Friday, September 18, 2009

Be Back Soon!

I'm sure you're all wondering where the heck I've been?!?! I will be back soon, I haven't forgotten about you!

It ended up being quite the busy summer and I have not had time to cook. At all. I know, sad, right?

So I bet you're wondering what I've been doing?
  • Traveling a bit for work and fun
  • Running! If you knew the previous me, you'd likely fall off your chair if the word run even entered my vocabulary. Well, it's true. I have become a runner. I spent a good portion of the summer training for a 193 mile road relay race with 11 other people. And it was a BLAST. I ran a total of 15.5 miles in 24 hours (3 legs of the race). Never in a million years did I think I would ever accomplish that. So to be honest, that's where a lot of my cooking time went, but it was worth it in the end.
  • Home renovations. Currently this is the biggest chunk of my spare time. I'm in the midst some serious home renovations. It's quite the time suck, but they are some needed projects (as in a brand new bathroom and another bathroom gut plus some other projects) and I hope to have them wrapped up soon.
Since we all go through many busy times in our lives, it's still important to keep control of what we eat and try to keep as healthy as possible. I did alter my eating habits a bit this summer to accommodate the amount of running I was doing, but mainly that consisted of a few more pasta nights and an excuse to eat peanut butter on mornings I ran. I wasn't able to make many dinners, but here's a bit about my strategy for keeping the pounds off and eating healthy:
  • FRUIT AND VEGETABLES. It was summer. I kept around especially a TON of fruit and many vegetables as well. Basically, whatever was on sale that week I would stock up on and plan what I ate around that
  • Stick with the grocery store routine as much as I could. My schedule was a bit out of whack, so I wasn't always able to shop at the same time, which has often been a big key to my success in keeping healthy food around and meals in the fridge we could heat up quickly. But I still made time at least once a week to get to the grocery store and stock up on fresh food. This significantly reduces the amount of last-minute take-out that can happen
  • Stock up on low-calorie, pre-packaged snacks. I generally try to avoid these when I'm cooking a lot, but when time's tight, if I have a 100 calorie pack around, I'll eat that for a snack on the go instead of something worse for me.
  • Sandwiches. I made sure to keep bread, deli meat, low-fat cheese and other sandwich items around. In a pinch it can be the best meal. Oh, and some fat free pretzels. Yum! Sandwiches can go a long way and there's lots of variety for those of us who don't like to eat the same thing every day.
  • Crock pot: I did manage to use it once or twice. One of my favorite beer/chicken recipes should hopefully be coming soon
  • Chips and salsa. Keep portions in check for the taco chips, but they are easy to keep around and can be a good side to many quick summer meals
  • Yogurt. The perfect breakfast on the go with some fruit.
  • Tacos. It's quick to cook up a couple of pounds of taco meat (I usually do half lean ground turkey, half extra lean ground beef) and have tacos over a couple of days.
  • Water. As always, hydration is key. Really helps with the hunger.
Hopefully I'll have a food post on the way soon!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Fresh Mango Black Bean Salsa

This recipe has been a long-time coming. The first time I made it I ran out of time and didn't get a photo. The second time my paper with my notes disappeared in some massive home I guess this means third time's the charm! And then I didn't get a chance to blog this before going to France...but it was certainly worth the wait.

No direct recipe credit here. Brainstormed ingredient ideas and tweaked as I made this three times!

  • 2 ripe mangos, diced small
  • 3 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 - 3/4 red onion, chopped
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1-2 serrano peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped (for a spicier kick, keep some of the seeds)
  • 3 tsp. minced, jarred garlic, or 2 cloves freshly crushed
  • Juice from 2 limes
  • Juice from one (small-med.) orange, or about 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly grated gingerroot
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • Salte & pepper to taste
  1. Dice the mangos and put in a large mixing bowl. For some tips on how to cut up mangos, click here. I find it easiest to peel the mango with a potato peeler, slice off four large chunks around the pit and then dice.
  2. Chop the tomatoes, onion and peppers and add to the bowl. Add the rinsed and drained black beans and toss.
  3. Add the garlic, lime juice, orange juice, ginger, cilantro, salt & pepper and mix well.
  4. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving, to allow time for the flavors to blend.
  5. Serve with tortilla chips.


