Archive for the 'eating healthy' Category

Adventures in healthy cooking – my latest culinary creation

Wow, I’ve been AWOL for a long time! Here’s a drive-by post on my latest culinary adventures: no-meat loaf. Yes, it’s a vegetarian meatloaf. Turned out pretty darned yummy if I do say so! Even better the next day as leftovers.

Advertisements

Healthy Eating Idea #3

It’s no secret that I’ve packed on a few pounds these last few years, a victim of middle age and the butt-in-chair lifestyle of a writer. Thankfully, I’ve recently been shedding them back off with some careful eating. I’ve dropped 22 lbs. and I’m still rolling strong!

One of my strategies for losing weight is to take every opportunity to trim a few extra calories off of my favorite meals (instead of giving up those favorites). I like tacos. I mean, who doesn’t? But those corn taco shells add a lot of extra calories for not much nutritional value. So as I was thinking up way to have tacos without breaking the weight bank and a way to use up some romaine lettuce in the fridge without having to eat another salad, a light bulb popped on (in my mind, not the fridge. That one was already on as I stood there contemplating while all the cold air escaped).

Taco boats. Yep, I was going to make taco boats.

I’m still a vegetarian, so I opted for a portabello mushroom sauteed in taco seasoning filling, and kept the toppings light–some salsa, a slice of avocado, a few black olives, a small crumble of queso fresco; however, this idea will work fine with whatever you like to use as a main taco filling. But I saved over 100 calories by forgoing the corn taco shell in favor of a romaine lettuce boat. I was going to put lettuce on the taco anyway, so why not use it as the containment vessel?

Here’s what I did: I sliced a stem of romaine lettuce in half lengthwise. Then by hand I peeled out the innermost leaves (putting them back in the bag for use in a salad another time). The remaining lettuce was a perfect little boat. I put my portabello filling in, layered on my toppings, and it was done! 

It turned out so great that I devoured it. I did some quick calorie calculations and determined that with my vegetarian filling (I’ve since also done this with a taco-seasoned black bean mix and a Spanish rice mix) I could have TWO taco boats for less calories than I would ingest with just one taco in a shell.

So give it a try. It’s a perfect summer dish: cool, crisp and pretty.

How do you go about trimming a few extra calories from your diet to achieve your weight goals? Or to maintain your weight for those lucky enough to be in a healthy range?

And hey, don’t forget my psychological suspense/thriller/horror short story (plus a bonus inspirational short story) is now available on Amazon for just 99 cents. Jump to the book page by clicking on the cover below.

Healthy Eating Tip #2 – Power Breakfast

I’ve never been much of a breakfast eater. I’ve tried on and off to correct that, as I  know eating breakfast is important. But the thought of sugary, bad carb laden pancakes or waffles to start off my day turns my stomach (and would likely pack on the pounds). I don’t eat meat, so bacon and sausage are out. I can tolerate one of the those fiber and protein breakfast bars sometimes, but really, they get boring after a while. Besides that, they’re processed, and I also am trying to reduce or eliminate preservatives and artifical flavorings and crud like that from my diet.

Recently I stumbled on a healthy breakfast that I adore. It meets all of my criteria:

  • portion controlled
  • good balance of protein, good carbs, and fat
  • inexpensive
  • easy to make
  • packed in vitamins and minerals

Recently I posted a recipe for making mini-lasagna servings. They’re made in ramekins–little oven safe dishes. I got a lot of good feedback on that recipe. At least one person I know went out and bought a set of ramekins so she could make it. Well…one added advantage of today’s power breakfast recipe is that we all get even more use out of those ramekins!

So here it is…my power breakfast special!

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup frozen vegetables, any kind (I like to mix broccoli and spinach)
  • 1-2 organic, free range eggs
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • dash of salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, or whatever seasonings you like!
  • 1 tablespoon cheese

Instructions:

1) Preheat broiler to low setting.

1) Defrost the vegetables in a small microwave-safe bowl (about 1 minute on high). Dump on paper towel and tamp to remove excess moisture. Put vegetable mixure in ramekin (I use my medium ramekins, which are 7 oz.).

