RSS Feed

Tag Archives: diet

Leap Day Monkey Breads

The interior springs, which prevent the unusually heavy dishwasher door from recklessly crashing to the floor, busted the other day. The repair man has assessed the damage and the necessary parts have been ordered. In the mean time, we’re fondly referring to the dishwasher as “toddler crusher”, which certainly kicks up the level of excitement in the kitchen. Because being in the kitchen should always feel a little like Thunderdome, shouldn’t it?

Aside from the added thrill of crashing appliance doors (thank you, LG), we are all buzzing with excitement around here today, because it’s Leap Day…and if we learned anything from last week’s episode of 30 Rock, you can do anything you want on Leap Day, because nothing counts. (Buh-bye diet!) Being as I learn most of life’s important lessons from Thursday nights’ TV line-up, we’re going to celebrate Leap Day as it ought to be celebrated.

Which means we’re going to wear mismatching socks, forget about chores, and eat ice cream sundaes for dinner. I might even buy that Mercedes E320 I’ve always wanted. And I’m totally going to bathe myself in salted caramel. Because it’s an extra day and you can spend it however you want. In an ideal world, I’d actually spend my extra day taking one very long nap in a warm, quiet sensory deprivation chamber. But since I still need to take care of my children…even on Leap Day…we’re going to go the recklessly over-indulgent and silly behavior route for the day.

In between our ice cream sundaes, we’ll eat monkey bread…because it has a funny name that I don’t understand and it’s just really, really yummy. It makes me happy. Monkey bread, though an old familiar to many, is pretty new to me. I made (and tasted) my first monkey bread for my super bowl party (aka the DeLine family super bowl massacre). I fell in love. Big time. It was a pepperoni pizza monkey bread, with gooey mozzarella cheese and bits of spicy pepperoni scattered between buttery, garlicky bits of pizza dough. But, the thing I loved most of all were the infinite possibilities.

You can make monkey bread with any number of flavors. Use whatever sort of dough floats your boat. Stuff the little balls of dough with anything your heart desires. Roll the balls in any coating. Go savory. Go sweet. Go crazy. It’s monkey bread! This time, I made two types of monkey bread. The first (your dinner course, if you will) is a buffalo chicken pizza monkey bread…gooey balls of pizza dough stuffed with spicy chunks of chicken, mozzarella cheese, and bleu cheese which are then rolled in a buttery wing sauce. Dip ’em in bleu cheese dressing…holy yum!

The boys enjoyed my second variation; s’mores monkey bread. We stuffed the chunks of pizza dough with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips, then rolled them in a sugary graham cracker crumb mix. The final result is oozing with s’mores flavor. For an even more decadent treat, dip the warm chunks into hot fudge or some sticky marshmallow fluff!

Go ahead, indulge. All foods are 0 calories on Leap Day. Google it.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza Monkey Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 pizza dough, store-bought or homemade
  • 1 cup chicken, cooked and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup bleu cheese, crumbled
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 4 tablespoons Frank’s Red Hot sauce, divided
  • Bleu Cheese Dressing, for dipping

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray four mini pie pans with non-stick cooking spray. (Alternately, you can use one large bundt pan or smaller cupcake-sized pans. Adjust baking time, longer for larger pans and a few minutes shorter for smaller pans.) Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of the hot sauce over the chicken and toss to coat. Mix the remaining hot sauce in with the melted butter. (If desired, add additional hot sauce for a spicier result.) Set aside. Pull off small chunks of the pizza dough (about 1″ diameter). Slightly flatten the dough. Place a little chunk of the chicken and a pinch or two of both cheeses in the center of the dough round. Wrap the dough around the fillings into a small ball shape. Dip the ball in the butter/hot sauce mixture to coat, then place it in the pie pan. Repeat until all dough has been used and each pie pan is filled with multiple stuffed dough balls. Scatter any remaining crumbled bleu cheese over the top of each pie pan. Allow to rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes to allow the dough to rise slightly. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until puffy and cooked through. Serve warm with bleu cheesing dressing and/or additional hot sauce.

S’mores Monkey Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 pizza dough, store-bought or homemade
  • 40-50 mini marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 4 full-sheet graham crackers, crushed to fine crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray four mini pie pans with non-stick cooking spray. (Alternately, you can use one large bundt pan or smaller cupcake-sized pans. Adjust baking time, longer for larger pans and a few minutes shorter for smaller pans.) Stir the graham crackers crumbs and sugar together. Pull off small chunks of the dough (about 1″ diameter). Slightly flatten the dough. Place a mini marshmallow and several mini chocolate chips in the center of the dough round. Wrap the dough around the fillings into a small ball shape. Dip the ball in the melted butter, then roll the ball in the graham cracker crumbs. Place the ball in the pie pan. Repeat until all dough has been used and each pie pan is filled with multiple stuffed dough balls. Sprinkle any remaining mini chocolate chips over the top of each pie pan. Allow to rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes to allow the dough to rise slightly. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until puffy and cooked through. Serve warm. Dip in hot fudge or marshmallow fluff, if desired.

