Monday, February 28, 2011

Week 2 results and Week 3 menu/shopping list

This was a weird, weird week, with lots more eating out than normal, and a lot of eating out at non-chain restaurants where I just had to guess about points.  I miraculously stayed within my points ranges (I think? Guessed a LOT), but gained .3 lbs.  However, since I knew some of the "loss" last week was from my digestive troubles, I'm good with that.  Plus I ate very well.  No deprivation here.  And if you can't have fun on the week when your inlaws take your kids (first kid-free weekend in 3 1/2 years!!!!), then what is the point?

The WW dijon roasted new potatoes are going to become an addictive new side at my house, I can tell you.  They smell divine and are 4 pts per serving, good with lean meat.  I had an oven thermometer issue with the garlic roast, but will try again another day.  I'm determined to eat fewer of my weekly points this week, drink more water, and eat at home rather than out.  Probably lots of sodium last week in all that prepared food.  I actually sent a dish back for the first time because it was so salty.

In planning this week's menu, I'm using a lot of ingredients I already have and opting for easy crock pot recipes as we ease back into having kids at home.  I am trying to incorporate one vegetarian meal each week.  However, much of the vegetarian options my family will eat involve pasta, and the high carb count pushes the points up to at least 10, which is a lot for most people.  I've discovered spaghetti squash works well for me if my family is eating spaghetti.  I'm hoping this week's vegetarian meal, at 6 pts per lasagna roll, will be filling enough for us. Also, learning from past issues, I'm planning 2 nights of leftovers and a roast chicken so I can make chicken broth in the crock pot Sunday night.  This shopping list has everything you'd need--like me, you probably have a lot of it in your pantry already.  I'd add fresh fruits, fat-free milk, and the frozen waffles my kids eat nearly every morning to the list.

Here's the menu for this week:

Monday:  Arroz con Pollo (never got around to this before)
Tuesday: Crockpot Sweet and Sour Pork
Wednesday:  leftovers--I'm learning from my first night mistakes!
Thursday: Crockpot Santa Fe Chicken
Friday:  Spinach Lasagna Rolls (vegetarian)
Saturday: Leftovers
Sunday: Roast chicken and Dijon Roasted Potatoes

Shopping List:

Produce:  1 green bell pepper, 1 red bell pepper, 1 medium onion, cilantro, 8 scallions, 1 lb new/baby potatoes (any color), 3 cloves garlic, 1 tomato, various fruit

Aisles:  1 20 oz can pineapple chunks in juice, light brown sugar, cornstarch, cider vinegar, light soy sauce, salt, brown rice, 14.4 oz can diced tomatoes with mild green chiles, 15 oz can black beans, fat-free chicken broth, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, olive oil, paprika, thyme, black pepper, sazon OR saffron (I have not found sazon), adobo powder, enriched long grain rice, lasagna noodles (boiling kind), chicken bouillon, 32 oz tomato sauce

Meat: 1 1/2 to 2 lbs pork shoulder, 1 1/2 lbs chicken breast, 8 skinless chicken thighs, 1 whole chicken

Frozen: 8 oz frozen corn, 10 oz frozen spinach

Dairy:  15 oz fat-free ricotta, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, 1 egg, 3 oz shredded mozzarella

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Week 1 results.

These results may be a bit off, as I wasn't feeling well yesterday and some "digestive issues" probably added to my weight loss, but I am "officially" down 3.4 lbs today, and some random measurements I'm not putting a ton of stock in just now b/c I can't remember from week to week exactly where I took them.  Yes, I know.  I figure the waist one is pretty accurate, but it's a bit early to see a huge change in measurements.

At any rate, even with the "digestive issues" I still probably lost a couple of pounds, which is great.  My attempt to lighten PW's cajun chicken pasta was not much of an attempt, but I do have some solid ideas for my next try.  Plus the "six" servings she claims are too enormous for a mere mortal to eat--it's more like 12 servings. 

I also learned that it's just pointless for me to make 6 meals a week.  It's too much food for my family to eat, even with leftovers becoming lunch and all that.  I need to plan more like five, or I need to invite company over 3-4 times a week.  I think cooking less often is smarter.

My kids will be gone next week, so I don't know how much cooking I'll really do.  We have gift cards and groupons and could easily eat out every meal, which will be a challenge in itself.  In the meantime, I've discovered that Whole Foods puts a meal planner in their circular, if any of you are interested.  Another unintended bonus is that I've pretty much broken my caffeine addiction.  I gave up Coke Zero after my chiropractor told me I should give up fake sugar (I may have to rethink that as I really do need a skinny vanilla latte now and then), and my other source of caffeine, hot tea, is not an every day habit because I drink herbal tea sometimes as well. 

