Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Week in Food~ Not Your Mother's Weight Watchers

I previously posted my new meal planner with menu plans filled in...(click image to see the details.)


Here's some food porn and recipe links from the finished meals. It was a satisfying, nutritious and delicious week!

Monday~ Epic Cobb Salad (10 Smartpoints)


This featured a bed of salad greens topped with spring onions, orange bell pepper, cucumber, snow peas, grape tomatoes, sweet crunchy apples, crumbled blue cheese, bacon, and grilled chicken. I used the new sprays that I bought at Aldi as the dressing. The chili oil was really nice, lots of flavor for the amount. I love the format of the balsamic spray, but I've been spoiled by the real thing, so the vinegar left me a little flat.

Tuesday~ Grilled Sirloin Steak with Grilled Caesar's Salad (14sp)


                         

I was dreaming about the taste of grilled beef, so this happened. I made homemade croutons and Caesar dressing from Gina's Skinnytaste website. I cut the lemon juice in the dressing with white balsamic vinegar because if it's too sour, Rob won't eat it. The dressing and the croutons were amazing!

Thursday~ Jerk Chicken Buddha Bowl (7sp)

                            

Oh, this was a bowl of deliciousness, look how pretty it is! It has a base of supergrain blend, which contains quinoa, a crunchy salad blend from Trader Joe's which has seven or eight different chopped vegetables in it, chopped red pepper, diced fresh pineapple, grilled chicken breast seasoned with jerk seasoning, I like the McCormick blend, it's super spicy. And a homemade dressing of a dollop of nonfat Greek yogurt, a splash of vinegar, and some sriracha. Whip up a Buddha bowl, the only limit is your imagination. I wish I had though to grill the pineapple. I won't forget next time.

This was made on one of those days, one of those terrible, no good, very bad days. The kind where you just want to order takeout and stress eat the day away. I shut those thoughts down immediately and threw this together. All that spice and crunch really put a smile on my face. That's what we call a Non-Scale Victory!

Wednesday~ Mahi Mahi Burgers and Lemony Cole Slaw with Apples (10sp)

No photo. Another Trader Joe's find from my last visit. Low point and delicious seasoned patties of mahi mahi. I cooked them off and put them on a couple of flatout flat breads each and a big heaping scoop of lemony cole slaw. The cole slaw is an official Weight Watchers recipe and it knocked my socks off, the lemony dressing was a revelation! We ate off that batch three times, it never got soggy, watery, or discolored. I think it's going to be my go-to summer slaw. 

Friday~ Fish and Chips with Chip Butty (17sp)


Rob was after me for fish and chips. How was I going to fit that into my plan? Trader Joe to the rescue!  They had frozen fish nuggets and Handsome Cut Fries. I scanned them with my handy app and saw that the points were far smaller than I had anticipated. I made sure I had enough points for a double serving of fish and a hearty 5 ounce serving of fries. I had enough for bread and butter, too, because one simply does not have fish and chips without a chip butty. This plate is about 17 points, which is a bit more than I typically like to have at one meal. I had eaten tons of raw veggies throughout the day to keep points low and to make sure I had my vegetables servings in. I don't like frozen fries, they always taste funky and fake, but not these, they tasted homemade. Highly recommended when you need that French fry fix.

Saturday~ Pizza Night (12sp)
We have Pizza Night every Friday at Shady Dame, but because Rob was craving fish and chips, I moved it to Saturday. I didn't snap a pic, I'll have to do it another time. It's very simple, Flatout Artisan Rosemary Olive Oil pizza crust. It is indeed flat. Flat as a slice of paper but it's quite tasty. I spray it with a bit of EVOO, bake it on a tray for five minutes, take it out and layer on crushed tomatoes, crushed red pepper, fresh basil, a sprinkling of Pecorino Romano cheese and two and a half ounces of shredded part skim mozzarella cheese. Back in the oven for 10 minutes at 400 degrees F. I make one for me and two for Rob. It's a delicious 12 points. I pair it with a green salad if I need a bit more food in me. 

Easter Sunday~ Pork schnitzel, sage brown butter noodles, and Roman style artichoke hearts (16sp)


The whole point of the new Weight Watchers is to make the plan fit your life, and not the other way around. And hey, holidays happen, but it's not an excuse for me to go off the rails at this time in my life. I wanted a crispy, crunchy, fried pork cutlet with toothsome, buttery noodles. I made a few tweaks and got exactly what I wanted. I baked the cutlets and crisped them up with panko and EVOO spray (the organic Spanish one from Trader Joe's has amazing flavor and no propellants,) ditched the egg dip in favor of a light brushing of Dijon mustard and cut the butter back to just one tablespoon for 6 ounces of frozen noodles (which was two servings for us that day.) The artichokes are a spring tradition for me, I usually like them whole and stuffed with my Mother's Italian stuffing but I found this recipe and it was wonderful. Sauteed with a little broth, shallots, and lots of fresh mint, and splash of white wine vinegar and it fit the bill perfectly.


