Wednesday, January 30, 2013

PB2 Review & Coffee

By way of a mini update...I've been doing well, though the recent bitterly cold, grey, weather has really acted as a demotivator on leaving my house and getting to the gym. Today we are enjoying 50+F weather, but it's still yucky and grey and blah outside. Since it's warm, though, I'm going to put on some bright colored clothing, find some fun fast music on my ipod, and head out for a walk in about 10 minutes.

I've been pushing myself to stay on track with the water intake, vitamins, and protein and have been doing decently, though there is room for improvement. To that end, I've been drinking the Nectar Of The Gods: Coffee. Yes, yes, coffee has no nutrition. But I'm drinking decaf, so I can count it as a glass of "water" for the day and I've been turning it into Protein Coffee. What is protein coffee, you say? I'm glad you asked! It's a beverage phenomenon that I had not heard of prior to bariatric surgery and my stalking of various weight loss surgery message boards.

In essence, it's coffee with Things Added to it to make it high in protein. Things like protein mix. Some folks have all-out recipes for it and make a sort of warm coffee smoothie with stuff like sugar free flavor syrups, milk, protein powder, cocoa powder, etc. I haven't yet ventured into such high tech territory, but I have been adding a scoop of vanilla protein powder to my coffee with a dash of FF nondairy creamer in the mornings. It tastes a little like a vanilla latte and has been helping me get in my protein each day, since I suck at mornings and my appetite is basically nonexistent since surgery. I've been meaning to buy a tub of chocolate protein powder and I'm looking forward to a mocha in the mornings. I'll let you know how it tastes. ;-)

On to the review!

PB2 is another one of those things I had never heard of prior to the WLS message boards. It's essentially the byproduct of making peanut in, it's the flattened (pressed) remains of roasted peanuts after they squash them to extract the oil. Then they grind it up to a fine flour consistency, add a little sugar and salt for enhanced flavor, and sell it by the pound. It's roughly 85% fat free and around 45 calories per 2 T. serving. In other words: Much better for me than regular peanut butter. I bought some a week or so ago and my first foray into using it resulted in the Nutter Butter Smoothie.

Yesterday afternoon I had a mood for a peanut butter type snack and decided to test out the PB2 according to package directions. I put 2 T. in a small bowl and added a little water. The package says to add 1.5 T. water, but I didn't measure. I just added a little and then mixed, then added a little, then mixed...until it formed a peanut butter-like paste, which I spread on apple slices.

The Verdict: It needs fat. (kidding...sorta) It tastes peanutty, but it's a bit sweeter than regular peanut butter (I only ever buy the natural peanut butter, though, so it may be similar in flavor to something like Skippy, that has added sugar) and has a slightly...floury...taste. I'd say it tasted a little chalky, but the flavor wasn't quite so pronounced and the word "chalky" has a definite pejorative connotation that doesn't really fit. The peanut flavor is less prominent than in regular peanut butter, but I expect that's due to the absence of fat. The consistency was similar to a smooth homogenized peanut butter, but a bit less sticky and it worked well for scooping up with apple slices.

I don't know that I'll be using it as a spread very often (though it's better than no peanut butter when the craving strikes), but considering that real peanut butter is just too high in fat and calories to justify eating on regular basis, I can see PB2 sticking around in my kitchen. I wonder how it would be for a peanut dipping sauce for some baked tofu nuggets? Something along the lines of a Thai peanut sauce....hhm.... wanders off to contemplate the possibilities

Friday, January 25, 2013


I didn't plan on this post including a recipe, but I have one, so why not?

As a reward for tackling my anxiety and going to the gym consistently for almost a month, my lovely wife bought me the Oster My Blend Blender with an orange travel cup (have I mentioned I like orange? I do! It's just such a cheerful color.) It's similar to a Magic Bullet in that the ingredients are blended directly in the cup, which has a blender attachment, and inverted into the base and pressed down to activate the blender action (there's a travel lid for drinking.) I like that the base - about 6" wide - takes up very little room on my already cowded counter and requires next to no brain power to use (something very necessary first thing in the morning as I'm most definitely Not A Morning Person.) One cup comes with the blender and they sell additional cups in other colors for around $12 each, which might be good for the future. It really all depends on whether I'm the only one in the house drinking smoothies regularly. Isn't it cute?

