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Tag Archives: weight loss

Crab Cake Summer Salad

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My five-year old, Liam, and his three-year-old younger brother, Lucas, are inseparable. Yet the two boys could hardly be more different. One of the most notable displays of their differences comes in the form of their regard for truth-telling.

We like to joke that with Lucas, you always know where you stand. He does not mince words and he tells it like it is, for better or worse. The kid does not tell a lie, ever. Even at the cost of rewards or consequences.

Lucas, did you hit your brother?
Yes, I did. He looked at me funny.
What’s that smell, Lucas?
It’s me. I farted.
Lucas, are you going to cooperate for Mommy today?
No, I’m not. (Spoken with a voice of unfortunate regret and calm, matter-of-fact truth.)
 

Liam, on the other hand, is almost always scheming for his next treat or devising a plan to get his hands on some forbidden item. And he is hardly ever not spinning some story.

Whatcha doing, Liam?
Nothing.
It’s impossible to be doing nothing. What are you really doing?
Seriously, Mommy. I’m not doing any mischief. (Indicator of certain mischief)
If I need to come in there to see what you’re doing, I’m going to be upset.
Alright…I’m climbing on a precarious pile of knives, broken glass, and samurai swords, trying to get to the candy on top of the fridge. 
 

So, on the afternoon, when Lucas came crying to us, claiming that Liam had spit on him, we were inclined to believe him. When confronted, Liam repeatedly insisted that he did not spit on his brother. Finally, as my husband puts it, he played the Jesus card. In his words, I pay for Catholic school. That gives me the right to play the Jesus card. The Jesus card goes something like this: What would Jesus think if he found out you were lying? (Apparently, the infamous Catholic guilt doesn’t come from the church. It comes from the parents.)

But it worked. Liam let out a sigh and then reluctantly said, Alright… He then proceeded to carefully explain that he did in fact spit. And it was, in fact, in Lucas’ general direction. But he wasn’t spitting at Lucas. Lucas just happened to get in the way of the spit.

Sure…

The lesson here is…when in doubt, ask Lucas. And don’t take anything Liam tells you at face value.

I’m more of a Lucas when it comes to the truth, which goes to say that you can believe me when I tell you that this salad belongs on your list of must-make recipes for the summer. It’s a simple variation of one of my older recipes (Chilled Avocado Soup and Crab Cake with Chipotle Remoulade). In this variation, a simple broiled crab cake, loaded with crab meat and just enough filler to hold it together, is set atop a salad of mixed greens, ripe avocado, sweet corn, and summer tomatoes. A drizzle of spicy chipotle remoulade dressing completes the dish. This entree salad makes the perfect light, but satisfying summer dish. Crab, avocado, tomatoes, corn, and chipotle pepper…honestly, summer heaven.

Crab Cake Summer Salad with Chipotle Remoulade Dressing

Ingredients

For the Crab Cakes

  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (regular or whole wheat)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons mayonaisse
  • 2 teaspoons Creole seasoning, such as Old Bay
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 pound jumbo lump or backfin crab meat, cooked*

For the Dressing

  • 1/2 cup mayonaisse
  • 1 chipotle pepper (from a can of chipotles in adobo)
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon sweet relish

For the Salad

  • 8 cups mixed spring greens
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and chopped**
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly shaved
  • 1 cup sweet corn kernels

* Look for fresh-picked crabmeat in the seafood section of your grocery store. It’s a fresher alternative than canned crabmeat and a heck of a lot more convenient than picking your own crab meat!

** Click HERE for my photo guide on how to slice an avocado.

Directions

For the Crab Cakes: Preheat broiler. Wipe a baking sheet with a bit of olive or vegetable oil (to prevent sticking.) Combine all ingredients, except the crab meat, in a bowl. Mix until well blended. Gently fold the crab meat into the other ingredients, taking care not to break up the chunks too much. Use your hands to form four equal sized balls of the crab mixture. Gently flatten the balls into thick patties and place on the prepared baking sheet. Place the baking sheet several inches under the broiler and cook for about 10 minutes until completely heated through.

For the Dressing: Combine mayo, chipotle, relish, and mustard in a blender or food processor.  Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To Assemble the Salad: Arrange about 2 cups of mixed greens on each plate. Scatter with the avocado, tomatoes, corn, and red onions. Place a warm crab cake in the center. Drizzle with the dressing.