I don't think I've mentioned this previously but we're big fans of salsa...good salsa, that is. I'm pretty particular about it because there's some bad salsa out there! This was the first time I'd made something other than a regular tomato salsa and obviously we liked it since I've now made it three times. This is a great light, summery salsa. The lime and orange juices go very well with the mango and ginger flavors to make for a great salsa. Plus, I vote that it goes well with just about anything grill-related.

So far I've taken this salsa to three different social gatherings and it was a hit each time. Needless to say, it's going into the regular rotation!

Nutrition Information:

It's tough to figure out exactly how many servings are in this or the serving size, based on the exact amount of ingredients used, how much the mango yields, etc. But the bottom line is, it's a healthy, tasty option. So here are a few guidelines:

I calculated this entire recipe's information at 707 calories, 3.7 grams of fat and 32.1 grams of fiber (about 14 WW points if you want to eat it all...although I can't imagine anyone would feel very well after doing so!)

I estimate there to be about 10-15 servings per batch. I served it for a gathering of about 20 people and they finished it all.

At 10 servings: 70 calories, .4 grams of fat, 3.2 grams of fiber (about 1 WW point)

At 15 servings: 47 calories, .2 grams of fat, 2.1 grams of fiber (about .5 WW points)

*Count tortilla chips separately.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Low Fat Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Graham Cracker Crust and Crumble Topping

I must say, before I even begin the details of this post, I'm pretty proud of this pie. I've said before I generally prefer to cook vs. bake, but obviously it's still important to find ways to get a good sweet fix without the full calorie and fat versions. So not only was this pie AWESOME and low in fat (almost NO butter!), it also was my very first attempt at a pie. Ever. And I will be making it again. It was a big hit all around.

Unfortunately, I didn't get this posted before my trip, so I don't know how much rhubarb is left right now. My plant has gone dormant with the high temperatures, so I'll likely make this pie again this fall when the rhubarb stalks come back.


I used the Low Fat Graham Cracker Crust in my recent post.

Pie filling:
Inspired from this recipe at

  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. instant tapioca granules
  • 4 cups sliced fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup rhubarb sliced in small chunks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice (I used the juice of one freshly squeezed lemon)
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest (optional)
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
Crumble Topping:
Adapted from this recipe.

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
Directions for entire pie:
  1. Prepare crust based on previous post and set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  3. Process the tapioca granules in a blender until finely ground.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the strawberries, rhubarb, tapioca, sugar, lemon, nutmeg and salt. Toss well.
  5. Pour the pie mixture into the pie plate onto the pre-baked graham cracker crust and spread evenly throughout the pie plate.
  6. To prepare the crumble topping, in a small mixing bowl, stir together the whole wheat flour and brown sugar. Cut in the butter (best if it's still cold) in small chunks, stirring a bit, until it's a crumbly mixture. Distribute the crumble topping evenly over the top of the pie.
  7. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Rotate the pie 180 degrees, reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling, about 30-35 minutes more.
  8. Cool at least 2 hours before serving.
  9. Serve with a dollop of reduced fat whipped cream for a tasty dessert!

Nutritional Information (including the crust):
For 8 servings per pie:
  • 295 calories per slice
  • 4.5 grams of fat
  • 5.4 grams of fiber
About 5 WW points

For 16 servings per pie:
  • 148 calories per slice
  • 2.9 grams of fat
  • 2.7 grams of fiber
About 3 WW points

Note: Nutritional content does not include added whipped topping/ice cream/frozen yogurt.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Low Fat Cinnamon Graham Cracker Pie Crust (with yogurt, no butter)

Gearing up for an awesome pie post! Started with an easy, pretty much fat free, graham cracker pie crust. The best part is there is no butter included - the crust is assembled with non-fat plain yogurt - worked great!

Adapted from this recipe.

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I used reduced fat cinnamon graham crackers for a little added sweetness)
  • 2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 Tbsp. plain nonfat yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Between two sheets of wax paper, place a few full graham crackers and crush with a rolling pin until sufficiently crumbled. Continue until you get about 1.5 cups' worth (about 8 full graham cracker sheets)
  3. Once the graham crackers are crushed, put them in a medium sized mixing bowl and stir in the cocoa powder, yogurt and sugar until sufficiently mixed into a ball.
  4. Coat a 9 inch pie plate with cooking spray and evenly spread the graham cracker mixture on the bottom and sides of the pan. I used waxed paper to help.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 min.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool before adding desired pie fillings.
Nutritional Information:

At 8 servings per pie:
  • 66 calories
  • .8 grams of fat
  • .7 grams of fiber
About 1 WW point

At 16 servings per pie:
  • 33 calories
  • .4 grams of fat
  • .3 grams of fiber
About .5 WW points

I'm Back! Lots of good recipes on the way!