Now I can start experimenting with protein smoothies! The first smoothie I made was strawberry banana and it was good but nothing special. The smoothie I made yesterday and today and that I will be drinking every day until I'm totally sick of it is my Nutter Butter smoothie. YUM. YUM! It's called such because it tastes like Nutter Butter cookies, but it's really a combination of almond milk, banana, vanilla protein powder, and PB2.

Which reminds me. Have I mentioned how excited I am that my PB2 has arrived?! For those who have no clue what I'm referring to, PB2 is essentially peanut flour left over from making peanut oil. Because the roasted nuts are pressed for oil before they are ground to make PB2, the product is basically all nut solids with very little fat. The company markets it as 85% fat free. There are about 45 calories in 2 tablespoons and it can be reconstituted w/water to make a peanut butter-like spread, or it can be used to flavor things.

On to the recipe! The banana in it helps to sweeten and thick the smoothie a little (and adds a nice infusion of fruit to my day) and the vanilla protein powder helps to give the "cookie" flavor, while the PB2 gives the peanut butter filling flavor. Use as much PB2 as you like until you're happy with the peanut action. I like it with 3-4 T. but I loooove peanuts and this is my substitute for real peanut butter right now. I didn't find that it needed any additional splenda, but your tastes may be different and your vanilla protein powder may not be as sweet as mine. I didn't include a picture of the smoothie because it's really nothing to look at - just a lightly tan milk shake lookin' thing. Meh. But trust me, what it lacks in looks it makes up for in flavor!

Nutter Butter Protein Smoothie

8 oz. Vanilla Almond Milk
1 Scoop Vanilla Protein Powder (I like the Syntrax Vanilla Bean Torte)
2-4 T. PB2
1/2 Large Banana (frozen or not, it's your choice)

Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. Enjoy the Nutter Butter cookie flavor.

Approximate Nutritional Roundup: Calories 298, Carbs 37 g, Fat 4 g, Protein 30 g, Fiber 5 g. (It's also got roughly 45 g of calcium, no saturated fat, and 569 mg of potassium, which is good for your heart.)

Edited to Add: It has recently been brought to my attention that the calorie and carb counts are a bit high for this smoothie, which is true. Looking into it, I saw that you can shave 50 calories and 14g of carbs off of this with a quick and easy swap for unsweetened vanilla almond milk. The other big culprit for carbs in this recipe is the banana, which has around 16g, but also provides around 5g of fiber (making 11g net carbs), for which your digestion will thank you. I personally try to incorporate a fruit or veggie into every meal, but you could always ditch the banana, which would lop off another 63 calories and 16g of carbs. If you go with both of these modifications, you may need to use a little Spenda to sweeten things up, but you'll bring the whole smoothie down to approximately 175 calories and 7g carbs. It won't be quite as thick as with the banana, but you could always add some ice cubes.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mock (Mac) n Cheese

As I start to feel better from the surgery (and nasty head cold) and have more energy, I've noticed my interest in cooking and trying new foods has started to return. And after all the freezing cold weather we've been having, I seriously want some comfort food. As I mentioned a week or so ago, I have had in mind a pasta-free Mock Mac n Cheese - or Mock n Cheese as I like to call it. It's essentially a gratin with more cheese than is usual, but I'll take it! I've combined steamed broccoli and cauliflower and a few cups of frozen chopped kale for a nice punch of veggies in this cheesy less-fat sauce. I made it with skim milk, 2% cheddar, and just enough olive oil to form the necessary roux. This is by no means a "low fat" recipe, but it's better than it could be and the only significant carbs in it come from the dairy and the flour used in the roux.

A Note About Veggies: As I've mentioned before, I use frozen veggies and heat them in the microwave until they're tender and most of the water is gone. I like frozen veggies because they are a) cheap, b) don't rot in my fridge if I don't get around to using them, c) double nicely as an ice pack on sore muscles and joints, and d) did I mention they're cheap? You by no means have to use frozen veggies.