No diet report today. It’s Leap Day. Diets don’t matter on Leap Day!

Spinach, Bacon, and Mushroom Salad in a Warm Bacon Shallot Vinaigrette

I haven’t talked a lot about my diet recently, but rest assured, I am still on the path of success. As of this morning, I have lost 16 pounds, give or take a pound depending on the day. I am continuing to follow the guidelines of the South Beach diet, but not without some leeway for splurging. In fact, I spent most of Valentine’s week living on a diet of chocolate, wine, and cheddar goldfish, which in an odd twist of fate, resulted in a quick 2-pound weight loss. I think sometimes we just need to mix things up and splurge a little to remind our bodies that there is indeed no famine and there is no reason to hold onto that excess weight. Somehow it’s never really as simple as calories in vs. calories out, is it?

Clearly I’m not following any hard and fast ‘rules’ as get myself in shape, but what I like about the overall South Beach diet approach is that by mostly avoiding refined carbs, I rarely feel the perpetual, intense hunger and cravings that I often feel when I’m not limiting refined carbs. I can eat a two-egg omelet in the morning and feel satisfied for hours or I can eat a bowl of rice flake cereal, be starving 30 minutes later and then spend the rest of the morning playing the hunger games (not those hunger games, silly). I chose the omelet. It just makes the weight loss process so much easier and a lot less painful. In fact, once you get the hang of it, the South Beach ‘diet’ doesn’t really feel like a diet at all. It just feels like healthy eating.

I don’t believe that refined carbs are evil, nor do I blame their excess as the root of weight gain or applaud their absence as the grand solution to weight loss. But what I do know is that refined carbs cause a rapid blood sugar spike and subsequent crash, which gives you that starving feeling soon after eating, which then causes you to eat more, which causes you to gain weight. It’s a vicious cycle of cravings. And even if you can manage to resist those cravings, you’re still left with that uncomfortable hunger which makes trying to lose weight so darn frustrating. So, for me, reducing my refined carb intake just makes the whole weight loss thing a lot easier.

And there’s still plenty of room for indulgences within the framework of a reduced carb diet plan, like this spinach salad which is topped with a slightly runny egg and drizzled in a bacon vinaigrette. I first ran across the idea for this salad on the Christian Science Monitor website, which regularly features my blog in their food section, Stir It Up. I’ve always been a fan of spinach and bacon salads, but the egg on this one really sealed the deal for me. I just love finding eggs in surprising places, like atop a pile of fries, a burger, or a salad! Not to let any of delicious bacon-y flavor escape this dish, I incorporated the bacon drippings into my vinaigrette. I couldn’t decide whether that was a genius or revolting idea as I was doing it. I firmly settled on utterly genius with my first bite.

This salad isn’t totally ‘legal’ on South Beach, since bacon doesn’t technically count as a ‘lean’ protein. And certainly mixing the bacon drippings into the dressing is not a recommended South Beach strategy. But it’s close enough (and definitely worth the splurge). This salad packs a ton of protein and lots of good healthy nutrition which will keep you feeling nicely satisfied for hours. Just go easy on the dressing and you can feel pretty good about this meal.

Spinach, Bacon, and Mushroom Salad in a Warm Bacon Shallot Vinaigrette

(Inspired by Beyond the Peel’s Wilted Spinach Salad with Bacon and a Poached Egg)

Ingredients

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup warm bacon drippings (reserved from cooking bacon)
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon shallot, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

For the salad:

  • 8 slices bacon (use applewood smoked bacon, if available)
  • 2 cups baby bella (cremini) mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 8 cups baby spinach
  • 4 eggs

Directions

Cook the bacon according to package directions. Reserve the bacon drippings for the vinaigrette. Once cool, crumble or chop the bacon into small pieces.

To prepare the vinaigrette: Whisk together the warm bacon drippings with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, shallot, mustard, salt and pepper until blended. The vinaigrette will get firm when cooled (from the bacon drippings). Microwave for a few seconds to warm and loosen the dressing.

To prepare the mushrooms: Heat the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender and slightly golden. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

To assemble the salads: Place about 2 cups of baby spinach on each plate. Scatter the bacon and mushrooms over the spinach. Just before serving, fry an egg to your preferred doneness (I prefer over-medium…well-cooked white, runny yolk.) Place the fried egg over the salad. Drizzle with a bit of the vinaigrette.

