Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Healthy Zucchini Bread

From time to time my mom will cut out articles or recipes from the paper or magazines that I might like and pass them on to me. This was one that appeared in the Detroit Free Press in the past month. I've made two batches of this delicious bread and everyone who's tried it has loved it - and I love that it's healthy too!

They gave a tip that you can adjust other recipes to be healthier by using a combination of whole wheat and all purpose flour - generally half and half. And do you know the difference between whole wheat white flour and whole wheat flour? Whole wheat white flour is milled from hard white wheat berries, whole wheat flour is milled from red wheat berries. They have the same amount of fiber and nutrition but with a milder flavor and lighter color.

This recipe was created by Darlene Zimmerman, MS, RD for Henry Ford Hospital.

Makes 24 slices - each has 157 calories (17% from fat), 3 grams fat (0 saturated, 0 trans fat) 29 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 110 mg sodium, 9 mg cholesterol, 24 mg calcium, 1 gram fiber.

Nonstick floured baking spray
1 container (7 oz) low-fat Greek style yogurt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
3 egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat white flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups shredded zucchini
2 teaspoons orange zest

1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon melted butter or trans fat free margarine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9x5 inch loaf pans (or 4 mini loaf pans) with the floured baking spray. In large bowl beat together the yogurt, oil, sugar, egg, egg whites and vanilla. In a separate large bowl combine the all purpose flour, whole wheat white flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the yogurt mixture to the flour mixture and gently combine until just moistened, being careful not to over mix. dd the zucchini and orange zest and stir to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans and bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Note: I made this recipe in my Pampered Chef mini loaf pan (4 mini loaves) and reduced the cooking time to 40 minutes.

To prepare the glaze: combine the powdered sugar, orange juice and melted butter/margarine, stir until smooth. Spread the glaze over the top of the bread while it is still warm. Allow the bread to cool in the pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove the bread from pans and cool completely on the wire rack. Each loaf yields 12 slices, one slice equals one serving.

Tastes even better the next day, very moist! Also freezes well. (if it lasts that long!)

Bean Stew (or is it soup?)

I'm not really sure where to draw the line between a stew and a soup, but the original recipe I based mine off of called this a stew. This recipe is adapted from one found in "The Biggest Loser: 6 Weeks to a Healthier You".

1 TB olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped into chunks
1 TB pressed garlic
28 ounces diced fire-roasted tomatoes
2 red or yellow peppers, cut into chunks
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp red pepper chili flakes
3 cans or 4 1/2 cups of black beans (rinsed and drained) - you could substitute any bean though
4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (plus extra for garnish)
3 cups fresh baby spinach
salt to taste

In a large pot heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes until softened but not browned. Add garlic and cook for another minute (do not brown).

Add tomatoes, peppers, cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes. Simmer about 5 minutes. Add 3 cups or 2 cans of beans and 3 1/2 cups of broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer.

Place the remaining 1 can or 1 1/2 cups of beans, 1/2 cup of broth and cilantro in a blender and puree until smooth. Add the puree to the stew.

Add the baby spinach and heat until just wilted. Add salt to taste (just a little). Stir well and serve hot. garnish with extra chopped cilantro.

Makes 10 1-cup servings, approximately 165 calories, 8g protein, 27 g carbs (7g sugars), 3g fat (unsaturated), 0mg cholesterol, 7 g fiber, 330 mg sodium

(I served this as a meal so we each had 2 cups/2 servings. I had some baked tortilla chips on the side, but it would be great with a piece of whole grain toast on the side too.)

Pumpkins, squash and gourds, oh my!

Today's trip to my favorite booth at the South Lyon farmers' market yielded a beautiful blue-green heirloom pumpkin! It's a Jarrahdale pumpkin which is originally from New Zealand. It's not stringy inside and is supposed to make delicious soup and muffins, but for awhile first it's going to make me happy as a centerpiece. I found a recipe for spicy pumpkin soup and one for pumpkin risotto that I may try with it this weekend!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Transformation also means De-cluttering

These changes in healthy living have also spilled over into the need to de-clutter. Getting rid of all the clothes both of us can no longer wear has been great - I have so many empty hangers now it's unbelievable. I've found having a very small wardrobe is kind of freeing (well beyond the frequent laundry!). I took some items to consignment, have been selling others on Ebay, and am now also organizing for a garage sale Oct 1-2. In addition to the clothes I have a lot of scrapbooking items (surprise surprise!) to sell and have caught the bug to de-clutter everywhere in the house. I never thought going through boxes in the storage room could feel so wonderful! (obviously if I had, I would have looked in them during the past 5 years most of them have been there!) My list this week includes going through the linen closet, kitchen cupboards, study closet, laundry room closet, spare bedroom closet and the 2nd closet in our bedroom. I can't wait! So, everyone just pray for beautiful weather that weekend and many customers for us, because I do not want any of that coming back into the house!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My Amazing Husband!

