Saturday, March 30, 2013

Farmer's Market

I went to the city's year 'round, 100+ year old weekly farmer's market yesterday. It was partly because I felt the need to go look at mass quantities of produce to get inspired to cook a little more, but it was mostly in an effort to save money. Most everything they sell is about 60% less than the local grocery store. Of course, that 60% is covered in the PITA factor of shopping there. There's no parking because it's in the center of one of the oldest sections of the city, so you have to take public transit. From where I live, that's about 45 minutes by bus and train. I don't drive, so this isn't really a big deal, I just have to plan my schedule accordingly. No....the PITA factor really comes in when I have to haul all my cheaply gotten delicious fresh fruit and veggies home on the train and bus for 45 minutes. Yeah. That part's not so fun, but when I have a refrigerator full of healthy, fresh, yummy food, it's hard to really be bothered too much.

Yesterday's haul cost $22 and comprised approximately 35 lbs. of produce. In case you're wondering, that's 1 bunch cilantro, 1 bunch scallions, 5 limes, 13 navel oranges, 4 lbs. onions, 5 lbs. bananas, 2 lbs. red seedless grapes, 2 lbs. asparagus, 3 English cucumbers, 4 pints of blue berries, and 4 bird's eye chilies a nice lady gave me for free when I told her I didn't want a 6 oz. bag of them because I only needed a few.

I strategically piled all this loveliness into my re-useable shopping bags (heavy/hearty stuff on the bottom and delicate stuff on top) and proceeded the short distance to the train. It occurred to me as I was making my way there that 16 weeks ago (the week before surgery), that walk would have been far more difficult for me than it was yesterday. I would have had to stop several times. I would have been sweaty. I would have been sore by the time I got home. I would still be hurting today. I have to remind myself (sometimes several times a day) that there are many more benefits to this surgery than what can be seen on the scale.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thug's Spinach Cooler

Some internet friends of mine have introduced me to a very funny (and totally not safe for work!) food blog called Thug Kitchen. Today after a particularly challenging work out at the gym, I decided to try TK's Spinach Cooler. I changed it a little by using only 1 banana, instead of 2, eliminating the flax seed oil (because I don't have any), a bit more pineapple, and a scoop of unflavored Syntrax Whey Protein Isolate. Between the fruit and veggies and the whey protein, it makes a full meal with loads of good things in it. I've reposted his recipe here, but you really should go read his blog. :-)

Thug's Spinach Cooler (w/Protein)

2 C. Fresh Spinach
1 Frozen Banana
1 C. Cucumber, chopped
.25 C. Frozen Pineapple
1 C. Coconut Water
.25 C. Orange Juice
6 Mint Leaves
1 Scoop Syntrax Whey Protein Isolate (unflavored)

Put everything except the protein powder in the blender and blend until completely smooth. Add protein powder and blend until just incorporated. Drink while fresh and cold.

This makes 2 10 oz. servings.

Nutrition Roundup: Calories 164.7, Total Fat 0.7 g, Cholesterol 2.5 mg, Sodium 69.1 mg, Total Carbs 28.5 g, Dietary Fiber 3.3 g, Protein 13.5 g.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Time At The Gym

I was thinking that I haven't really been talking about the other aspects of life since WLS.  Specifically, exercise. I recently went to one of the post-surgical support groups at the Weight Center and listened to an hour "lesson" on the importance of exercise. But they didn't like that word and made a big deal about how we shouldn't look at it as "exercise," but instead should focus on adding more "activity" and "movement" to our days in lots of little ways. We were also encouraged to look for "non-exercise" ways of getting exercise - things we enjoy, like dancing, so that we are more likely to do them regularly. While I agree with the general premise of all this, it wasn't the most stimulating hour of my life. ;)

My gym routine has changed a little from when I started. When I was cleared for full activity, about a month after surgery, I was doing 30 minutes on the dreadmill (I mean, treadmill) and 15-20 minutes on the recumbent bike and calling it good. The thing you can probably tell, I don't really enjoy the treadmill. The bike is okay, but I don't love it, either. Listening to audio books or good music helped make it less painful (and they have TVs and radio at the gym you can listen to on headphones), but it didn't really help with the enjoyment factor.

More recently, however, I've been at the gym a few times with my friend, D, and her system (designed by a friend of hers w/a degree in exercise science) is to do 10 minutes cardio, 3 sets of 12 of 3 different weight training machines, another 10 minutes of cardio, another group of weight machines, and end with a last 10 minutes of cardio. I tried it one day and found it much more pleasant. I've elongated the cardio time by 5 minutes each round, to make a total of 45 minutes of cardio interspersed with a full routine of either arms/chest & back or legs & abs. It means that my full routine takes about 90 minutes, but it doesn't feel like it because it's all broken up. By the time I get to 12 minutes of cardio and I'm starting to want to stab my eyes out with boredom, I realize I only have 3 minutes left until I get to do something else. Not bad, not bad at all.