Makes 4 Salads

Diet Update: 16 pounds down and staying the course…only 6 pounds away from my first major goal!

Roasted Chili-Garlic Chickpeas

My baby has entered the period of development I refer to as the crash-helmet phase. This is the period of time where I’m inclined to swaddle my children in bubble wrap and coat everything else in cotton balls. Would that be so weird? He’s learned how to stand now, but his balance is poor and he forgets that he needs to hold on for support. He often gets so excited by his new skill that he throws his hands wildly outward in a grand gesture of success, which usually results in propelling his little body backwards. Oh, and he climbs. Things which were never meant to be climbed. Like his older brothers or the dog. That rarely ends well.

His sweet little head is already peppered with pale yellow bruises. Seriously, do you think people would laugh if I wrapped him in bubble wrap? He’s just too stinkin’ cute to be bruised. What if I just turned down the heat and dressed him all day in his puffy winter coat? It won’t be long before he’s chasing his brothers around the house. Everything always seems to happen so fast from this point.

Good thing I’ve gotten back to my running lately, since I’m going to need strong legs to keep up with all of the active little men in my life. You may assume that running is part of my New Year’s weight loss plan, but it’s actually quite the opposite. I don’t run to lose weight (though I certainly hope it will help). Running makes me feel capable and confident. I yearn to be leaner and swifter, so I can glide through my runs with more grace than the current charging-rhino thing I’ve got going on. I’ve got my eye on running the Disney half-marathon someday. Becoming a better runner is one of the driving forces behind my desire to lose the weight. Lose weight, run better…double win!

If you’ve been following this blog over the past month, you know that I’ve been following the South Beach diet in order to shed some of the extra weight I’ve been carrying around since having my third little love. I’ve been at it for a month now, with only a few little ‘cheats’ and I’ve already lost 12 pounds. The diet basically comes down to eliminating refined carbs and focusing on lean proteins, fresh produce, and whole grains. It’s clean eating, which is an idea I can stand behind! Eliminating refined, sugary foods keeps your blood sugar levels stable, which in turn drastically cuts down on the insatiable cravings for naughty things. That works for me.

But though my hunger and cravings are kept at bay on this diet, I still have that afternoon urge to snack like I haven’t eaten in years. It’s more of a comfort mechanism than a hunger thing, usually corresponding with the time of the day when all three boys are tired, cranky, and stir-crazy…the ‘magic hour’ which falls sometime between lunch and dinner and usually fools me into thinking I’m ravenous. So, I need to keep my house free of my most tempting snacks (I’m talkin’ about you, Cheez-its) and well-stocked with more nutritious, but equally satisfying options, like these roasted chickpeas. I can pop a hundred of these little babies and still feel good about the way I’m satisfying my snackiness with loads of nutritious protein and fiber! The hardest part is trying not to eat the whole batch!

Roasted Chili-Garlic Chickpeas

Ingredients

  • 2 (15.5-ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drain the cans of chickpeas, then rinse and pat dry with a paper towel. Arrange the chickpeas in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and seasonings, then shake the pan to evenly coat all chickpeas. Place the baking sheet on the middle oven rack and bake for 25-40 minutes, until as crispy as desired. (25 minutes should produce a crisp exterior with a more tender center. 40 minutes will produce a crunchier result.)

Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Makes a great addition to salads too!

Leftover roasted chickpeas sprinkled over mixed green salad with broiled salmon

Diet Day: 31   Weight Loss: 12   Motivation: Rejuvenated! Hit a plateau, but the scale seems to be moving again!

Pan-Seared Cod over Bean and Basil Puree

I find that with each successive child, we make more and more compromises in how we handle parenting decisions. It’s a survival mechanism, born out of necessity as we’ve become outnumbered by small humans with fast hands and urgent needs. Or perhaps our experience with each child has simply helped us to prioritize what really matters and to let the rest go. Experience has taught us flexibility. (And appreciation for quiet and sleep.)

Our first son slept the whole night in his crib fairly early on. We read some expert books, applied a few strategies with consistency, and it happened. He was on a nap schedule that ran like clockwork. He ate organic purees and had a bath every night, right before leisurely rocking in his glider chair as we read The Giving Tree for the 100th time. This baby is lucky if he gets dunked in the bath with his brothers for a few minutes, a couple times a week. He naps exclusively in my arms and thinks our king-sized bed belongs to him. And yesterday he tried to eat a page out of the Harry Potter book my oldest son left on the floor.