"I'm just an ordinary guy."

That's what Thad just said to me when I told him I was going to write about my amazing husband. I think anyone that knows him will agree with me that he is not just an ordinary guy, but someone very special - and yes, amazing.

Thad began this journey with me this year, supportive as always. I don't think he had any idea how much it would change our lives. Although he does have his 'cheat day' on Fridays when he goes out for lunch, it hasn't stopped him from losing 33 lbs this year. He's only 9 lbs away from his goal! I am so proud of him!

Thad has always been a laid back kind of guy, so his new-found love of yoga suits him perfectly. I love seeing his excitement over mastering a pose, coming home to show me like a little kid. How can I not fall in love with him all over again? :)

Today he wanted me to take some new photos, and I can't help but to share them here too!

Warm Chicken Orzo Salad

The original version of this recipe from Whole Foods' website called for it to be a cold salad with uncooked zucchini and grape tomatoes, but since I was out grilling the orange pepper, I figured I'd change it up a bit! This was another keeper for the recipe files so thought I'd share.

6 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 1/2 cups of water
1 1/3 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts (this was 3 medium size ones for me)
1 cup orzo
2 zucchini (I used 2 different varieties) (about 1 lb)
1 cup grape tomatoes
2 cups packed fresh baby spinach
1 roasted red/orange/yellow pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

(Note - to have everything warm/ready at the same time I prepped everything first so that the chicken and orzo were cooking at the same time and went out and grilled the veggies.)

Place 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and water in a large skillet and heat over medium heat. When water is barely simmering, add chicken, turn down to a medium simmer and cover pan. Cook for 15-18 minutes until cooked through (after 15 minutes I cut the breasts in half to make sure the insides were cooked and left it on a few more minutes. Remove from pan and shred or cut into pieces.

Cook orzo in rapidly boiling water until just tender (about 12 minutes).

Cut each zucchini in half. Trim top and bottom off of pepper, remove insides, cut into two large pieces for grilling. Put grape tomatoes on skewers. I then spray everything with a canola cooking spray. Grill veggies on a medium-high heat. Tomatoes grill very quickly so watch carefully, you don't want them falling apart, just barely roasted. After everything is grilled, slice zucchini and slice pepper into thin strips.

Combine cooked chicken, orzo, zucchini, grape tomatoes, baby spinach, roasted peppers and olives in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. The heat from the veggies, chicken and orzo will wilt the spinach just right! Add olive oil, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, salt and pepper, and toss to combine thoroughly. Serve and enjoy! Makes 6 servings, approx 300 calories each.

Monday, September 13, 2010

My First Risotto! Red Quinoa Risotto with Shiitake & Arugula

One of my favorite ways to 'waste' time online is to browse Tastespotting. It's addicting! The other day I ran across a recipe that caught my eye - Red Quinoa Risotto with Shiitake and Arugula. I had bought some red quinoa from the bulk bin at Whole Foods but hadn't tried it yet and a bag of baby arugula was sitting in my fridge, so I added it to my menu for the week.

Have you tried quinoa? I've made several recipes now with quinoa and found I like the texture - and it takes on the taste of whatever is in the dish. It's a fantastic food to add to your diet because not only is it high in protein, but it is a complete protein with all 8 of the essential amino acids. It's a good source of fiber, calcium,  iron, potassium, gluten free. You can use it like a grain even though it's technically a seed.

Red Quinoa Risotto with Shiitake and Arugula

The only note I'd make on her recipe is that it took my quinoa longer than 12 minutes to become tender, so if you make this, use the time only as a guide and taste along the way. Oh, and I'd add more mushrooms next time!

Red Quinoa Risotto with Shittake and Arugula
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup quinoa, well rinsed
2 1/4 cups vegetable stock or broth
2 cups chopped, stemmed arugula (rocket)
1 small carrot, peeled and finely shredded
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and quinoa and cook for about 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Don’t let the garlic brown.
Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the quinoa is almost tender to the bite but slightly hard in the center, about 12 minutes. The mixture will be brothy.
Stir in the arugula, carrot and mushrooms and simmer until the quinoa grains are tender and you see the spirals on the grain, about 2 minutes longer. Stir in the cheese and season with the salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
This made 4 servings for us for dinner.