I'm sure some of you were starting to wonder if I'd abandoned you...nope! I spent the last two weeks traveling here with a group of high school students:
I chaperoned a high school France trip with my mom and my high school French teacher. Since this was a tour with a set itinerary, I'm sure you can imagine it posed a bit of an eating challenge to try and keep within a normal eating pattern. All dinners were included as part of the trip, so I didn't have control over what was served. However, even though the food can be pretty rich in France (and soooooooo good), their portions are a lot smaller...

So, after still making sure I had some of my favorite French culinary items (I'm a sucker for stinky cheese, bread and wine), I am happy to report that after 2 weeks in France I gained less than 1 pound (Ok, I will admit I've been home for 4 days and have been eating very healthy since then but still..) and I am very proud of myself.

What was my strategy?
  1. Portion control - I didn't go to France with the idea that I couldn't have some of my favorite things (yes, I had some croissants, pain au chocolat, crepes AND dessert). But what I did was control it. As with the way I eat at home, if something wasn't one of my favorite items, I didn't eat it. For the stuff I really liked, I made sure to have it but space it out as much as I could and not overdo it. I am proud to say that even with some of the awesome desserts we had as part of the dinners, I didn't finish them. It took a lot of self-talking, but I did it.
  2. Picnic and fruit stands - Instead of sitting down to a restaurant for lunches which were on our own, for almost every meal my mom and I would picnic. We'd stop in a little grocery store and pick up some bread, cheese, fruit, snacks, etc. Also, since it was June and there was TONS of seasonal, fresh fruit, I ate a TON of cherries while we were gone. It was easy to pick up a bag at a fruit stand and have them while we were out and about during the day. Not only was this a good option on our waistlines, it helped our pocketbooks as well!
  3. Water - Keeping hydrated was huge. We always kept water on us (which also meant we were signing up for the sport of "olympic WC searching"...for those of you who have traveled in France, you know what I'm talking about...bathrooms aren't always easy to find...and then there's often one, maybe two stalls). Besides helping control hunger, water makes you feel better, especially when traveling. Every night with dinner we asked for a pitcher of water with the meal (and then usually 2-3 more as the dinner went on :) ).
  4. Yogurt and Compot - Two awesome options at most hotels for breakfast. Even though the yogurt isn't fat free, it's awesome in Europe, and is usually a small portion with much less artificial flavoring. Adding a little bit of honey to plain yogurt was great for breakfast and sticks with you. They also often offer applesauce or compot for breakfast, which is one of my favorite things to eat in France and a good breakfast option. I'll admit, I often jacked the compot from the hotels to also have with lunch. :)
  5. Bring a little something from home - We packed some home snacks for part of our picnics as well - some trail mix, almonds, 100 calorie breakfast muffins, granola bars, and WW 1 pt. bars. These were a nice addition to our picnics.
  6. Good friends - While our students were in their family stays we had the opportunity to visit some of our friends in France. They were very gracious about having food items we could enjoy but not feel bad about eating later. One friend had fat free yogurt in stock (I KNEW there was some!) and our other friends made a wonderful ratatoullie dinner one evening with a lettuce salad and AWESOME vinaigrette. We ate well.
So, those are just a few tidbits on what I did to still enjoy my travels but not fall completely off the bandwagon. Will get working right now on some of the recipes I wanted to blog BEFORE I left! In the meantime, here's a few photos from the trip:

We have to start with a food picture. Now this is my kind of salad. This was the caprese salad we had for our dinner on the Eiffel Tower. Since tomatoes are my favorite food, you can imagine my level of elation when I laid eyes on our salad. Cherry tomatoes over mozzarella with fresh basil, olive oil (notice the small amount on the plate...that's seriously all the salad needed) and a taste of pesto. I was in heaven:

And here are a few more photos from the trip(some food related, of course):
Afternoon break in St. Malo (Brittany):

Giant container of honey to go along with the fat free plain yogurt...yum:
Glass of rosé beachside in La Baule:Wine barrels on our vineyard tour in the Loire Valley:American Cemetary overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy. We were there less than a week after the 65th anniversary of D-day:

Le Mont St. Michel:
Wine and bread...cheese was probably gone at this point!