Last night, I admitted to my husband that I’ve been giving the baby one Oreo a day. Pretty sure that Oreos are not on the food list the doctor gave us at his most recent check-up. But, you see, my little love doesn’t like to get put down. My normally happy baby screams when he is put down. And I mean SCREAMS! The screaming hurts my sleep-deprived ears. And some chores are just too difficult to do with a 20-pound baby in one arm. So, on the day when I handed him one of his brothers’ Oreos for a little taste, and discovered the focused, independent manner in which he tackled that cookie, a lightening bolt went off in my head. It takes him about an hour to eat half a cookie…slowly working it with his two teeth and a whole lot of baby drool, until it dissolves into mushy chocolate bits, spread all over his happy face. I’d discovered a brilliant strategy for freeing my hands in order to cook dinner and take care of my family’s ever-accumulating mountain of dishes.

Were Oreos part of my ideal parenting plan? No, not quite. Is it a parenting strategy I would advocate? Nope, can’t say it is. Is it a compromise I’m willing to make in order to get through the day with any semblance of sanity remaining? Mhmm…yes it is. So, there you have it folks…my baby is growing and thriving on breastmilk, organic purees, and one half an Oreo cookie a day.

Do I believe that he’ll be worse off from his half cookie a day? Nah…he gets enough of the good stuff to balance the daily treat. And what we all gain in Mommy’s ability to keep our home running with minimal chaos is worth the small compromise. It’s the things which really matter…like snuggles, a listening ear, and a shoulder to cry on, which we won’t ever compromise. Priorities.

While the baby is finishing his cookie, the rest of the family is eating this. (Someday the baby will too…if I can convince him that other foods are as delicious as Oreos.) Buttery, flakey, pan-seared cod, served over a flavorful bean puree and drizzled with a touch of basil oil garnish. You won’t need to convince anyone to eat their lima beans when they’re prepared like this! Skip the canned and use frozen lima beans for the freshest, most vibrant result. This bean puree would also make a fantastic dip for veggies or pita, so save any leftovers for a tasty and nutritious snack! A neutral-tasting white fish, like Pacific cod, works well for this dish, but you can easily substitute other fish, shellfish, or even chicken!

Bean and Basil Puree

Ingredients

  • 1 cup frozen lima beans, defrosted
  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can butter beans
  • 6 cloves roasted garlic*
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 25 large basil leaves (approximately)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper, to taste

*Click HERE to see my photo guide on how to roast garlic

Directions

To make the puree, drain the can of butter beans, reserving the liquid. Combine the lima beans, butter beans, roasted garlic, olive oil, basil leaves, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Gradually add some of the bean liquid until the mixture reaches your desired consistency. (About 1/2 cup should do the trick.) Refrigerate until using. Serve slightly warmed.

Pan-Seared Pacific Cod

Ingredients

  • 2 (6-ounce) Pacific cod fillets
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Olive oil, for searing

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degress. Pat the filets with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Heat a thin layer of olive oil in an oven-safe pan over medium/medium-high heat. Season the filets with salt and pepper. Place the filets in the hot oil. Cook for 3-4 minutes on the first side, without disturbing. (Trying to move the fish too soon may result in crumbled fish. The fish will release much easier once it has sufficiently seared.) Then, using a thin, flexible spatula, carefully flip the fillets. Cook for about a minute on the second side, then place the pan in the oven. Cook in the oven until the fish reaches an internal temperature of 130 degrees, about 5 minutes. Cook time will vary depending on the thickness of your filets.

For the basil oil garnish: Blend about 1/8 cup olive oil with about 1/4 cup of fresh basil leaves. Gently simmer the blended mixture for about 5 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Cookie Puss

Lamb Gyro Salad with Tzatziki Dressing

Mommy?

What’s up, honey?

I know how God died.

Do you mean Jesus, sweetie?  (assuming he’d recently talked about Jesus’ death in the Catholic school he attends)

Yeah, Jesus.

Ok…how’d he die, hon?

A meteor killed him.

**Long pause**

Oh, a meteor? Are you sure you’re not thinking about the dinosaurs?

No, I’m talking about God. I think the meteor came down to Earth, bounced off the dinosaurs, then headed over to the church, where God was relaxing. It got him and then he went to heaven.

**Longer pause**

Ummm…I don’t think God was killed by a meteor. But yes, he’s up there in heaven.

With the dinosaurs?

Mhmm…with the dinosaurs.

The Catholic school curriculum must have changed since I was a kid. Though I suppose this meteor story is no more inventive than the tiny robotic helper bugs he’s been dreaming up to assist with some of life’s more unpleasant activties. My four year old is going to change the world. Seriously, just you watch.

My husband has been doing this South Beach diet with me, even though he doesn’t have the same weight to lose that I do (darn him with his fast male metabolism and naturally smaller appetite). But having a partner in this makes it so much easier to stay the course. I am thankful for that.