Mock N Cheese

3 T. Flour
3 T. Olive Oil
2.5 C. Fat Free Milk
1 Egg, beaten
1 lb. Cauliflower, frozen and cooked until tender
1 lb. Broccoli, frozen and cooked until tender
3 C. Kale, frozen, chopped
1 t. Mustard Powder
1/8 - 1/4 t. Onion powder (optional)
1/8 - 1/4 t. Garlic powder (optional)
1/8 t. Cayenne
1 C. Reduced Fat Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
1 C. 50% Reduced Fat Extra Sharp Cheddar, shredded
1/3 C. Bread Crumbs - Italian Style
1/3 C. Parmesan Cheese
Black Pepper to taste

Put broccoli and cauliflower in a large bowl and microwave on high 15-30 minutes, or until the veggies are tender and most of the water is gone. Set aside.

Heat a medium sauce pan over medium heat and add olive oil. When oil is hot, add flour and stir to create a roux. Whisk to make it smooth and allow it to cook until it's just lightly tan. When the roux is nicely tan, whisk in milk and continue to whisk until the roux is completely dissolved. Add 2 T. of hot milk to the beaten egg in a small bowl and beat in the milk quickly, to temper the egg. Add egg-warm milk mixture to sauce pan and whisk to combine. Add cheese in 1/2 C. increments, whisking between additions until it's all incorporated. Add garlic and onion powder (if using), cayenne, mustard powder, salt, and pepper to taste. Adjust seasonings as necessary and then pour over broccoli and cauliflower in the bowl and stir to combine. Add 3 C. frozen kale (I didn't bother thawing it, but just broke it up and added it directly) and stir. Mix Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Put cheese and veggie mixture into a 9x11 casserole and top with breadcrumb mixture. Bake at 375F until topping is golden brown.

Makes: 8 1 cup servings

Here's the nutritional round up (from Calories 260.7, Total Fat 13.3 g, Cholesterol 43.9 mg, Sodium 432.4 mg, Total Carbs 21.3 g, Dietary Fiber 4.6 g, Protein 17.5 g.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sausage Lentil Stew

I've been digging on lentils a lot lately which I am personally scandalized by, since before surgery I frequently declared that they tasted like little pieces of dirt. Now? I like them. A lot. (Will wonders never cease?) I've discovered that lentils have good protein, good fiber, healthy carbs, and they work well for strong flavors, like onion and curry. Plus, the new stomach (pouch) seems to be on good terms with them.

This stew was inspired by Stephanie O'Dea's Crockpot 365 recipe. I created a recipe for the stove top that had loads of veggies in it and a nice full flavored sausage. I opted for andouille sausage - which admittedly has more fat than many chicken sausages that you could choose - but I love the spicy, garlicy flavor. If anything will keep lentils from tasting like the earth they grow out of, it's andouille. But, as my grand aunt would say, "If you don't have the andouille, then use a little hot Italian sausage, or if you don't have that, then a little sweet sausage, or whatever you have that's cheap at the market." Yeah, my Aunt Rose was a big one for freewheeling substitutions in her cooking and so am I. ;-)

I wanted to keep this stew from being too tough to digest, so I chose to puree half the veggies after they had softened from cooking, but it adds to the labor and you don't really need to do that. I also used frozen chopped kale since it was in the house and to be honest, I tend to prefer to stock my house with frozen veggies, since I can't always be arsed to cook the fresh veggies before they compost in the bottom of my fridge. What can I say? I live a real life and stuff happens.