2) In a separate  bowl, crack open the two eggs, add the teaspoon (or less) of water, and whatever spices you like in eggs (try some red pepper flakes if you like spicy food). Whisk until egg yolks and whites are blended. Pour into ramekin over vegetable mixture.

3) Microwave on high until egg is cooked and set (about 90 seconds).

4) Remove from microwave. Sprinkle cheese on top (I like to use Mexican Queso Fresco, but any good melting/browning cheese will work). Put ramekin on baking sheet and set under broiler until cheese melts and gets crispy brown around the edges. This only takes a minute or two, so watch it carefully. Enjoy!

If you’d prefer, you can sure just do all the cooking and cheese melting in the microwave, but it’s worth the extra effort to put it under the broiler to get those crispy brown edges and bubbles on the cheese.

I love this savory breakfast. Even in only a 7 oz. ramekin it’s very filling. It has a nice balance of protein, good carbs, and fat. It’s automatically portion controlled. It’s also cheap and easy to make, so it’s healthy on your budget and your schedule as well!

FYI…I always, always keep bags of different types of frozen vegetables in the freezer. Fresh is great, and feel free to substitute if you have them, but frozen vegetables offer about the same nutritional value for much less money, and they don’t have all the added sodium of canned vegetables. they’re great for quick meals like this one. But that’s a Healthy Eating Tip post for another day.

Healthy Eating Tip #1 – Lasagna

Who doesn’t love lasagna? It’s classic comfort food. The problem is, it can pack in the calories, fat, and sodium. The biggest problem with lasagna, in my opinion, is not the ingredients–those can be improved–but the portion. We fill that big ‘ole casserole dish to the brim with pasta-y, tomatoey, cheesey goodness. And when we serve it, we get the spatula down in there and cut out a walloping half-plate serving.

I’ve heard many a fitness/diet/healthy eating guru say that eating right doesn’t have to be about giving up all the foods you love, but in controlling how much of them you eat. But that’s so hard to do with the golden bubbling brown 13 X 9 casserole dish just begging you to take more…

While watching the Food Network the other day, I saw this tip for creating an amazing, cute-as-could-be, portion-controlled serving of lasagna:

Make individual servings of lasagna in little oven-safe ramekins!

Duh! Why didn’t I think of that?

Tried it today, and the results were ah-maze-ing!

How delicious does this look? And pretty enough to serve at a dinner party.

I don’t think I even need to give a recipe–just use your favorite spaghetti sauce, whether from a jar or homemade (but do try to get a lower sodium version if store bought), your favorite lasagna noodles, cooked like normal (you’ll need only 1 or 2 noodles PER SERVING depending on the size of your noodles, more info below), your favorite lasagna filling (I used frozen spinach mixed with ricotta cheese and parmesan cheese).

Spray the sides and bottom of the oven-safe ramekins with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon just enough of your spaghetti sauce in to coat the bottom of the ramekin. Lay one cooked lasagna noodle across the ramekin and push down into the sauce. One is all you’ll need if you’re using very wide noodles.

If your noodles are narrower (or if you want to cut your wide noodles in half) make a cross in the ramekin. I like the cross method better because then all sides of the ramekin have noodle “walls.”

Spoon in about a tablespoon (or less) of the cheese mixture. Top with another dollop of spaghetti sauce, then fold over the ends of one noodle. Make another layer of filling and sauce, fold over the ends of the other noodle to cover. If your noodles are too long, just snip the ends off with clean kitchen scissors. Put another small spoon of cheese filling on, then another small dollop of spaghetti sauce, then a layer of grated parmesan cheese. I add a little mozzarella to mine for that top layer so it will melt and bubble and brown better.

Cook in oven on 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. Adjust cooking time as needed for your size ramekin and thickness of cheese layers.

I like to serve it in the ramekin, but one friend did comment that it was a little harder to eat that way because the ramekin slid around the plate, and it was too hot to hold still with bare hands. On the Food Network, the chef was able to run a butter knife around the edge of the ramekin to make sure nothing was stuck and then slip it out onto a plate right-side up. Hers held together and made a perfect round little lasagna on the plate. I’ve tried that and mine always seem to fall apart. But oh well–it still tastes great, so serve however you like. I guarantee people will eat it.