It's Healthy . . .

but not a good enough reason to eat too much of it!

The past two weeks have been smaller weight losses for me and I know why. I've done well during the week and then the weekend hits and delicious food tempts me. Last weekend it was too much wine and good food at Arts Beats and Eats, this weekend it was trying too many yummy foods at the Ann Arbor Homegrown Festival and then topping the night off with some frozen custard. Oh and did I mention the apple crumble I made last night from honey crisp apples I picked on Friday? Yes, it was a healthy recipe that should have been only 250 cal for the dessert but I'm pretty certain my portion sizes were probably more like 400+. Treating yourself every now and then is a good thing, but I've clearly been doing it too often lately.

Before this weekend the scale said I was down my usual weekly amount and I was feeling great about how well I'd done all week with food choices and how much I'd worked out. Then my weekly official weigh in came this morning and I knew I'd overdone it this weekend. It seems throughout the past two weeks I am gaining and then losing within a 4lb range. Thad has too and he blames the scale, but I know that's not it. So, here's to a new week of eating healthy and being conscious of my portion size! I have a meal plan ready, I've grocery shopped, and I'm heading to Jazzercise this morning.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

mmm! grilled veggie sandwich!

I thought about taking a photo  . . . about the same time I was taking my last bite!

Just the same, I thought I'd share the recipe for the delicious grilled veggie sandwich I made us for lunch today, because it was so good, I can't keep it to myself.

For 3 sandwiches:

1 eggplant (I had a Puerto Rican eggplant I got at the Farmer's Market yesterday - it's a lighter purple)
2 sweet peppers (I used a long yellow one and a reddish/green one
2 small red onions
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
sliced red heirloom tomato
whole grain/full-of-seed-goodness bread (from Great Harvest Bread Co)
olive oil
fresh ground pepper
fine sea salt
garlic salt
canola oil spray

Here's what I did:
Sliced eggplant into about 15 slices, about 1/4 inch thick
Cut off ends and cored peppers, cut each in half lengthwise
Cut onions in half and thread onto skewer
spray all of these with canola oil spray (or you could brush with canola or olive oil)
sprinkle garlic salt on the eggplant slices (then let sit for 5-10 min, helps draw out bitterness)
spray or brush with oil all slices of bread, both sides
Heat up grill, grill the eggplant, peppers and onion, then grilled both sides of the bread
Now assemble: Brush olive oil on one side of each slice. On one side put the feta cheese and a slice of tomato. On the other side put 4-5 slices of eggplant, then peppers, then onions. Sprinkle oregano, salt and fresh ground pepper on top of the tomato side. Then combine the sides together, pat sandwich down and cut in half and enjoy!

note: we also had a small amount of grilled chicken leftover, so I sliced it up, heated it, and added a little bit to each sandwich with the feta - however I don't think it would be missed at all!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Learn about living your life . . . from yoga

Now I know I just said I'm not going to become a yoga addict, and I stand by that statement. However, I was reading an article that a friend posted on Facebook this morning and this one statement really spoke to me:

"In each moment, you can ask yourself: "Is this choice serving my health and happiness or moving me away from it?" When you step into your own power whenever possible (hint: it's always possible!), you'll create a wave of wellness, vitality, and goodness that will optimize your experiences both on and off the mat.  "

Such a profound statement about how I want to live my life. I know in some ways it must sound terribly selfish, but I believe that one also draws happiness from doing good for others, and a happy and healthy person will always create a better world for those around them.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Yoga anyone?

My amazing husband, Thad, has been going to yoga since May almost daily - and he absolutely loves it. He's been wanting me to go with him for months now and try it out, I think really he just wants to share with me something that has come to mean so much to him (and no, he won't be coming to Jazzercise with me, LOL). A few weeks ago I tried out a basics class at his studio and enjoyed it but did not feel very challenged. Well last week I took a Power Yoga 101 class and it was definitely better - I enjoyed all of the stretching especially and felt great afterward. I was even sore the next day which is unusual now that I work out almost every day. Tonight I took another Power Yoga 101 class with a different instructor and really enjoyed it - very challenging and great stretching - I know my hips are going to be sore tomorrow! I don't think that yoga will become a daily thing for me like it is for Thad, but adding it to my workout schedule once a week I think will have a profound effect on my flexibility and awareness of my muscles - plus it feels great and it's special together time with my husband :)

Monday, September 6, 2010

My Cabbage Rolls - Golabki

Growing up, cabbage rolls were always a treat I loved. Such a delicious combination of food, and the smell of them cooking brings back memories. Yes, they are actually a Polish dish, so I'm not quite sure how my great grandmother (who was Irish!) came to make them and pass the tradition down. I took my mom's verbal recipe, read a few authentic Polish recipes and one by Emeril even, and came up with my own version. Thad swore it's the best he's ever had (yes, said in the presence of my Mom and Aunt whose cabbage rolls he's had!). It is not really a difficult recipe, just time consuming. The rewards are worth it! This batch also makes plenty for leftovers (you will want them!).