Sausage Lentil Stew

2 T. Olive Oil, divided
1 lb. Andouille Sausage (or whatever you like)
1 C. Chopped Carrots
2 C. Chopped Onions
4-6 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Can Diced Tomatoes
4 C. Chopped Frozen Kale, Thawed
32-40 oz. Fat Free, Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth (or veggie broth)
1 C. Lentils, rinsed and soaked 30 minutes
Salt and Pepper to taste

Slice sausage lengthwise in 4 pieces and then cross-wise into 1 cm pieces. In a large pan, lightly brown the sausage in 1 T. olive oil and remove from the pan and set aside in a bowl. Add 1 T. additional olive oil to the pan and cook the carrots, onions and garlic until soft. Add tomatoes with the juice, kale, and broth and bring to a simmer. Cook 15 minutes until the veggies are tender and remove half the veggies from the pan. Using an immersion blender, puree the other half the veggies right in the broth and return the pan to the stove. Return the remaining veggies to the pan with sausage and lentils. Cover and simmer until lentils are very tender (I prefer them almost mushy), 30-45 minutes. You may need to add a little extra broth or water as it cooks, depending on how much is absorbed by the lentils.

Including the olive oil, here are the nutrition stats (from the calculator): Calories: 293, Total Fat 13.8 g, Cholestrol 33.3 mg, Sodium 1,118.8 mg, Total Carbohydrate 27.5 g, Fiber 9.2 g, Protein 17.9 g.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Overdoing It and Simple Can Be Good

I seriously overdid it on the heavy lifting, twisting, and bending in the process of unloading the groceries from the car, cleaning out the refrigerator, and putting everything away this afternoon. I didn't have any sharp surgical-type pain, but instead had this diffuse achiness all across my abdomen as if I'd done a very strenuous ab workout. I suppose, looking at it, I did do a strenuous ab workout in a way. I'm cleared for full activity as of this week, but clearly the muscles of my abdominal wall are a) still healing, and b) have lost some of their former strength. It's really amazing what you take for granted until you don't have it. Abdominal strength has never been something I really thought about - or even thought I had much of - but now that I have a bit less than before, it's making my everyday activities much more of a challenge.

By the time I had gotten through half of the household chores, I knew I was done. I left the rest and decided to eat lunch. Since I've started back on soft foods since the surgery, I'm learning to appreciate simpler meals. Lunch today was 3 Mini Babybel Light cheeses and 1/2 C. of really incredible fresh blueberries. That's it. It was so satisfying! I've been easing into the fruits and veggies very slowly and most of what I've been eating is cooked, so it was a delight to eat fruit that was cold and fresh and unprocessed in any way. I was a little tentative about eating them (skins, seeds) but chewed well and carefully and everything went according to plan. I'm thinking tonight will be a little broiled haddock and shrimp with some kind of steamed veggie. Wow! Look at the time. I should probably get on that.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Apple Pear Sauce

As I mentioned yesterday, I've been having a hard time with eating over the past day or so. I learned the hard way that although fresh apples (peeled) are on the "approved foods" list from my surgeon for my current stage of diet, they are still well known for causing problems with digestion. Fun! *snort* Since I have been eating apples (and pears) for 2 weeks with no problems, I had just bought a nice selection of them when I went shopping this past Sunday. But given the events of the past few days I deiced that maybe I should try eating them cooked for a little while.

Now, I know that apple sauce - even the no sugar added type - is cheap and easy to find in any corner store these days, trust me when I tell you that home made is worth the 10 minutes of active work and 30 minutes of cook time. Trust me.

So, with my decision to cook the apples fresh in my heart, I went to my kitchen and was promptly reminded that I have pears, too! But only 2 of them. Not enough for a batch of pear sauce. A split second deliberation saw me tossing sliced pears into the pot with the apples. This inspired me to take the flavors in the direction of mulled cider and I dropped in some whole cloves, cinnamon, and a generous strip of orange zest. After all, if there's no added sugar, there should be added flavor some other way, right? Right.

I used a mix of apples that included Gala, Pink Lady, Macoun, and Honey Crisp and red d'Anjou pears. These are fruits that are best for eating out-of-hand - meaning that they are sweet and juicy and crisp - and I put in a little extra lemon juice to offset the sweetness a bit. That being said, if you're not adding sugar to your apple sauce, using naturally sweeter varieties will help give you the right flavor. You may have to taste and adjust your proportions of spices and lemon juice as you go, so I suggest starting out with a little less and adding it as needed until you get it how you like it. I left the skins on the fruit and pureed it after (I fished out the cinnamon and cloves stick first). I figure that there a good nutrients in the peel and if it's pureed, it won't cause digestive problems for me while I continue in my healing process.