Makes 4 Salads

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Spicy Corn and Lentils

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So…I did it. I started Irish step dancing classes last Wednesday. This is very unlike me. I’m typically so self-conscious that I avoid doing anything which requires me to put my lack of skills on display. Heck, I even shy away from displays of things I’m good at. And dance?? Well, of any imaginable area of skill, I am the farthest from skilled in dance. I trip over my own feet while walking on a near-daily basis and my pinky toes are constantly throbbing from cornering too early and catching them on the edges of furniture and walls. I am a coordination mess. And yet, I’ve just signed myself up to display my unadulterated klutziness in front of fellow dance students and our skillful instructor. What in the world has come over me?? I’m becoming bold in my old age. 

But here’s the thing… For many years, I have watched Irish step dancers with an emotional mixture of admiration, awe, and regret. I stare at their coordinated feet, wishing I could go back in time to when I was about four years old and beg my parents to sign me up for lessons. I want to dance like those dancers with the very same heart-aching passion I felt just before I signed up for the culinary program at French Culinary Institute. That culinary program turned out to be one of the most soul-satisfying experiences of my entire life. It settled my urge. It took away my longing and replaced it with skills and knowledge to use and enjoy for the rest of my life.

And so, on a whim, I started this process of searching for an Irish dance school which offered classes for adult beginners. My first few inquiries came up dry. But then I got a hopeful response; an instructor who was considering starting an adult beginner class. It took a while before it became official. I was even a little relieved when I didn’t instantly hear back, since part of me would have been content to stay huddled in my turtle shell. And then I got the email. She was starting a class. Two of my lovely friends agreed to join me.

We fumbled our way through our first class. Our instructor gracefully modeled a few ‘simple’ steps and then we hurled ourselves across the room, tripping over our feet and each other. But we smiled and laughed the entire time. At one point, our instructor turned on the music as we skipped our way across the room, and with a smile plastered across my face, all I could think was We’re doing it! We’re Irish step dancing. I’m not sure anyone would have classified our movements at that point as ‘Irish step dancing’, but our instructor was generous in her praise of our clumsy maneuvers. I woke up delightfully sore the next morning. I spent the next week practicing my sweet new moves, much to the delight of my three boys who make a very eager, if not amused, audience. Last night was our second class. We fell over each other  and laughed to near tears as we put our new moves together into a dance. I already feel that satisfying calming feeling that culinary school gave me.

Another benefit to this grand adventure is that it’s reinvigorated my motivation for regaining my pre-three-babies-in four-years figure. I’ve watched myself practice my dance moves on video. It’s not pretty. I long to be lean, controlled, and lighter on my feet, rather than the bouncing, clobbering elephant I’m currently channeling. I’m refocused and ready. Summer weather certainly adds to the motivation too!

Recently, I ran across a slideshow of twenty weight loss super-foods. Foods were selected for their abilities to increase metabolism, satisfy hunger, build muscle, and decrease fat. Several of the foods were practically begging to be married together in a sort of miracle weight-loss dish. Inspired by this list of weight loss super-foods, I came up with these spicy lentils and corn served with grilled cedar-plank wild salmon. Now, I have no research to prove that this harmonious marriage of flavors will actually result in a thinner waistline, but at the very least, they will make your mouth and belly quite happy.

This tasty dish combines lentils, corn, olive oil, sardines, chipotle chile peppers, and wild salmon. Don’t be afraid of the sardines. There are just enough in this recipe to add a savory umami (the fifth taste) flavor that really complements the spicy chipotle and sweet corn. Their fine texture practically melts into the dish, adding a subtle layer of savory goodness. Be bold, give ’em a chance. And click on over to SELF’s slideshow for more info on each of these super-food’s super-slimming powers!

Do you have something you always wished you’d done? Why not give it a try? There’s no time like today!

Spicy Corn and Lentils (with Wild Salmon)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sweet corn kernels (frozen or fresh), cooked
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/8 cup boneless sardines, shredded
  • 1/8 cup red onion, finely diced
  • 1 chipotle pepper (from a can of chipotles in adobo), chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt (about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon)

For the Salmon:

  • 4 wild salmon fillets
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Chile Powder
  • Parsley

Directions

Cook lentils in water with a pinch of salt, according to package directions. (Cooking time will vary depending on the color/type of lentils. I used green lentils which simmered for 30-35 minutes. Other lentils may require more or less time. Cook until tender, but not mushy.) Toss the cooked corn kernels with the lentils.