Cabbage Rolls
  • 2 heads savoy cabbage (this is a darker green, leafier cabbage than a typical white cabbage - trust me and my ruined mush of regular cabbage and a quick trip to the store that THIS is the type you must find)
  • 2 lbs grass fed ground beef
  • 1 large can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 regular can diced tomatoes
  • 1 large yellow onion (I used a vidalia)
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley (I used italian flat leaf)
  • 1 small, or 1/2 regular green pepper - chopped tiny
  • 1 orange or yellow pepper sliced in thin rings (I used one from the farmers' market that was long and skinny so it gave many small rings and great flavor!)
  • 1 regular green pepper sliced in thin rings
  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 1 cup long grain brown rice (I use some from the bulk bins at Whole Foods, I do not recommend using a short grain brown rice or any instant variety)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons fresh pressed garlic (about 4-5 cloves)
  • Fresh ground pepper, salt, paprika dried thyme, onion salt to taste
  • 2 eggs (could use 1 depending on size, mine were not large)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Large Lasagna pan, Large pot, Large Skillet, Large Mixing Bowl, 1/4 cup & 1/2 cup measuring cups
Makes: 18 cabbage rolls. Serving Size = 2 per person


1.       Cook your white and brown rice (separately)

2.       Boil a large pot of salted water.  Peel off outer layers on both heads of cabbage, chop off as much of core as you can. Once water is boiling, carefully place one head into the water. Using tongs, begin peeling off leaves from the head. They will soften quite quickly, just a couple minutes. Start pulling them out of the water and place on a surface to cool completely. I use a couple large cutting boards, but you could easily roll out some waxed paper to place them on too. As you pull off more leaves you may need to cut into the cabbage near what is left of the core so the smaller leaves can peel off as well. When the leaves started getting too small I pulled the rest of the head of cabbage out of the water and put the 2nd one in, repeated the process.  Let the cabbage leaves cool.

NOTE:  while you will not be needing the small leaves to make the cabbage rolls, they are delicious if you fry them up in some butter with salt and pepper. Not so healthy but I knew someone would love them and I didn’t want the rest of the cabbage to go to waste.

3.       Finely chop up the fresh parsley, measure and put in the large mixing bowl. Finely chop up some green pepper (small one or ½ regular one) and put in large bowl as well. Set aside

4.       Press about 2 ½ teaspoons of garlic (this was about 4 or 5 cloves).

5.       Peel onion, cut in half.  Dice half of it and set the other half aside.

6.       In large skillet, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and pressed garlic. Add salt and pepper. Cook about 4 minutes until onion is translucent. Remove from pan and add into the large bowl.

7.       Brown the ground beef in the large skillet. As it is cooking add in salt and ground pepper and sprinkle paprika. I don’t know the exact amount of paprika but I sprinkle it around the whole pan. Drain any fat. Note: grass fed beef cooks faster. Remove from heat and using a slotted spoon to drain any more fat away, spoon ground beef into the large bowl.

8.       Measure 2 cups cooked long grain white rice and 1 cup cooked long grain brown rice into the large bowl.

9.       Add two eggs into the large bowl. Mix very thoroughly to combine everything. At this point you want to be sure to taste it and see if it needs more salt, pepper or paprika as this is what is the most flavorful part of the dish.

10.   Now you’re ready to roll your cabbage rolls! Have your lasagna pan nearby to put the rolls in as they are done. Open up a leaf, trim off any part at the bottom that this thick/hard. Put ½ cup of the mixture in the middle, then roll up by folding in the sides and then rolling and tucking in, similar to a burrito. Place in pan. Continue, picking out the biggest leaves first. My pan held 18 rolls, depending on the size of your pan, you may need to use a couple, or use a deeper pan and layer them.