One more thing…if you like veggie lasagna with eggplant, a circle of eggplant fits perfectly into most ramekins. Just grill or roast your eggplant to soften it, then add a slice to one or two of your layers.

Oh and one more, one more thing. Pyrex makes some cool little glass dishes about the size of a ramekin that have lids and are freezer safe. These individual servings freeze perfectly! Just follow all the steps except baking. When you’re building your layers, make sure not to overfill so that you can get the lid on. Then pop them in the freezer. When you’re ready to eat, thaw on defrost in the microwave and then put in the oven. Do not go straight from freezer to a hot oven!

Healthy Eating – little things matter

It’s too long since I posted. I’ve wanted to make some announcements, but I’ve been waiting for the details to be finalized. I’m almost there! So watch for news in the next few days…

In the meantime, I humbly offer this healthy eating tip. I have found that eating well is essential to keeping my attitude good and my energy (and thus my writing productivity) up. Today, I talk about one of the little changes anyone can make to eat healthier and feel better: eliminating (or at least reducing) the evil fat-monger called mayonnaise.

“Nooooooooooooooo!” I can hear your cries already. “Not my mayonnaise!” Please don’t click over to another blog. Give me a chance. Here is the nutrition information for one ounce of mayo:

 

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 oz
 
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 85

Calories 111

 
% Daily Values*
Total Fat 9.47g 15%
  Saturated Fat 1.389g 7%
  Polyunsaturated Fat 5.103g  
  Monounsaturated Fat 2.552g  
Cholesterol 7mg 2%
Sodium 202mg 8%
Potassium 3mg  
Total Carbohydrate 6.78g 2%
  Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
  Sugars 1.81g  
Protein 0.26g  
 
Vitamin A 1% Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 0% Iron 0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Nutrition Values are based on USDA Nutrient Database SR18

 

Um…not so good. 111 calories for just one ounce. That’ll hardly make a sandwich. Notice the fat levels, the sodium, and the carbs (with no dietary fiber to offset).

But who can stomach a dry sandwich? Not me.

A great substitue? It’s so simple, and creamy, and delicious you won’t believe it…try avocado. Just much up a little of the green stuff and spread it like mayo. Take a look at this nutrition information:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quite a difference! For that same one ounce, less than half the calories and fat. And notice that in the avocado, it’s all “good fat.” No sodium. And an excellent carb:fiber ratio. Plus, since it’s not a processed food, you’re not eating any yucky preservatives.

So get rid of that heavy mayo, and dress your sandwiches with creamy, delicious avocado. It’s especially tasty on sammies that include chicken, turkey, tomato or bacon, but really works well with just about anything.

I hope you’ll try it.

In the meantime, keep your eyes open for my new fantasy romance novella, to be released on Amazon in time for Christmas. More news about this book and others coming soon…

Who Knew Egg Drop Soup was SO Easy?

I have a question for all of you. How have I loved Chinese food (or at least the Americanized version of it) for so long and not known how simple it was to make my own egg drop soup?

I love stir-fry. I mean really love it. To the tune of 3-4 times per week. It’s the simplest, cheapest way around to eat healthy. But I digress. Stir-fry is a great one-pot meal (maybe two pots if I put it over quinoa, which I usually do). But sometimes I wish I had something to go with it to round it out a bit. Eggrolls at home are too much trouble and too many calories. At a restaurant, I usually order a bowl of egg drop soup, but I never thought about what was really in the soup, thus I never thought about trying it at home.

I stumbled across a quick explanation of egg drop soup the other day and had a “duh” moment! So I gave it a try, and wow, is it a tasty, easy to make,  low calorie, low fat, meal. I like it so much I had it for breakfast the next two days. And it is easy to make one serving at a time, so I can make it fresh each time and don’t have to hassle with leftovers.

This isn’t exactly a recipe, so you just have to add the ingredients a little at a time and taste as you go!

Start with two cups of organic, lower sodium broth. I’m vegetarian, so I use vegetable broth, but most people will probably want chicken broth. Put it in a saucepan on medium-high heat.