As far as the weights go, I won't get into loads of detail (unless someone comments and tells me they want loads of detail), but for legs & abs days I do leg press, curl, extension, hip ab/adductors, calf raises and crunches. On the arms/chest & back days I do bicep curls, tricep extensions, overhead press, row machine, lat pull down, chest press, and back extension. And I stretch every time.

I still can't say that I enjoy going to the gym, but breaking things up has really helped me to handle the tedium. And I admit, I'm starting to like having gone to the gym.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Not Potatoes

I've never been a huge fan of potatoes. In fact, if they weren't sliced, deep fried in fat, and sprinkled in salt (chips), I really actively didn't like them. That is, until a few years ago when I found Yukon Gold potatoes which are super yummy, with a lightly sweet/nutty flavor.

Since surgery, however, I've been avoiding most starches. I'm cleared to eat them in extreme moderation, but I've been trying to keep my carbohydrate consumption to nutrition-dense foods, like dairy, but, and legumes. (I have had a little sweet potato here and there, though. :-) ) Because of this, I've been exploring the other root vegetables and have discovered that while beets from a can are okay, fresh beets correctly cooked are fabulous! I got this recipe from a friend named "whipperton" on a message board community and wanted to share it with all of you. Talk about YUM.

Sesame Roasted Beets

2 large Red Beets
2 Large Golden Beets
2-3 T. Sesame Oil
Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.

Scrub the beets well, remove the green and trim the ends. Chop into 1" cubes and toss in sesame oil and salt (I used about 1/2 t.) Roast until a knife goes through them easily. If you want to punch up the sesame flavor, you can drizzle a little more sesame oil over them and/or sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds before serving. (I didn't bother because it smelled too good to wait.)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Boiled Dinner

I am not Irish and have never been interested in pretending to be just for the day on March 17th. It's not my style, I guess. And until recently, I did not like corned beef and had never even eaten boiled dinner, let alone cooked it myself. But lately I've learned that corned beef is pretty good! And it can be relatively lean if it's been trimmed well. So this year I've decided to take advantage of the extremely low prices on corned beef brisket at the market and give it a try. I've replaced the traditional potatoes in the dish with turnips because they have less starch and more nutrition and, even though I know it's not "traditional," I've added garlic and a fair amount of onions to the mix just because I like them. I also totally forgot to buy any cabbage, so we had this with some wilted spinach for greens.

I opted to cook this in the crock pot so that I could put in some quality time with the laundry. I used just plain water for the liquid in the crock, but if you have a nice stout or ale handy, I bet that would be really good. You'll notice that there is very little liquid in this recipe, even though it's a "boiled" dinner.

This is because I'm doing it in the crock pot. The veggies will release their moisture, as will the meat, and combined with a tight fitting lid on the crock pot, it won't be too long before everything will be practically swimming. I've learned that with slow cookers, adding a lot of liquid at the out set just dilutes the flavors. Instead, I added just enough water to steam up and get everything started.

Corned Beef Boiled Dinner

2 Medium Turnips, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
4 Large Carrots, cut into 1" chunks
3 Medium Onions, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
4 Cloves Garlic, peeled and cracked with the flat of a knife
4-5 lb. Corned Beef Brisket with included pickling spices
1 1/4 C. Water or Beer (stout or ale)

In the crock of a large slow cooker, layer in turnips, carrots, onions, and garlic. Add beef and water and the sprinkle the spices over the beef. Cover tightly and cook on low 8 hours. Remove the beef and veggies to a platter and cover in foil. Transfer cooking juices to a sauce pan and simmer 10-15 minutes on high until reduced by about half. Adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve reduced jus drizzled over the roast and veggies.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Extremely Lazy Sunday Brunch

Extremely lazy Sunday brunch is when we sleep to a ridiculous hour (noon), enjoy a leisurely coffee, and eventually get to figuring out something for brunch. Today, it turned out to be a veggie frittata with a little goat cheese on top.

Mushroom Onion Tomato Frittata With Chevre

9 Eggs, beaten
1 Large Onion, sliced thinly
1 large tomato, sliced in thick slices
8 oz. Sliced Button Mushrooms
4 Cloves Garlic, minced
4 oz. Chevre
2 T. Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 425F.

In a large, oven safe, skillet heat 1 T. olive oil and cook mushrooms over medium-high heat until lightly browned and tender. Remove mushrooms from pan, add remaining olive oil, and add onions and tomatoes to the pan. Put the onions on one side and the tomatoes on the other. allow the tomatoes to begin to get soft (1-2 minutes) and the flip and allow to cook 1 minute longer. Cook the onions until lightly golden. Add mushrooms back to pan and spread everything out into an even layer. Layer in tomato slices and pour over beaten eggs. Crumble chevre and spread evenly over the top. When the sides of the egg look like they are starting to set, put pan in the preheated oven and bake 20-25 minutes, or until the eggs are almost fully set and there's very little movement in the center. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before turning out on a plate and cutting into wedges.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition Roundup: Calories 165.3, Total Fat 12.0 g, Cholesterol 214.8 mg, Sodium 147.6 mg, Total Carbs 4.9 g, Dietary Fiber 0.9 g, Protein 10.2 g.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Granny's Comfort Food

I don't remember a lot about my grandmother's cooking, mainly because she had a teeny tiny apartment and so we usually went to restaurants when we went to visit. This dish, however, is something I remember having and loooove. I think my dad made it a few times when I was a child, too. Technically, it's a pasta fagiole, but I didn't make the pasta, because I still haven't tried eating it. I'm not ready to go there in Carb World just yet.