Apple Pear Sauce

4-6 Apples
2-3 Pears
1-2 Cinnamon Stick
6-8 Whole Cloves
1 1" x 3" strip of Orange Zest
1/2 C. Water
Juice of 1/2 - 1 Lemon
Pinch of Salt

Core and slice the fruit and put in a medium-large sauce pan with half the orange zest, lemon juice, cloves, and cinnamon. Add water and salt, cover, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it all becomes very mushy and soft.

Taste for seasoning and add a little more orange zest, lemon juice, salt, cloves, and cinnamon as necessary. If you add flavoring, cook another 10-15 minutes to allow it to permeate the sauce. If your sauce is too watery for your preference, remove the lid part way through cooking and allow some of the moisture to evaporate.

When done, allow it to cool to room temperature and fish out the cloves and cinnamon. Puree the sauce until there are no lumps and all the skins are incorporated. You want a smooth consistency.

Makes approximately 12 2 oz. servings

Nutrition (from calculator): Calories 83.0, Total Fat 0.3 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium 97.5 mg, Total Carbs 21.7 g, Dietary Fiber 4.2 g, Protein 0.3 g.

Monday, January 7, 2013

NSV - Non-Scale Victory

I'm having a hard time with keeping food and fluids down today and I'm back on clear fluids for 24 hours and then full fluids for another 48 before I can try soft foods again. But since I feel so crappy, I thought I'd refocus on something pleasant that happen a few days ago.

In case you haven't been following the ticker (over there ----> ), I've been losing weight. Yay! I've adjusted the ticker to reflect the weight lost from my highest point of 347 lbs., but in case you're wondering, I've lost 25.6 lbs. since the surgery 27 days ago. Not too shabby. The real victory, though, isn't about the numbers on the scale. The real victory is that I tried on a pair of jeans in the next size smaller than what I was wearing before surgery, and they fit! Like a glove. Woo! :-)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Midwinter Seafood Fra Diavolo

I had a craving for shellfish today, so the wife and I splurged a little and picked up some fresh PEI mussels and wild caught cod filet during the weekly grocery shop. Well...I guess it wasn't so much of a splurge, since the mussels were on sale and we only bought 1/2 lb. of the cod - the whole thing came to about $9.

Anyway! I fixed my craving with this flavorful pasta-free Seafood Fra Diavolo. I've flavored the broth with tomatoes, garlic, hot pepper flakes, oregano and a smidge of basil. This is a quick 1-pot meal that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Seafood Fra Diavolo

1/2 - 3/4 lb. Cod Filet (skinless), cut into 2" or 3" chunks
4 lbs. Fresh Mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1 28 oz. Can Tomato Puree
1 C. Fat Free Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth
2-6 Cloves garlic, smashed/cracked open
1 pinch - 1 t. Hot Pepper Flakes (to taste)
1/2 t. Basil
1 t. Oregano
Salt to taste

Heat 1 T. olive oil in a large pan. Add garlic and cook on medium heat until it just starts to brown. Add  pepper flakes and cook 1 more minute. Add tomato puree and broth and heat to simmering. Add basil, oregan, and salt and stir to combine. Gently drop in the cod filet and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Add in mussels, cover, and allow it to simmer for 3 minutes. Check every 1 minute after that and remove from heat as soon as the mussels have opened.

I served this family style in a big shallow bowl with all the broth and pan juices and I imagine it would be delicious with crusty bread for dipping. This serves about 4-5 hungry non-gastric bypass diners.

The nutritional info (from Calories: 288.7, Total Fat 7.5 g, Cholesterol 88.2 mg, Sodium 824.7 mg, Total Carbs 13.7 g, Dietary Fiber 1.3 g, Protein: 38.4 g.