If you have some fresh ginger, grate a little into the broth as it heats. If you don’t, no worries. Tastes fine without it.

Just before it starts to boil, add a little lower-sodium soy sauce. Be sure to use that lower sodium version. Even so, it will easy be 1/2 your daily allowance of sodium! Start with a tablspoon and add from there to taste. Then add one squirt of sriracha, the red asian chili paste. Go easy…a little goes a long way, and if you make it too spicy, you’ll have to add more broth to thin it out so that your lips won’t burn off when you eat it.

Crack an egg or two in a separate bowl and whisk to mix the yolk and white until smooth.

When the broth mixture comes to a boil, remove it from the heat. Take a large spoon and swirl it around the inside of the pot in one direction to get a good vortex going. Then quickly pick up the egg and drizzle it into the vortex going the opposite direction. Of course, none of that fanciness is really necessary, but it gives the soup a prettly little swirly appearance and keeps you from having a blob of cook egg in the middle of the pot.

Serve piping hot and enjoy!

Even with the low sodium ingredients, this soup is high in sodium, so you might not want to indulge too often. But it sure is good!

Recipe for Life

Admittedly, I came to cooking late in life. My parents put solid meals on the table for me as a child. In college, the dorms provided 24X7 food service. My young adulthood (and much of my not-so-young adulthood) was spent in fast food drive-thru lines and popping boxes into the microwave. I was well into my forties before I finally got fed up (more appropriately “unfed” up) and tried my hand at cooking. I became enamored with the slow cooker, which I still love and use frequently, and eventually ventured out into meals requiring more skillful preparation. I’m actually a pretty good cook now. I don’t have an extensive list of dishes at which I excel, but my favorites, the ones I make often, are quite tasty.

I have learned one thing about myself in the process, though. I can’t follow a recipe to save my life. See, not having grown up cooking, I didn’t have that intuitive understanding of what flavors work together or which ingredients will overwhelm a dish if you add a tad too much. 

So, in an attempt to minimize the number of meals best served to the garbage can, I tried to follow recipes. I really, really tried.

Huh-uh. Ain’t happening.

3/4 teaspoon of salt becomes, “Oh, look. I have garlic salt. Maybe that would be good.” Or, “Ick, I don’t like celery in soup. I’ll just add twice as much onion instead.”

A little of this and a little of that. Experimentation and failure. Substitution success (sometimes).

I’ve finally given up following recipes exactly. I dutifully write them down…and then do what I please.

But none of that is really the source of my enlightenment. What I have recently come to understand is that I live like I cook. A little of this, a little of that.  Experimentation. Substitution. And occassionally I take a big investment and chunk it in the garbage can–and feel good about that.

I don’t want to be bound by measurements and timers. I love to ride horses and write and read and train dogs and be in the thick of disasters. I love spur-of-the-moment lunches with friends and dropping in on family. I love to cook and eat and enjoy a glass of good wine. Schedule-schmedule. I like to do different things on different days in no particular order. I’ll get wherever it is I’m going in my own time.

That’s my recipe for life.


Available Now!

western romance novel boxed set

7 men as tough as the West. 7 women ready to Cowboy Up

Available Now!

Psychological Suspense short story with a bonus inspirational short story included

Coming Soon from Vickie Taylor

Fantasy Romance Novella

What am I reading today?

GOOD OLE BOYS - Denise Barker - Just started, but I'm intrigued so far!

Last five books read:

TEXAS GOTHIC - Rosemary Clement-Moore - Awesome! Great fun and spooktastic at the same time!

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN - Ransom Riggs - Really creative idea. Enjoyed it very much!

BOOTSCOOTIN' BLAHNIKS - D.D. Scott - Very enjoyable, fun book!

THE GOOD DAUGHTER - Diana Layne - Awesome! Get it now!

GOT YOUR NUMBER - Stephanie Bond - Fun little mystery!

What’s on my TBR List?

GOOD OLE BOYS - Denise Barker

Reader’s Guide to E-publishing

Find your next e-book here!

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 504 other followers

Advertisements