I can't have Easter without a Cadbury Egg. I got one of each, split them, and vacuumed sealed the other halves and hid them in the freezer. I savored this little bit of lovliness, and only had to dip into two of my weekly points. Win!

 As you can see, the new Weight Watchers isn't the same as in the old days with fat free Frakenfoods and boring chicken and steamed broccoli every night. I won't bore you with what I ate every week, but look for these posts from time to time. 

*disclaimer* All Smartpoints were calculated using the official Weight Watchers app using my specific ingredients. Always double check the recipe against your ingredients for the most accurated points count.
*Post contains affiliate links, see disclosure for more details*

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Results are in...

You are NOT the father!  (You read that in Maury's voice, didn't you?)

I recently had an MRI on my lumbar spine and bilateral knees. I saw both of my orthopedists this week to discuss the results.

I have herniated discs in my low back, along with fluid in my facet joint on the left side which is causing pain on that side. But the back doc said these will heal on their own eventually and to keep doing what I'm doing, which is the exercises the Physical Therapist gave me and going back to my Chiropractor regularly.

The knees are a bit more complicated. I have meniscus tears on both sides, along with severe arthritis in both knees, so basically bone on bone. I'm not surprised by this at all. And while I'm not happy about it, I feel validated to have an actual diagnosis and a solid treatment plan. It can be hard to get taken seriously by the medical community while being a woman, and fat. Women's pain complaints are often underestimated by medical professionals, and fat women get dismissed right at the start much of the time.

The weight loss over the past month has done a small amount of good in the pain and mobility department, but not enough that I can be as active as I want. I'm still out of work on leave. The knee doc said he wants to do a series of viscosupplement injections which will mimic synovial fluid between the bones and hopefully decrease pain. If this works, it will keep me out of having surgery at this point.

Think good thoughts that the insurance company approves this quickly! In the meanwhile, I'm going to keep on keeping on with Weight Watchers. I'm loving the program so much, I wish I had joined sooner. I'll do a more detailed post on it soon, with lots more gushing.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Recipe~ Overnight Oats with Chia and Berries

Have you tried overnight oats? They are also known as refrigerator oats, you mix oats, liquid, fruit, and flavorings then they sit in the fridge overnight. The oats absorb the liquid and get soft and flavorful from the fruit and whatever flavorings you add. They are quick, convenient, and perfect for a Sunday batch up. If you want a satisfying grab and go breakfast, this fits the bill.

Overnight Oats with Chia and Berries
Makes three servings
7 Smartpoints per serving, calculated by the official Weight Watchers recipe builder


Ingredients~
1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats, not instant, or steel cut
3 tablespoons chia seeds
3 servings of your favorite protein powder, I used eggwhite powder that I found at Trader Joe's
8 fluid ounces of the milk of your choice, I like unsweetened vanilla almond milk
8 fluid ounces of water
1 cup of fresh or frozen fruit, I used frozen cherry berry blend
pumpkin pie spice to taste
a packet of your favorite sweetener, I used one packet of stevia

Instructions~
Mix everything in a large bowl, divide the mixture evenly between three containers, I used pint mason jars. Place in fridge overnight. Breakfast is ready to devour the next morning!


This is completely customizable to your taste, you can add lemon zest, juice and add blueberries, you can add a ripe mashed banana, pineapple, peaches. Different flavors of protein powder can change it up, too. Just keep in mind that your point value will vary depending on the type of protein powder you use. To lower the points, you can omit the chia seeds, but I like the good fats, it helps keep me. If you come up with a great combination, come share it with me!


Sunday has also become meal planning day. This is a must for me in order to have a successful week. I got this fantastic planner from Amazon. I've tried all manner of planners over the years, but this is the one I would have designed myself had I any artistic ability. They have all sorts of covers available. I almost got the Wonder Woman cover until I saw the cupcakes.


I've got most of my meals planned out, including my reminders to exercise. My knees are feeling ever so slightly better so I'm going to bust out my Leslie Sansone Walk and Home DVDs and try out the one mile walk, as well as try to build up some stamina and strengthen my knees on the new rowing machine we just bought.


Have a wonderful week!


Disclaimer~This post contains affiliate links.



Thursday, April 6, 2017

Recipe~ Beef Stroganoff Bubble Up Featuring Kettle and Fire Beef Bone Broth


Broth is still beautiful! Even as I fell back into old eating habits, my habit of stashing bones and vegetable scraps to make bone broth never fell by the wayside. The health benefits are too good to overlook. My joints need all the help they can get, and bone broth is high in minerals and amino acids. I love to cook with it and sip it. It really helped Rob get over a horrible cold this winter. 