My wife, stealing a taste during the photo shoot. :-)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Pain and New Foods

The past few days I've been experiencing intermittent pain in the center of my abdomen, about 4cm above my belly button. After 48 hours (over the holiday) of worry that it was a gall stone or an ulcer, a conversation with my surgeon put my fears to rest. He told me it sounded like my body telling me it was hungry and to try eating every 3 hours instead of every 5 hours. I gave it a try yesterday and whaddayakno? It went away!

In another interesting post-surgical twist, I've noticed that not only has my taste for sweets greatly diminished since surgery (something I'd heard about and anticipated), but my taste for other foods has changed as well. I've never been a fan of lentils - I've always thought they tasted like little pieces of dirt - but I've been enjoying lentil soup several times a week since surgery. At first I thought it was just the joy of finally eating something hot that resembled normal food again after weeks of a liquid-only diet, but I've noticed that it's happening with other foods, too. Yesterday I peeled and sliced an Anjou pear and had about half of it with a couple ounces of 50% fat free sharp cheddar cheese and really enjoyed it! Previously, pears were something I avoided unless they were cooked to mush to get rid of the gritty texture. It's made eating more of an adventure and a positive experience than I had anticipated for myself after surgery. :)

And speaking of new foods, I've got designs on a pasta-free "Mock n Cheese" now that cooked veggies are allowed once again. I'm in the research stages, so it may be a few days before I get to posting it, but keep an eye out for a veggie based mac n cheese recipe!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Fish to Keep - Salmon Rillettes

As a child, I pooh-poohed all manner of fish. It smelled funny, it looked funny, it tasted funny, and the texture was....not beef. I have never been a picky eater, but up until my mid-20s the thought of voluntarily allowing anything past my lips that came from the ocean other than the occasional scallop or shrimp was just Not. On.

Since then, my palate has matured and my willingness to be adventuresome with things from the sea has greatly expanded. I ran into this particular recipe in a hand-me-down issue of Bon Apetit magazine (Sept. 2012, p16). I made a few minor adjustments for taste and fat and served it on cucumber slices for a lighter alternative to baguette. It's a delicious cold smoky salmon dip with just the right hint of onion from the chives and a powerful punch of protein. Apparently, this is a recipe that originally came from famous New York restaurant, Le Bernardin!

These incredibly rich smoky bites of heaven were the perfect way for my wife and I to ring in the New Year. Give them a try at your next gathering or special dinner. (Bonus: I'm only 3 weeks post-op and on soft solids and I was able to eat this with no problems and it's something my wife looooved!) Can't get better than a culinary win to start the year off right!

Salmon Rillettes

2 C. Dry White Wine
2 Small Shallots (about 1.5 T.), minced
1 lb. Salmon Filet, skinned and pin bones removed
3 oz. Smoked Salmon (lox), cut into 1/4" pieces
1/s C. Mayo (I halved this with Fat Free Plain Greek Yogurt to reduce the fat)
2-3 T. Fresh Chives, minced
1-2 T. Fresh Lemon Juice
S&P to taste

Bring wine and shallots to a simmer in a small sauce pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and add salmon filet. Poach gently until salmon is just barely opaque all the way through (roughly 5 minutes.) Using a fish spatula or slotted spoon, remove salmon from wine and drain on paper towels. Strain shallots out of the wine, reserving the shallots and discarding the wine. Place shallots and salmon in a bowl, cover and refridgerate until cold.

Add all remaining ingredients to the filet and shallots and stir gently to break up filet slightly. Avoid overmixing - you want the filet to retain some flakiness. Adjust seasoning, adding additional lemon and mayo, as desired. Serve on toasted baguette, slices of cucumber, or fold into an omelette.

Servings: 6-8 (the original recipe says 6, I say 8 - this dish is rich and very satisying)

Nutrition (according based on 8 servings and using Greek yogurt in place of half the mayo:  Calories 145.8, Total Fat 7.1 g, Cholesterol 45.2 g, Sodium 586.3 mg, Potassium 397 mg, Total Carbohydrate 2.2 g, Protein 17.3 g.

Happy New Year and blessings to you and your family for 2013!