The best thing I can do to show my gratitude is to make sure that our meals stay interesting and delicious. And what better dish to prepare than his favorite meal, Greek-style Lamb Burgers, slightly-modifed to fit our new diet??

This salad has all the flavor of lamb gyro, without the pita. Warm, seasoned lamb provides protein and amazing flavor, while a thinned out tzatziki sauce makes the perfect dressing for this gyro-inspired meal. If you’re not watching your refined carbs intake, go ahead and have some toasted pita wedges on the side.

Lamb Gyro Salad with Tzatziki Dressing

Ingredients

For the lamb gyro meat:

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

For the tzatziki dressing:

  • 1/2 large seedless English cucumber
  • 1 7-ounce container plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

For the salad:

  • Lettuce (Romaine or Iceberg), chopped
  • 1 ripe tomato, sliced
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
Directions
To prepare the lamb gyro meat: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine lamb with the garlic, rosemary, oregano, salt, and crushed red pepper. Knead the mixture until it is quite smooth, like a paste. Form the mixture into four mini ‘loafs’. Place the loaves on a baking sheet and bake for about 15-17 minutes. Cool for 5-10 minutes before thinly slicing.
To prepare the dressing: Using a box grater set atop of a bowl, grate the cucumber. Using your hands, squeeze the excess liquid out of the cucumber, reserving the liquid. Place the squeezed cucumber in another bowl. Combine the grated cucumber with the remaining ingredients. Gradually add the reserved cucumber liquid to the dressing until it reaches your desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. Refrigerate until use.
To assemble the salad: Arrange each of the warm, thinly-sliced loaves over the lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. Drizzle with tzatziki dressing.
Serves 4

Mini Crustless Quiche Lorraines

Some days, I wish I could go back in time to my fifteen year old self and shake myself silly. The fifteen year old self who thought her chest was too small and her hips too wide for her too thin waist and flat as a washboard stomach. Oh you silly, silly girl. Why in the world are teenage girls programmed to despise themselves so?? What I would give to go back in time to appreciate the beautiful body I never knew I had.

And now I sit here, in my mid-thirties, after having had three kids over the course of four years, wishing my hips were only as wide as they were twenty years ago or that my chest were nearly as small or my stomach as flat. Oh, the lessons we learn too late.

And while I may never be as small as I was then, I am confident that I will regain a healthy and strong figure; a body I am proud of as much for the way it looks and feels as I am for how it has grown, birthed, and nourished my three beautiful babies. It’ll just take a little effort to get there.

I’m 17 days into my New Year’s diet; a diet which I intend to stick with, long past the one month expiration date which many people’s New Year’s resolutions seem to have. Because it’s more than a diet. It’s a shift to healthier living and a healthier, more confident me. I’m feeling motivated and optimistic. Over the past few weeks, we’ve eaten so many delicious meals; cut out the junk we shouldn’t be eating anyway and replaced it with tons of fresh veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats. We’re eating like kings around here and our extra pounds are falling off.

I’ve got a growing list of new healthy recipes to share with you, but for now, here’s a quick recipe for a delicious, protein-rich, low-carb breakfast or snack.  These mini quiches hold well for a few days in the fridge and take only a few seconds in the microwave to reheat. You can even freeze half the batch for later use! I added swiss cheese, tender, sweet onions, and crumbled bacon for a tasty play on quiche Lorraine, but the options are endless. Try different combinations of cheese, veggies, and meats to create your personal favorite mini quiches!

Mini Crustless Quiche Lorraines

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup swiss cheese, shredded
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked until crispy and chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two mini muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray.

In a small pan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook for 7-10 minutes, until tender and golden.

In a large measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and parsley. Set aside.

Place a pinch of the cheese, onions, and bacon in the bottom of each muffin tin. Then, carefully pour the egg mixture into each tin, just to the top.

Place the trays on the middle oven rack and bake for about 15 minutes. They will look puffed and golden when done.

Makes 24 mini quiches

*Quiches can be served immediately or refrigerated or frozen for later use. A few seconds in the microwave will do the trick for reheating.

Diet Day: 17    Weight Loss: 11    Motivation: Let’s do this!

Beef Pot Roast Marsala

Pretty sure that my husband has garnered all of his parenting skills from George Bluth on Arrested Development. This bodes quite poorly for our dear sons.

Take, for example, the stories he tells the boys about ‘Larry’. Larry is apparently the son we used to have, before he played with the bathtub drain and got sucked down it. Poor, poor Larry. The moral of the story is: Never play with the bathtub drain.

And then there are the stories about Darryl, and his other brother Darryl, also imaginary former children of ours. Each met equally terrible fates as a result of their naughty mischief.