I've always hoped that I could find excellent quality beef broth that I could keep in the pantry for those times when I didn't have any beef bones in the freezer. Enter Kettle and Fire! They offer a shelf stable bone broth in vacuum sealed packs. They use bones from 100% organic, pasture-raised and grass-fed cattle. I'm featuring Kettle and Fire beef bone broth in my new recipe, Beef Stroganoff Bubble up.

What's a bubble up? Well, it's a casserole. Not sure why it's called a bubble up, but there are lots of them floating around the Weight Watchers recipe blogs. Think lightened up comfort food! I haven't tried any from the recipe blogs, because many of them require the use canned condensed soup. Ugh, nope! I can do better. Now this isn't a dump and stir recipe, it does require a little cooking in the kitchen, but it's worth it for something nutritious and delicious.

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Beef Stroganoff Bubble Up
Serving size 1/6 of the recipe
8 Smart points per serving

Ingredients~




1 pound of extra lean ground beef, cooked and drained well. Seasoned to taste. I used some of that amazing Everything but the Bagel seasoning from Trader Joe's. It's a savory flavor bomb!
1 whole cauliflower, cut into florets
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
8 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced, and sauteed
8 ounces fresh cremini muhrooms, cleaned and left whole
4 tablespoons reduced fat sour cream
1 tablespoon of reduced sodium Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tablespoon of paprika
salt and pepper to taste
a pinch of cayenne pepper
1 ounce shredded part skim mozzarella cheese (I like to buy the block and shred it myself)
1 package of reduced fat crescent rolls whack-a-dough, don't unroll it, leave the roll whole, cut it into 8 even pieces crosswise then cut each circle into four pieces. I realize that it's not exactly a whole food, but I make it part of the 20% in the 80/20 template I try to follow. You could easily omit and top with homemade biscuits or pie crust. 



Sipping the rest of the broth while I was cooking. It has a rich mouth feel but tasted a bit bland, but low sodium broth allows you to control the sodium in your food. 

Instructions~
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spray a 13x9 or similar sized casserole dish with cooking spray. I like the Spanish organic olive oil spray from Trader Joe's, really good flavor and no propellants.
Place a deep sided skillet over medium high heat, spray with cooking spray and add chopped onion and cook until softened. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour in bone broth and Worcestershire sauce and stir up any brown bits from the bottom. Add whole mushrooms and cauliflower. Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to blender or food processor and purée until smooth. 




Transfer purée to bowl and stir in cooked beef, sour cream, and sliced, cooked mushrooms. Transfer mixture to prepared casserole dish, it will be loose, think beef pot pie filling. Place cut up crescent rolls evenly over the top and sprinkle with shredded cheese.

Bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes until the rolls are golden brown and the casserole is all bubbly.  Devour!

This was a hit with my husband. It was filling and delicious. If you do weekend meal prep, you could toss this together on Sunday, cover it, stash it in the fridge and pop it in the oven for a busy weeknight dinner. 




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For those of you following the Weight Watchers Smartpoints plan, you can enjoy a full cup of a nutritious and delicious elixir for a whopping 1 Smartpoint!


Compare Kettle and Fire to the ingredients of popular national brands...




Canned Beef Broth~ Beef Broth (water, beef stock) Salt, Hydrolyzed protein (yeast, soy, corn, wheat,) Barley Yeast Extract, Monosodium Glutamate, Sugar, Detrise, Caramel, Flavor, Citric Acid, Spice Extracts. 

Reduced fat Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup~ Chicken Stock, Modified Food Starch, Wheat Flour, Cream (Milk), Chicken Meat, Contains Less Than 2% Of: Salt, Vegetable Oil, Mechanically Separated Chicken*, Monosodium Glutamate, Yeast Extract, Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Flavoring, Chicken Fat, Vegetable Oil, Beta Carotene For Color, Soy Protein Isolate, Sodium Phosphate, Lactic Acid, Soy Lecithin, Celery Extract, Chicken*, Butter (Cream), Butter* (Cream, Salt), Cream* (Cream, Soy Lecithin), Sunflower Oil, Buttermilk, Enzyme Modified Butter, Butter (Cream, Annatto), Whey Protein Concentrate, Onion Extract, Nonfat Dry Milk, Enzyme Modified Butter Fat And Oil, Whey. *dehydrated

Reduced fat Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup~ Water, Mushrooms, Modified Food Starch, Wheat Flour, Contains Less Than 2% Of: Salt, Cream (Milk), Vegetable Oil (Corn, Canola, And/or Soybean), Monosodium Glutamate, Soy Protein Concentrate, Flavoring, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, Water, Lactic Acid, Dehydrated Butter (Cream, Salt), Buttermilk, Enzyme Modified Butter, Skim Milk, Whey Protein Concentrate, Enzyme Modified Butter Fat And Oil, Whey, Soy Lecithin.