I'm rambling.  Bottom line:  This week's plan will look very different than "normal" because I will be planning to eat out quite a bit.  If you're thinking of trying anything I made last week, I suggest skinny sloppy joes (by far my favorite).  I still have a roast to make tonight and arroz con pollo to make sometime next week (I did not cook yesterday as I felt blech).  I'd also suggest adding the cilantro lime rice to a meal.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pernil, Black Beans, and Cilantro-lime rice

Tonight's dinner was hit and miss.  The pork was good and flavorful (and very easy, although you do have to prep it and put it in the marinade the night before).  It did not taste citrusy, which was strange to me since the marinade is basically orange and lime juice, but it was good.

The rice was awesome, although the points I got when using the WW calculator were higher than what Gina lists.  I put in the recipe because I'd used brown rice (no difference in points, btw), and they came out higher.  However, I only used 2 tsp of oil rather than 4, so that made it work out.  I also think I could have halved the salt, but I always think things are too salty.  If you try this with brown rice, it will need to cook longer--follow the directions on your bag of rice.  Really, you can do this with any rice (even instant) and just add the lime, cilantro, and even just 1 tsp of oil after the rice is cooked.

The beans were good, but I'm not sure they were worth the effort of adding to what would have come out of the can.

Other things I've learned this week:

Gallo light salame is 1 pt for 5 slices.  Yum.

Athenos roasted red pepper hummus is 2 pts for 2 Tbsp, but only 3 pts for 4 Tbsp.  Please explain that one.  It's good with carrots.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gina's Skinny Sloppy Joes

See the original recipe, including a printable version, here.

I loved this.  It was quick, easy, filling, and delicious.  It was a tad spicy for the little geeks, but I think that was because my steak seasoning was too peppery.  I bought a different brand and will try it next time.  If it's still too spicy, I'll try it with seasoned salt instead.  I did forget to put in the mushrooms (I bought them and even got them out, dang it!).  I will say you should chop the veggies really small.  I grated the carrot, but using a food processor would not be overkill because you really don't want your kids (or husband) to even know the veggies are in there.   Also, chop the veggies BEFORE you start to brown the meat, b/c it takes less time to brown ground beef than you think, and it takes more time to mince veggies than you think--but maybe that is just b/c I have a shoulder injury right now.

This will go into the rotation with some experimentation by me to cut down the spicy for the little geeks.

Ingredients:  1.25 lbs lean ground beef sirloin
1 tbsp steak seasoning or seasoned salt
1 carrot, minced
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup red bell pepper (I just used a whole one), minced
4 oz mushrooms, minced
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 cups tomato sauce
2 tbsp tomato paste

Heat large skillet over medium-high heat.  Season ground beef with steak seasoning or seasoned salt and cook the meat until it browns.   Add the minced veggies to the skillet.  Reduce heat to medium and add red wine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce.  Cook 5 minutes.  Add tomato sauce and tomato paste to pan, stir to combine, and cover.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook, covered, an additional 5 minutes.

1/2 cup of the filling is only 3 points plus.  I served these on toasted whole wheat hamburger buns that were 4 pts each, for a total of 7 points plus, and it was the perfect amount of filling.  In the future, I'd probably opt for a lower point bun or even serve the sauce over spaghetti squash.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Learning to eat out

Weight watchers has an awesome iPhone app that lets you look at restaurants to help you find meals within your desired points range.  Unfortunately, I have an iPod touch and not all restaurants offer free wifi.

Which is why today at lunch at Chevy's I ordered a bowl of tortilla soup (given the nutritional info I thought it was my best bet) for a total of 10 points (!!!).   Had I had wifi, I'd have known to order the Santa Fe chopped salad with no cheese or bacon for 9 pts or with no cheese, bacon, or avacado for 7 pts.  Either one would have been more filling than the soup for less points.  Lesson:  check menus someplace WITH WIFI before going to chain restaurants, or next time just skip lunch with friends and come home.

Oh, well.  This is a "journey" (using this word will let me know if at least one friend read this) and I have a lot to learn, even though I am practically a professional dieter.

I did manage to stay within my points (with the addition of some of the weekly points) yesterday, and I skipped the apple pie b/c I was so full after fondue, which was divine.  I have 15 pts left today which should allow for dinner (3 pts per 1/2 cup of the sloppy joe filling, 4 pts for the bun or I might just have mine over spaghetti squash) and maybe even dessert.

I do think the WW ap is awesome.  I just have to remember that without wifi, it's not much more than a calculator and I need the ap to be most effective.  I can't calculate the points of a dish "minus cheese and bacon" based on the info on the nutritional info, but the ap can provide that.