The kids have learned all sorts of lessons from these stories, like never to play with the fireplace screen and to always put the caps back on the markers, lest they meet the same sad fate of Larry, Darryl, or Darryl.

The kids don’t know what to make of these stories. Their sense of real and pretend is still developing…as is their understanding of spatial relations. They giggle nervously as their dad talks of Larry, while I quickly reassure them that their daddy is just kidding. My husband then counters with comments like, Yes there really was a Larry. Mommy’s just too sad to talk about it. And then, when their father is not around, the boys quietly ask me if kids can really go down the drain. No, sweethearts. Your daddy is just a joker. (And later he’ll wonder why you won’t listen when he tells you it’s important to wear your bicycle helmet.)

If you haven’t seen Arrested Development, fire up your Netflix right now. You’ll laugh. And laughing is good. This pot roast is good too! I mean like, I-could-eat-this-every-night kind of good. Tender, flavorful, comforting. The idea entered my mind after looking for a pot roast recipe for a friend. During that search, I ran across a simple pot roast with mushrooms recipe, which got my gears turning. I bought the ingredients for my marsala-based twist on pot roast that afternoon. I sense this recipe is going to become a frequent Sunday night dinner.

Ideally, I’d have served mashed potatoes on the side of this pot roast, but under the rules of my current diet, potatoes are a big no-no. (You thought those were mashed potatoes in the picture, didn’t ya?) So, I decided to give something else a try; a cauliflower mash. Now, you may be thinking that there is no way in H-E-double hockey sticks that mashed cauliflower is going to satisfy your mashed potato craving. I was also quite skeptical. But I’ve got to tell you, I would eat this cauliflower mash even if I weren’t on an anti-potato diet. It’s surprisingly delicious. Parmesan cheese and garlic powder make this side dish a real winner! You won’t even miss the potatoes.

Beef Pot Roast Marsala

Ingredients

  • 2.5-3 pound chuck roast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups baby bella (cremini) mushrooms, rinsed
  • 1 cup marsala wine
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • A few sprigs of fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Trim the chuck roast of any excess exterior fat. Season with the salt and pepper. In a large dutch oven or oven safe pan, heat olive oil over medium/medium-high heat. Place the meat in the pan and brown on all sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove the meat and set aside. Reduce the heat slightly. Add the onion and garlic. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until tender. Add the mushrooms. Cook for another minute or two. Add the marsala wine and simmer for a minute or two. Return the meat to the pan. Add the beef stock and the sprigs of parsley. The beef stock should come almost to the top of the meat, but not cover. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then cover the pan and place it in the oven. Cook for 3.5 hours.

Remove the pan from the oven. Carefully remove the roast. Place it on a cutting board and loosely cover with foil. Simmer the sauce in the pan for about 5-7 minutes to reduce. Turn off the heat, wait for a few minutes, then skim the excess fat from the surface of the sauce. (My favorite way to skim the fat is to pour the sauce into a clear container, like a pyrex measuring cup, and allow it to cool for a few minutes. The fat will rise to the surface. Carefully lower a large spoon into the fat layer to collect and discard the excess fat.) Finally, taste the sauce and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Slice the meat or shred it with a fork (I went with shredding, since it was so tender, it fell apart when I attempted to slice.) Pour the sauce over the meat when serving.)

Serves about 6

Garlic-Parmesan Cauliflower Mash

Ingredients

  • 6 cups cauliflower, steamed until tender
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 2/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Adjust seasoning as desired.

Serves about 6

Diet Day:  15    Weight Loss: 10   Motivation: Unwavering

*We finished phase 1 (the hard part) of South Beach diet yesterday. As of today, we get to welcome back whole grain breads, fresh fruits, dark chocolate…yum!

Spicy Beef and Bean Stew

You know those little dolls…the ones where you press their belly and they repeat a series of silly little things, like Mama, Feed me, and Goo goo gah gah?

Well, my three-year-old is just like that, only his sound bytes are more like I love you so much, I don’t like you, and I’m freezing cold.

For the record:

My four-year-old’s soundtrack is something like, I’m thirsty, I have an idea…, and How about we…

Daddy’s goes something like, What’s for dinner?, I’m getting a beer, d’ya need anything?, and things like It’s a fact of life. Dogs don’t like to be disturbed while they’re eating and neither does Daddy.

And Mommy’s is a bit like, Why in the world would you do that?, This room looks like a tornado blew through it, and Serenity now!

It’s the I’m freezing cold one that I can’t wrap my head around. The kid stubs his toe…I’m freezing cold. I tell him that he can’t have another cookie…I’m freezing cold. It’s time to get dressed for school…But, I’m freezing cold.

I tell him, You keep saying that. I do not think it means what you think it means.