In a small pan, heat the olive oil over medium/medium-low heat. Add the sardines, onion, and chipotle. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are tender. Add the parsley. Toss the mixture with the lentils and corn. Taste and season with salt, as desired.

For the salmon: Rub the fillets with olive oil. Season with salt, chile powder, and parsley. Grill on a soaked cedar plank* over indirect heat or broil until cooked.

*Look for cedar planks near the grilling supplies at your local grocery store or Target. Soak the planks in water for at least an hour before using. Place the salmon on the planks. Preheat your grill at medium heat. Ideally, arrange the planks on your grill so they are not directly over the heat. Grill with the cover closed until cooked through.

Makes 4 Servings

Apple-Cinnamon Quinoa

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One of the many things I’ve learned as a parent is never to assume that your children actually understand what you’re talking about, even if they’re nodding their heads and smiling with comprehension. Children are masterful at making sense of this great, odd world we live in. But there are times when their natural ability to process new experiences falls a bit short.

Take, for example, a few weeks ago, when we decided we’d build a deck off of the back of the house. As we discussed the plans with our neighbor, visited the local code enforcer for a permit, and bounced between hardware stores examining railings, we’d been throwing around the word ‘deck’ for weeks. Deck, deck, deck, deck, deck. When the time came for building to begin, the boys and I gazed out the window as the men worked the auger to dig the post holes. The boys watched as the men cemented eight large posts into place. And I rambled on about the deck, deck, deck. The next day, the men began removing the temporary stairs we’d put in place by the door. Panic washed over the boys’ faces. They watched nervously as the stairs were removed, leaving only the mysterious eight posts scattered around the lawn. Finally, my five-year-old asked, But how will we get down? In a matter of fact manner, I explained that we’d walk across the deck to where the new stairs will be, of course. He paused for a long moment and continued watching the men tear our old stairs off of the house, before finally asking, What’s a deck?

Sometimes the misunderstanding is as simple as a new vocabulary word, easily corrected with an explanation. Other times, the confusion runs much deeper. Recently, we lost a loved one. Since our boys haven’t had much experience with calling hours or funeral services, we anticipated that the experience would be foreign to them and potentially a bit frightening. So, as the day of the services approached, we spent some time chatting about what they could expect to happen. We discussed life and death, heaven, and the difference between our bodies and our souls. My five year old took the entire conversation in stride. He asked questions and seemed satisfied with the responses. It was all going very smoothly for a conversation about such deep issues with a five year old. I was practically patting myself on the back for my expert skills at discussing such a difficult topic with my kids. And then I explained that we would be seeing the body during the calling hours. I mentioned it casually, hoping to communicate a sense of normalcy about it. My little guy’s response was full of casual ease when he knowledgeably responded, Oh, I know. We’re going to see his bones. (As if that would be totally alright with him.) No, sweetie, we will not be seeing any bones and no, you may not touch the body. 

Glad we got that little misunderstanding out of the way ahead of time.

When we arrived at the funeral home, we made our way to the front where our loved one lay peacefully resting, glasses perched on his nose. The boys confidently strode to the front of the room, stood on the kneeler, and peered into the casket, which was open at the head end and closed over the leg end. They stared silently for awhile. I reminded the boys that his soul was already in heaven but that if they wanted to say something, I was certain he would hear it. My five year old quietly spoke a sweet message of love which brought tears to my eyes. And then he turned to his younger brother and said, “I know why they kept the bottom closed…so we can’t see his underpants.” The boys giggled about underpants for the rest of the afternoon. They went to bed talking about underpants.  (Somehow, it always comes back around to underpants.) And I’m again reminded not to assume that kids understand everything they appear to.

In between clearing up misunderstandings about decks, skeletons, and underpants, we’re still cooking away here at Chez Gourmand Mom. Recently, I made this sweet and satisfying apple-cinnamon quinoa, which makes a fantastic alternative for your morning oatmeal. It is wheat-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, protein rich, and tasty as can be. Best yet, you can make a big batch ahead of time and reheat for a few seconds in the morning, making it a perfect option for busy weekdays. And if all of that wasn’t good enough, quinoa is a low-glycemic index food, meaning that it takes your body a long time to process all of that good nutrition, which will leaving your body feeling nicely satisfied until lunch rolls around. It’s simple, delicious, and nutritious…no room for misunderstanding here!