Pasta Fagiole

3/4 - 1 lb. dried white beans - navy or cannelini (I usually make the whole lb.)
4-6 oz. Pancetta, in 1cm cubes
1 large/2 medium onions, sliced thinly
2-4 Cloves garlic, minced
1 C. White wine (optional)
Rind from 1 mediumish piece of parmeggian reggiano, cut in 2-3 pieces
Grated parmeggiano reggiano (1/2 C. or so for topping)
4-5 springs Fresh Thyme
2-3 medium tomatoes, chopped (optional)
4-5 C. Chicken broth
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper

This can be made either in a Dutch oven (for a 1 pot meal) or first in a skillet and then a casserole dish for the baking.

Soak beans overnight. Rinse beans and simmer until soft in fresh water. Drain and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350F-375F. In a skillet or Dutch oven, heat olive oil and brown off pancetta. When brown, remove to a dish. In same oil, cook onions until just golden and then add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Deglaze pan with white wine, if using, and allow it to reduce by half. Otherwise, deglaze pan with 1 C. broth. If using a Dutch oven, just proceed with the one pot. If using a skillet and casserole dish, transfer onion-wine mixture to the baking dish. Add the cooked and drained beans, pancetta, thyme, tomatoes (if you want), salt and pepper, and pour in the chicken broth until everything is covered. Nestle the pieces of the cheese rind in a few places around the dish, drizzle the top w/a little olive oil, put it in the oven to bake until the beans are very soft and the liquid has reduced. The top may be a little browned. You can help this by sprinkling the top w/grated cheese. If it looks like it’s getting too dry and the beans aren’t quite soft yet, top it off with a little more broth and continue cooking.

Serve over your favorite cooked pasta.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Curried Chicken Salad

If you haven't guessed yet, I've been eating a lot of chicken salad. It's quick, high protein, I can sneak a few veggies into every serving, and it's highly portable for the days I'm running around the city doing errands and going to appointments. One half-cup of chicken salad, a dozen (1/2 serving) baked lentil chips, and a small clementine orange and I'm full for hours. I like to lower the fat a little by halving the mayo in the recipe with fat free plain Greek yogurt, but if you don't have any handy you can always make it up by using a bit less of the reduced fat mayo or a fat free mayo instead. (I don't personally like fat free mayo, but if you like it, knock yourself out!) I added some raisins for sweetness and finely minced carrot for moisture and color. You could always add a few toasted slivered almonds for some healthy fats and a little crunch, but I didn't have any in the pantry this time.

Curried Chicken Salad

1 Large Carrot, chopped finely
8 oz. Chicken Breast (cooked), chopped in small pieces (skin and fat removed)
1 Large Scallion/Green Onion, sliced thinly
2 T. Reduced Fat Mayo
2 T. Fat Free Plain Greek Yogurt
1-3 T. Curry Powder (sweet curry powder, not hot)
1/2 C. Sultanas or Raisins
Salt to taste

If you have a food processor, combine chunks of carrot and process until mostly chopped, add chicken and process further until both are to your desired consistency. If you don't have a food processor, proceed as detailed above (carrot chopped finely and chicken into small pieces.) Combine chicken-carrot mixture with all remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix until completely combined. Adjust salt and curry powder to your taste. Refrigerate until serving.

Makes 4 servings.

Approximate Nutrition: Calories 171.4, Total Fat 4.1 g, Cholesterol 37.6 mg, Sodium 681.4 mg , Total Carbs 19.8 g, Dietary Fiber 2.4 g, Protein 15.3 g.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Just A Little Happy Dance

I've been feeling a little bummed the last few weeks because, according to the scale, I've not lost any weight. I know that plateaus are common and to be expected, but they still suck when you're trundling along on the weight loss at a pretty good pace and then wham! You've hit a plateau and you're there until...well, until you're not. It actually makes total sense that the scale isn't moving right now, since I started exercising more heavily and began the weight training. I'm very likely exchanging fat for muscle right now, which is actually a Very Good Thing. It's just harder to see at the moment.

Last night, however, I remembered that I had taken my measurements (yanno...with a tape measure) at the beginning of all this an I thought, "Hey! I should do that again! It's been 12 weeks, after all." So, after 10 minutes of rummaging around I unearthed a tape measure and did it again. Guess what? I'm down 4" in the waist and 5" in the hips! Woo! (Oh, and I had to buy  a pair of jeans in the next size down this weekend! :-) ) *Happy Dance*

As far as I'm concerned, Mr. Scale, you can bugger off.