A typical conversation with my little man goes something like this:

Hey buddy, it’s time to clean up your toys.

I can’t.

Why can’t you clean up your toys?

It’s just that…I don’t like you.

Ok, that’s fine, but you still need to clean up your toys.

But, I’m freezing cold.

Well, put on a hoodie and then clean up your toys.

**Insert Cry. Scream.Wail.** (Him, not me. Ok, sometimes me too.)

Mommy?

Yes, buddy?

I just love you so much.

I love you too. Now…Clean. Up. Your. Toys. This room looks like a tornado blew through it.

It IS winter time though, so if you’re freezing cold, it’s probably with good reason. And I’ve got just the thing to warm you up! Winter is the time for foods which fill our bellies and leave us feeling all toasty and satisfied. January also happens to be National Soup Month. So, it’s the perfect time for this Spicy Beef and Bean Stew, made with tender, slow-cooked beef and fresh jalapeño peppers. The broth gets its thickness from a puree of white beans, rather than the typical butter/flour roux. This is a rich and satisfying stew, which also happens to be extra-rich in protein and lower in high glycemix index carbs than traditional flour-thickened meat and potato stews!!

Spicy Beef and Bean Stew

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, ribs and seeds removed, finely diced
  • 1.5 – 2 pounds stew beef
  • 1/2 cup marsala wine (optional, but recommended)
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 (15.5 ounce) cans cannellini beans
  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans, drained

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large ovensafe saucepan or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 3-5 minutes, until tender. Add the garlic and jalapeño peppers. Cook for 2-3 minutes more, stirring frequently. Raise the heat to medium high and add the beef. Brown the beef on all sides. Add the marsala wine and allow it to simmer for a minute. Then, add the beef stock, tomato paste, and salt. Stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, then cover with a  tight fitting lid and place the pan on the middle oven rack. Cook for 2 hours. While the beef is cooking, puree one can of the cannellini beans and their liquid in a blender or food processor. Set aside. Drain the other two cans of beans. After two hours, remove the cover. Stir in the pureed beans and the whole beans. Cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes more. Remove from the oven. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper, as desired.

Serves 4-6

Diet Day: 12   Weight loss: 7    Motivation: Strong and steady

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Salad

Posted on

Recently, we picked up one of those Kinect sensors for the Xbox 360. We figured it would provide for some active fun for the boys during the cold, indoor winter months and even get us big kids moving a bit more to help out with our fitness goals. Some of the games in Kinect Adventures really get that heart rate pumping! And I’m waiting on my copy of Dance Central 2 to arrive, so I can totally bust out my sweet dance moves (in complete private, when nobody else is around).

The Kinect sensor is pretty amazing. And utterly frightening too. It’s got a little motorized camera which tracks and responds to your movements. If you move, the camera moves to find you. It can scan your body and create an animated version of your image on the tv…wearing the same clothes you’re wearing. Creepy. And it takes pictures of you while you play. It even responds to voice commands, like “Xbox, stop.” and “Xbox, play Golden Girls.” and “Xbox, make my dinner.”

Ok, so the Xbox doesn’t know how to make my dinner. Yet. But I’m sure that software upgrade is just around the corner. Seriously, the robot revolution is upon us. Are you prepared?

The other day, as I was trying to teach the kids not to wander aimlessly in front of other people while they’re playing with the Kinect, I found myself saying, You can’t walk in front of people because it confuses the Kinect. It’s not smart like us and it can’t figure out who it’s supposed to be tracking when there are too many people moving around.

And as soon as the words came out of my mouth, I wanted to eat them. The Xbox just heard me, questioning its intelligence. I swear I heard the little camera eye move to focus closer on me in that moment, recording and passing judgement on me as an enemy of the robot uprising. I’m doomed. I instantly started fumbling my words, trying to make my insult to the Kinect seem less degrading. I love you, Xbox. Please don’t annihilate me.

But since the Xbox is not about to prepare my meals anytime soon, I suppose that leaves me to do it… Hubby and I are still going strong with our lower carb diets. Today marks Day 8 of our diet and I’m down…drumroll, please…6 pounds!! Not a bad start, if you ask me. The weight won’t continue to come off at a rate of six pounds per week (nor should it), but it’s certainly a motivating start. The best part is that we have been dining on some pretty fantastic food this week. Like this smoked salmon and cucumber salad which is the stuff that dreams are made of. So fresh and simple. So insanely delicious!

Enjoy! (And beware. Kinect is watching.)