Apple-Cinnamon Quinoa

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups coconut milk*
  • 2 tablespoons honey or pure maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup dried apples, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
*A standard sized 15-ounce can of coconut milk contains just short of 2 cups. You can make up the difference with a bit of water.

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium/medium-high heat. Then, turn the heat down to low, cover, and allow it to gently simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the quinoa mixture to rest for 5 minutes covered. Remove the cover and toss the quinoa with a fork. Enjoy warm.

Makes about 4 servings

Chicken, Apple, and Peanut Salad

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I’m an emotional eater. It is hands-down my biggest dietary downfall. I know how to lose weight. I know exactly what I need to do. And when things are good, I  can stay focused on my goals and get the job done.

But then there are times when it feels like my head is spinning. Somebody’s digging through the fireplace ashes, somebody else is constructing an elaborate obstacle course of danger and destruction in the living room,  and somebody else is throwing a tantrum because he wanted to wear his Ghostbusters t-shirt for the third day in a row. (My sister says I should just let the kids do what they want so they will be happy. She might be right.) The dishes are piled up. There’s a mound of dirty clothes lying on the kitchen floor, begging to be added to the laundry that is also piling up. The dog’s hair is rolling in tumbleweeds across the living room. And the million tiny Lego pieces, which I just finished picking up so the baby won’t eat them, are scattered all over the living room floor. Again. I don’t even know when it happened. My heart is racing and I’m barking commands like a well-practiced drill sergeant.

Put some clothes on. We don’t cook in the nude (giving new meaning to the term ‘Naked Chef’).

Stop trying to eat the stroller while I’m pushing it.

Books are for reading. Not eating.

The bathroom is not a play place. 

Somehow, the very same things which are my life’s greatest blessings are also the source of my greatest stresses. I often find it difficult to embrace this time in my life when somebody is always crying or whining or complaining or needing something. Whoever said you should live in the moment and be ever present in your life, clearly didn’t have a screaming baby in his arms or small whirling dervishes tearing the world apart around their feet. I don’t want to live in those moments. I just want to get through them. I’m sure they will all seem more magical in retrospect.

My life is beautiful. It’s joyous. It’s filled with amazing blessings. But it overwhelms me sometimes. And when I feel like I’m spinning in everyone else’s needs, with my heart pounding from my inability to keep up, I console myself with food. I can’t take a break or go for a run when the stress builds to explosive levels. Deep breathing doesn’t usually work. A spontaneous dance party sometimes does. But when it doesn’t, I eat. And eat and eat. Until I’m stuffed and refueled enough to pull myself together enough to clean the yogurt off the wall and wash that Ghostbusters t-shirt for the fifth time this week.

Of course, the emotional eating usually just makes me feel worse in the long run. I’m conscious of that fact even as I’m shoveling the food into my mouth, but it doesn’t really matter in the moment. All this goes to say that my head’s been spinning extra fast and extra often lately (these things always seem to come and go in waves) and my progress towards a healthier me has suffered. I was open about my goals and successes when I set about my New Year’s resolutions, so it’s only fair that you know I’m struggling to stay the course right now. I’m remorseful, but not defeated. I have every intention of pulling myself together with some good, healthy, satisfying meals, like this super tasty, protein-rich salad.

This salad came to me in a half-conscious dream, in the middle of the night last week. The baby was in bed with me, sleeping poorly (all four of his top front teeth have come through in the past two weeks). The two of us were in and out of sleep for hours that night. And every time I was stirred, this salad was on my mind. Chicken. Apples. Peanut Vinaigrette. I spent a lot of drowsy time that evening trying to decide whether that flavor combination made sense. I decided it did. We tested it last night. It’s a winner. (The bacon wasn’t in my dream, but it was in my fridge and was screaming to join this salad. A very welcome addition, indeed.)

I know I’m not the only emotional eater out there. What strategies do you use for getting through those stressful moments without overindulging in food?