11.   Pour ¼ cup water over the cabbage rolls.

12.   Slice the green pepper and red/orange pepper into thin rings and distribute across the top of the cabbage rolls. Slice the remaining ½ of your onion into half-rings and distribute across the top as well. I then sprinkled a little bit more salt and pepper across the top of everything.

13.   Cover pan with foil and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.

14.   After 30 minutes, remove from oven and add both cans of tomatoes to pan. Sprinkle dried thyme and garlic salt across the top of the tomatoes. Put foil back on and return to oven for another 30 minutes. Then remove foil and put back in oven for another 10 minutes.

15.   Take out, let sit a few minutes, then serve 2 rolls on each plate, make sure you get tomatoes, pepper and a bit of juice with each one. I served these with oven roasted red potatoes, but they’re great with mashed potatoes too!


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Food for the Soul

No, I'm not actually talking about food . . .

I'm talking about doing things you love, being who you are, true to yourself and enjoying it. On this journey to find myself again, yesterday was another great moment for me. I have often felt over the past years that I've lost a part of who I am, or perhaps hidden it away. With LM I always felt I had to have a public face and would keep my thoughts and opinions to myself, even with people I consider to be friends, much more often than I think was really healthy. Thad and I got caught up in attaining some sort of "American dream" and following a life path that seemed to be more of what one 'should be' doing or was expected - nice new house in a nice suburb, owning our own business, etc. Don't get me wrong - I've made wonderful friends and had some great times. But sometimes we just feel like we don't quite fit into the life we made here - we have this great house and the best dog ever, family nearby and old and new dear friends - yet at the same time, we don't get into the football games, the poker nights, etc - and we don't have kids, which so much of life in the suburbs seems to focus on -  and our politics seem opposite of the majority of our neighbors. This year we've really decided it was time to go and find the things we enjoy and make the best of it, and in the process we are finding ourselves again. Yesterday we went to Royal Oak for Arts, Beats and Eats - but really we went to meet a new friend of Thad's and his partner. Great conversation, delicious food and just an all around fun day with new friends. So reminiscent of days gone by when Thad and I lived in Philly. It was truly food for the soul.

Friday, September 3, 2010

100lbs - Progress in Pictures

It's now been 8 months since I began on this journey - and I'm thrilled to say that as of my August 30th weigh in (after 34 weeks), I'm down 100.8 lbs! My goal is another 55lbs away, but that just sounds almost 'easy' after 100 lbs, doesn't it? I'm determined to stay on this new path and reach my goal!

Today Thad grabbed the camera as I was going out and snapped a few photos for me. When I looked at them tonight and compared to others over the past few months, it's even more obvious to me how much I've lost than just how I 'feel'. At the same time, sometimes I feel so fantastic and then I see a photo and think I don't look as good as I feel like I do, and still have a ways to go. (although seeing this progression does help me snap out of that attitude!) :)

100 lbs - I keep picturing that one Biggest Loser episode last season, in the beginning, when Bob puts on weight vests to simulate carrying around the weight that one of the contestants has on him, and how difficult it was to move. I can not imagine putting on 100 lbs on my body and doing all I do in a day now, yet I carried that on me for so so many years. Never again.

2/21/10 - Down 19lbs

3/30/10 - Down 33lbs

5/14/10 - Down 55lbs
6/7/10 - Down 65lbs

7/2/10 - Down 76lbs
9/3/10 - Down 100lbs

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Am I a Cook?

I always thought that I was more of a baker than a cook. Baking during the holidays or on special occasions when I'm having guests or going to a party has always been one of my favorite things to do. Well one thing this year has taught me is that I really enjoy cooking, and am actually becoming quite good at it! I've only baked a few times this year and while I enjoyed it immensely, I get to cook every day.

Now that we eat fresh, whole foods rather than processed foods, I am learning so much about cooking methods and trying new things. This summer I learned to grill and even Thad has to admit I do it better than he does :) I'm cooking in a wok often as well. And fresh herbs! They used to be reserved for special meals like Thanksgiving or cilantro for mexican dishes, and I'd use dried the rest of the time - now I don't think I could go back! This summer I regularly have had cilantro, parsley, mint, dill and basil in the fridge and even found myself looking for recipes just to use them. Amazing what a difference it can make in flavor.

The past month or so I have slipped in my meal planning and instead have found myself improvising meals according to what veggies or herbs we have in the fridge and even cooking without recipes - and it's turned out great! I think that means I can call myself a cook now :) I still plan to get back to my meal planning and trying new recipes, but I have a new found confidence! Perhaps sometime this fall or winter I'll even take a cooking class!