I still can't believe that soup was 10 points.  It was a SMALL bowl of soup.  Fortunately, I had a fairly filling breakfast and some fruit as well.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Week 1 Menu

I get a HUGE number of points in a day.  So many that even though I didn't necessarily "try" to stick to my points yesterday I still managed to, even though I had a full-fat flavored latte and a cupcake with friends after my pedicure yesterday.  Honestly, I planned these menus without too much regard for their points values, figuring that my meals are, IN GENERAL, fairly healthy and I just eat the wrong snacks or too much of what I make.  That said, most of the recipes I'm cooking this week either came from the Weight Watchers website or from this blog, which is one of the reasons I decided to try WW again.  Gina's recipes all look amazing and flavorful, have been "lightened" by her, and include both the "old" WW points value and the new points plus value.  What's not to love?

Like many people, I skip breakfast more often than I should.  However, I know I NEED to eat breakfast, so what works best for me is to "automate" it and eat the same thing every day, or rotate through some options.

So, each day for breakfast I will either have a bowl of oatmeal with some fruit and maybe a tiny bit of brown sugar (just to complicate this weight loss thing, I have sworn off artificial sweeteners), half a whole wheat pita pocket with lean meat and cheese or egg and cheese, or a whole wheat English muffin with egg and cheese or Canadian bacon.

Tip:  Did you know you can scramble an egg in your microwave?  Spray a microwave-safe bowl with cooking spray, place an egg in the bowl, beat, and microwave for about 1 minute.  Scrambled egg, and as a bonus, it's nice and round and perfect for going on top of an English muffin.  I assume you could use egg beaters for this, too.

At lunch, I tend to eat leftovers or make something with leftovers (ie, take chicken breasts from last night and use them on top of a salad).  If that doesn't work out I'll have a frozen meal (such as lean cuisine).  I'm an at-home mom with two small kids, and as THE cook I really don't want to have to make more than one "real" meal per day.

For that reason, this blog will focus on dinner recipes, with a few desserts, snacks, and sides thrown in for good measure.

Here's this week's dinner menu:

Monday:  Cheese Fondue and Caramel Apple Pie .  These are not light, but it is Valentine's Day.  I will likely use most of my "extra" points today between the TWO kid's parties I'm attending and the Fondue.  I may have to skip the pie.

Tuesday:  Skinny Sloppy Joes and salad

Wednesday:  On Wednesdays, The Big Geek has guitar lessons.  The little geeks will eat light salame and cheese for dinner (their choice), and I will likely have leftovers or a bowl of cereal.  I had planned to make a risotto that is not light, but I don't think I'll have the points for it.

Thursday:  Slow Cooker Pernil  with Cuban style black beans.  And look  what I can do with the leftovers!

Friday:  I'll attempt to lighten this Cajun Chicken Pasta .

Saturday:  Garlic Roast and Dijon Potatoes

Sunday:  Arroz con Pollo.

My snacks for the week mostly include fruit and veggies, sometimes with a dip like hummus or even peanut butter or cheese when points permit.  I am going to try a stuffed celery recipe that lightens the flavors of buffalo wings, which I'll post if it's worthwhile.
So now for some opinions:  What do you want from this blog?  Just the weekly dinner menu?  Menu plus shopping list?  I know that I will use it both to record recipes and to track my journey, I'm just wondering what the few of you who read this would like to see.

Have a great day, everyone.  Here's to new beginnings!

A new experiment.

I've been overweight since high school.  Somewhere between 9th grade and 12th grade, despite being very active, I gained about 40 lbs.  College added to that, as did my 2nd pregnancy and the first year of my son's life.

I've done many diets in the past.  I've done slim fast.  I once lost 40 lbs with Jenny Craig, which oddly enough is when I really started cooking thanks to Jenny's cookbooks.  I've done weight watchers before with little success.  So what is different this time?

First, I like that pretty much all fruits and veggies are "free" in the new points plus plan.  That is something I can get behind.  Second, I am now the heaviest I have ever been when not pregnant and for the first time I really "feel" my weight in terms of my activity level, confidence, and energy.  Third, I have kids and I'd like to be around to see my grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.

This blog is changing.  It will still feature recipes and my experiences with them, but I am also going to focus on menu planning and cooking food that is both delicious and good for you.  Like me, it's a work in progress, but I encourage you to join me.  Maybe you don't need to lose weight, maybe you do, but we all have to eat, and I hope that you, like me, can learn to enjoy cooking food that nourishes both your body and your soul.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

When life hands you lemons

Today at preschool drop off there was a free bucket of lemons. The other moms and I were grabbing them, but the subject of what to do with them came up. Other than lemon bars (I like Ina Garten's recipe), here are a few of my easy favorite ways to use fresh lemons:

Chicken, lemon, and dill orzo. Quick to put together, easy, and filling, this takes an hour to cook but you can assemble it and walk away while it's cooking.

Lemon Risotto. Yes, you have to stand there and stir for a long time. But the results are sooo worth it!

Lemon Basil Bow Ties
. This is the easiest dish ever. Prep the ingredients while the pasta is cooking, drain the pasta and put the sauce together in the pot before throwing the pasta back in, and add some cooked chicken for a complete meal.