Chicken, Apple, and Peanut Salad

Ingredients

  • 8 cups lettuce or mixed greens, chopped
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 2 apples, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
  • 2-3 chicken breasts, cooked and sliced*

For the peanut vinaigrette:

  • 1/6 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/6 cup olive oil
  • 1/6 cup peanut butter
  • 1/6 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon red curry powder
*I seasoned my chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then baked in a 350 degrees oven for about 30 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on the size and thickness of your chicken breasts.

Directions

To prepare the vinaigrette, combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until well blended.

To assemble the salad, arrange about 2 cups of lettuce on each plate. Top with the sliced apples, bacon, and chicken breast. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Drizzle with the peanut vinaigrette.

Makes about 4 salads

Low Carb Cottage Pie

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Earlier in the week, my husband bemoaned the fact that daylight savings time was approaching and we would be losing an hour of sleep. I’m not sure what world he’s living in, but the time on the clock has little relevance for our children. Lose an hour, gain an hour…doesn’t really matter to me. I’m not in control of how long I sleep anyway. If anything, I look forward to this evening when I can put the kids to bed an hour ‘early’.

Springing forward brings other benefits as well, specifically a bit of daylight past the kids’ bedtime…which translates into not running in the dark. That, combined with the warming temperatures of spring approaching, bodes well for resuming my evening runs. I have to admit, I’ve been sorely off-track with my fitness goals during these past two weeks and the number on the scale has been creeping upwards. Wintery weather and the early sunset has made it hard to get myself out the door for my evening runs. And finally being able to fit into some of my clothes again has made me complacent about my diet. But I’m not done yet (far from it) and it’s time to get back on track, before I undo the results I’ve achieved so far.

So, starting tomorrow (today I’m going to eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, AND dinner), I’m hopping back on the horse and refocusing on my fitness goals. With the warmer temps and later sunset, I’ve got no excuses for not heading out for my evening runs. And I’m going to refocus on reducing my refined carb intake (a la South Beach diet), since I know it helps me to feel more satisfied, make better food choices, and eat less overall.

With St. Patty’s Day just around the corner, comforting meat-and-potato type meals are on my mind. But potatoes fall firmly into that refined carb category which I’m aiming to avoid. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some comforting Irish cookin’ with just a few substitutions. You may remember a few weeks ago, when I shared a recipe for mashed cauliflower, which makes a wonderful substitution for mashed potatoes…a substitution which would also make the perfect topping for a low-carb, South Beach friendly cottage pie. Using lean ground beef and part-skim cheese helps lighten the meal even more, without sacrificing any flavor. Furthermore, making low-glycemic index choices for the veggie layer keeps this dish nicely in line with my diet plan.

If you’re looking to celebrate St. Patty’s Day without sacrificing your diet goals, this just might be the dish for you! Though, in the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I fully intend to make (and eat) more corned beef and cabbage egg rolls on St. Patty’s Day, with a few dark beers to wash them down. (All food and beer are zero calories on St. Patty’s Day…if you’re Irish, that is. I swear it…a little red-headed leprechaun told me so.)

Looking for a traditional lamb and potatoes Shepherd’s Pie recipe? Click HERE.

Low Carb Cottage Pie

Ingredients

For the beef layer:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • Salt and pepper
For the veggie layer:
  • 2 cups green beans, steamed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
For the mashed cauliflower:
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped and steamed until tender
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup part-skim cheddar, shredded

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

For the beef layer: Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring frequently, until fully cooked. Sprinkle the flour over the meat and stir, allowing it to cook for about a minute. Then, add the beef broth, worcestershire sauce, and onion powder. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer for a few minutes until the liquid thickens into a gravy around the meat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour the mixture into a baking dish.

For the veggies: Wipe out the pan used for the beef. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced mushrooms. Cook for 7-10 minutes, until golden and tender. Scatter the mushrooms and the steamed green beans in an even layer over the meat.

For the mashed cauliflower: Using a food processor, blender, or immersion blender, combine the cauliflower, butter, milk, and garlic powder until smooth. Season with salt, to taste. Spread the mashed cauliflower in an even layer over the veggies.

Sprinkle the cheese over the top. Bake for about 25 minutes, until heated through and slightly browned. (Allow for longer cooking time if preparing ahead of time and refrigerating before baking.)

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!

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