(Kettle and Fire provided me with samples of their product, but the opinions contained in this post are my own. This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosures for more details.)

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Defining my Vision

In order to regain my mobility, in order to have long lasting success, I need to have a clear vision of WHY I have decided to do what amounts to starting over. I want to have this laid out clearly so I can keep it close to me when things get tough, when I get tired of tracking points, when I get frustrated by pain and just want to feed myself for comfort.

Rob and I went to Italy in December 2016 to celebrate Rob's 50th birthday, the winter holidays, and our 15th wedding anniversary. We returned to the hotel we stayed at the previous year, right in the heart of the Oltrarno neighborhood of Florence, the most beautiful city in the world. It was a dream come true. But my knees, my immobility stood in the way of my fully enjoying this vacation.

I could only walk for so long before having to sit down and rest. It was so frustrating and I was so disappointed in myself. My husband was so loving and supportive, though. He was my sherpa carrying everything when I couldn't, being patient with me when I had to slow down or rest. It was wonderful (OMG, the food and wine,) for the most part, but I can't shake the feeling of disappointment of how I let myself, and my husband down.

My vision is going back to Italy and having a chance to do it over again, this time with my legs and back feeling great, being able to walk for miles without resting, without having to wake up with swollen knees and wonder how I was going to get through the day. I have this vision clear in my mind, with a goal date in mind, my 50th birthday in September of 2019.

In case you wondering why I want to go back, here are some photos from our trip. This will help me to revisit my WHY when I need it, to help me define my vision.

The view of Ponte Santa Trinita from Ponte Vecchio over the Arno River

Birth of Venus, Botticelli in Uffizi Gallery

Meat and Cheeses from Signorvino. 
You've never tasted Prosciutto like this outside of Italy.

Madame with the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) in the background

Rare quiet morning in the city center


The Replica of David, where the original used to stand, in front of 
the Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza della Signoria


The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, 
known the world over as The Duomo 

Santo Spirito Church

Basilica di Santa Croce, the final resting place of many famous 
Italians Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli

Il Porcellino, rub his nose to ensure your return to Florence. 
You bet I rubbed that snoot!

Oceanus by Giambologna in the Bargello Sculpture Museum

Crostini with different spreads from Le Volpe L'Uva, 
I miss those long wine lunches. We even sat outside late December.


Gaia's Fountain in Piazza del Campo, Siena

Duomo di Siena (Cathedral of Siena)

The Church in a square in San Gimignano 

Tuscan Countryside


Michelangelo's David at Accademia Gallery

The view over Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo

The Colosseum, Rome

Perseus with the head of Medusa, Cellini, outside the Loggia di Lanza
sculpture garden in Piazza della Signoria

Bianchi (my maiden name) bikes all over town

Pitti Palace Muse


Ponte Veccho by night

The giant Christmas Tree in front of the Duomo

At a New Year's Eve gala on our 15th Anniversary, 
what a fabulous night this was!

La Primavera by Botticelli, lesser known than 
Birth of Venus but more evocative IMO.

Duomo di Pisa

Piazza Navona, Rome

Neptune's Fountain, Piazza Navona



Thursday, March 30, 2017

America's Test Kitchen

It's not been all bad while I've been away. Back in February I entered a contest sponsored by Georgia Public Broadcasting and America's Test Kitchen (ATK.) They posted three ATK recipes, asking to make one, take a photograph and submit it as the contest entry.

I made the Red Lentil Soup with North African Spices, and submitted this photo on the day before the deadline. The soup was wonderful, and easy to prepare. 



The next evening I checked my e-mail and found that I was one of the three grand prize winners! I won the amazing prize pack of cookbooks, membership to the online cooking school, and the signature America's Test Kitchen red apron.


And best of all, I was invited to a dinner with Bridget Lancaster and Julia Collin Davison, hosts of the show. If you're a foodie and a home cook like I am, you know how exciting this is. Bridget is one of my cooking idols, one of my fantasy "three for dinner" along with Ina Garten and Anthony Bourdain.

The dinner was held at Better Half in Atlanta, the winners of the contest were there, along with some of the local supporters of GPB (aka big donors.) They showed us a wonderful time, the meal was fantastic, all from the America's Test Kitchen cookbook but with a special twist by chef Zach Meloy.














I got to have a couple of conversations with Bridget! She lives up in the north shore of Boston and it was so great to visit with a home girl. And she and Julia signed my cookbook. It was a really special evening. I still smile when I think about it.






By the way, my hair is purple now.