's a great way to make this into a well-rounded meal. Normally vegetable fried rice is just a high calorie side, but the edamame adds enough protein for it to stand alone. Plus, they taste great! Frozen works just fine in this recipe and can be found almost anywhere!

Have you ever tried edamame? 
While it's not my favorite just to sit and eat out of a bowl, I love incorporating it in recipes!

Have you ever won anything?
Shuesday (3 times!) or other things that require timing or knowledge...but if it requires just LUCK. Nope, ain't happenin. ;)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Whole Wheat Banana Nut Muffins

The one thing I have been baking lately? MUFFINS. I'm on a total muffin craze for weekend breakfasts.

Would you like me to assign someone to butter your muffin?
Whole Wheat Banana Nut Muffins
from Eating Clean Recipes
makes 12 muffins
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 3 Tb. canola oil
  • 1 cup mashed, ripe bananas*
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats

*I used 3 ripe bananas but the banana flavor could've been stronger so I think next time I'd do 4. The banana flavor intensified after cooling...muffins are always best after giving them a 30 minute rest, at least. But the husband is impatient when it comes to baked goods.  

Preheat oven to 400F and line muffin tins with paper cups. Lightly spray the cups with nonstick spray. I was out and skipped this step and the result was having to eat muffin remnants off the cups...

Place flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl and combine. In a separate bowl, mash bananas and then combine with egg, sugar, yogurt, oil, and vanilla.

Add to flour mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in nuts and oats. Divide evenly into muffin cups (they will be pretty full).

Bake for 20 minutes, or until tops are browned and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove and move to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Nutritional information (per muffin): 195 calories, 7.4g fat (0.7g sat), 32g carbs (4g fiber), 4g protein

CARBALICIOUS. Just how I like 'em. These muffins were super tasty and soo filling! I thought they could've been a bit more moist but adding another banana would help that.

Speaking of carbs, I know that long-time readers know of my hatred for low-carb diets. But after doing some research, I've learned that I naturally follow a "lower-carb" diet than most Americans (the average is about 300g per day!). And therefore, my healthy balance diet would be low carb to them. And yet, I've never shunned whole grain breads or high carb fruits. Not even for a week. Interesting, no?

Do I have to say it again? Read it!
Last weekend, I read Lou's chapter on nutrition by the pool and wanted to share it with everyone at the pool. Except most of them were drunk strangers and 6 year I didn't. But I'll share it with YOU! Lou emphasized that carbs are necessary (duh) and that with the right balance of food and exercise, the body can adapt and use those carbs instead of converting them straight to fat like all those low-carb sponsored studies tell you they do. He emphasized the importance of choosing the right carbs. Fruits and whole grains are excellent choices. But my favorite part? His suggestion of when to eat carbs and how this placement can affect how they're used. Carbs eaten right after exercise provide more energy than carbs eaten before, carbs eaten along with protein are absorbed before the protein which is more efficient and so on. I loved reading a book that cautions against too many carbs but also gives ways in which they can be used the most efficiently and repercussions of not having enough carbs in your diet.

Have I sold you on reading this book yet? No? Ok...well, my very, very favorite part was the repeated mantra of "what works for her may not work for you. Try it this way and if it doesn't work, tweak it until it does." Then add in all the workout plans with real weights....LOVE IT.  

What are your opinions on "low carb" diets? Have you ever tried one before?

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