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces smoked salmon
  • 1 large seedless cucumber
  • 2-3 small tomatoes, halved and sliced into small pieces
  • 1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons non-pareil capers
  • Creme fraiche, for garnish (can substitute sour cream)

For the Fresh Dill Vinaigrette:

  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup white balsamic vinaigrette (plus a touch more)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill leaves, torn
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper, to taste

Directions

To prepare the vinaigrette, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, dill, salt and pepper until well combined. Cut the cucumber in half, then use a mandolin slicer or a very sharp knife to very thinly slice the cucumber, lengthwise, into ‘ribbons’. Place a mound of the cucumber ribbons in the center of each plate. Scatter the onions and tomatoes over the cucumber. Tear the salmon into small pieces and scatter over the salad. Place a larger piece of salmon in the center. Sprinkle the capers over the salad. Drizzle each salad with the dill dressing. If desired, garnish the center piece of salmon with a small dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream.

Serves 2

Diet Day: 8   Weight Loss: -6   Motivation: High!

Asian Chicken Salad in Sweet Red Pepper

Posted on

My boys are bringing back the ghostbusters for a new generation. It all started with a t-shirt my sister found for my three-year-old’s birthday. A t-shirt which she gifted along with the Ghostbusters I and II dvd set. Which, after watching with my overprotective mommy eyes,  I decided was a bit too spooky for my young boys who are still sorting out the difference between real and pretend. So, my sis went back to the store to grab the complete collection of The Real Ghostbusters, with its confusing title, since The Real Ghostbusters is actually the animated series…not very real, but whatever. I decided to allow the kids to watch the cartoon. That was all it took to convince them that they had to be ghostbusters for halloween.

Soon after halloween, the ‘edited for tv’ version of the movie aired. We caved and watched it as a family. And it firmly sealed the boys’ obsession, as they watched with wide eyes. This would have been a Christmas full of ghostbusters toys and gear, if only the rest of the kid and toy-making world were as obsessed with the ghostbusters as my little men now are. It’ll happen though. They’ve already got all their little friends at school asking about the ghostbusters.

But, even without a toy box full of ghostbusters goodies, talk of the ghostbusters reigns supreme in our home…talk of who’s going to be Egon and who’s Peter Venkman when they put on their costumes, whose proton pack packs more power, and who is going to really be a real ghostbuster when they grow up. Oh, and if you’re wondering where all the monsters have gone, according to my three-year-old, they’re in the containment unit. Of course.

Most recently, my four-year-old asked to call the ghostbusters on the phone. So, I sent a quick message to my sister (the one who started this whole obsession) explaining that her phone was about to ring and that when it does, she should answer the phone as the ghostbusters. I then handed the phone to my son and made the call. It was all giggles on my end the moment my sister answered the phone, with a perfect Janine Melnitz accent, Ghostbusters…whadda ya want? He knew it was his aunt on the phone, but he played along.

I love my little ghostbusters.

As I mentioned, I started the South Beach diet a few days ago, which means I’ve temporarily bid adieu to some of my favorite starches and sweet treats. I miss them. But for me, cutting them out for a few weeks is the best way for me to break some of my bad habits and get me started on the road to successful, lasting weight loss. The first couple weeks on South Beach are also really effective in teaching me to appreciate the beauty of other flavors I often pass up for things like chocolate and buttered bagels. Like sweet red peppers. My goodness, you would have thought I was eating candy with the way I oohing over a crisp, super sweet, red pepper yesterday. Then I made this chicken salad for dinner, which is absolutely bursting in delicious flavors and textures. And I stuffed it into a crisp red pepper. I barely even missed the doughy bread I would have normally eaten this chicken salad on. Nothing makes weight loss easier than enjoying truly delicious and nutrition-packed food!

Asian Chicken Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 pound (approximately) chicken, cooked and torn into small pieces*
  • 2/3 cup dry-roasted cashews, coarse chopped
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 3/4 cup bean sprouts, divided
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1-2 teaspoons sambal oelek (crushed red chile paste)**

*I poached a few chicken tenderloins, but chicken breast or even leftover roast chicken would work just as well.

**Can substitute ground cayenne pepper, to taste

Directions

Combine the chicken, cashews, green onions, and 1/2 cup of the bean sprouts in a bowl. Rinse the red peppers. Cut the tops off of each pepper, then cut each pepper in half. Set the pepper halves aside for serving. Finely dice any of the red pepper remaining around the stem and add it to the chicken mixture. In a small bowl, stir together the mayo, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and sambal oelek. Pour the dressing over the chicken mixture and stir to combine. (You may not need all of the dressing. Add gradually.) Serve the chicken salad in the pepper halves over a bed of lettuce.

Serves 4

Diet Day: 3   Weight Loss: ?   Motivation: Going strong!

Secrets of An Avon Beauty Boss

Achieving Beautiful Dreams with Avon

The Gourmand Mom

Good food, seasoned with a dash of life

%d bloggers like this: