Monday, March 28, 2011

Week 5 (?) weigh-in

How sad is it I'm not really sure what week this is?  I could go back and count, but does it really matter?

I'm officially down 9.2 lbs--so close to 10!  I'm excited for next week. :)  The website wants me to set a "time" goal for a specific loss, but I hesitate to do this.  I'll be on this plan for at least a year, and probably more like 2 years if I'm being realistic.  I'd rather not set specific dates and then get discouraged if I miss them.  I think that I'd rather just chug along and do the best I can, with some weeks being more difficult than others.  When you have kids, I kind of think that's what you have to do.  And so far, I have not felt deprived, so this seems sustainable.  If I start putting pressure on myself to be down X pounds by X day, I think I'll get overwhelmed and want to give up.  This is a marathon (or maybe a tri-athalon?), NOT a sprint. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Week 6 (?) meal plan, recipes, and shopping list.

The Big Geek is off on a business trip for the first part of this week, giving me some more flexibility in what I cook (ie, we can have broccoli).  It also means I want to make things easy, so this week is full of quick, easy meals that I think the kids will also eat, and I'll be consuming plenty of leftovers.

The first thing I will do is cook some chicken breasts in the crock pot to make both shredded chicken for the enchiladas and croquettes and to make broth for the chicken divan, croquettes, and enchiladas.  That will happen tonight (overnight).

Here's the plan:
Monday:  Chicken Divan.  I'm excited to eat some broccoli, plus this sounds tasty, I think my kids will eat it, and it's only 8 points for a pretty generous serving.  The chicken in this is also cooked, so I'll likely go ahead and bake it tonight.  It's a chicken-pre-cooking festival around here.

Tuesday:  Bean and Sausage Stew.   This is quick, easy, and delicious.  I don't expect that my kids will eat it, but they can have leftovers or some other kid-friendly thing.  I like it, and if you sub cooking spray for the olive oil it makes 5 servings that are only 5 pts each.

Wednesday:  Leftovers. 

Thursday:  Sicilian Rice Ball Casserole.  A generous portion is 9 points, and I've wanted to try this since Gina posted it on her blog.  It sounds really good, and again, I think my kids will eat it.

Friday:  Baked Croqueettes.  Gina's recipe calls for leftover turkey, but I'm sticking with chicken this week.  6 points for 3 croquettes, and I think my kids will LOVE these.

Saturday:  The Big Geek is trying ribs again.  They are NOT WW friendly.  I will likely sample one and eat a lot of vegetables.

Sunday:  Chicken Enchiladas.  Gina has several enchilada recipes posted, but this one, at 4 pts per enchilada, appealed to me the most.  I'm a bit nervous about how the whole wheat low carb tortillas will work out, as my family historically rejects them, but I'm willing to give it a try.

I'll be back Monday with my weigh-in.  I'd love to hit 10 lbs but I think I'll be just below that.  Of course, when I started the program I just put in the nearest "whole" pounds.  I didn't realize WW cared so much about partial pounds. . .  Oh, well.  If I don't hit 10 lbs this week I should hit it next week.

Here's a shopping list for these recipes, for those who like one:

From your pantry/fridge:  kosher salt, ground black pepper, butter, cumin, oregano, 9ish garlic cloves, all-purpose flour, chicken broth, fat-free milk, cooking spray, long grain rice, onions.

Produce:  1 1/2 lbs broccoli, shallots, parsley, cilantro, kale, 3 potatoes.

Aisles:  seasoned whole wheat breadcrumbs, 32 oz total tomato sauce, chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, chipotle chili powder, low carb whole wheat flour tortillas, 1 can cannelloni beans or other white beans.

Meat:  about 3 lbs chicken breast (boneless, skinless), 1 sweet Italian sausage (freeze the rest?), 10 oz 93% lean ground turkey (about 1/2 package for recipe, freeze the rest), diced tomatoes.

Dairy:  6 oz low fat swiss cheese (shredded), eggbeaters or egg whites, 1/2 cup pecorino romano, grated parmesan, 1 1/4 cup part skim mozzerella.

Frozen:  peas

Other:  cooking sherry or a dry white wine

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tammy's Matzo Ball Soup

My friend Tammy introduced me to this delicious soup, which has become my favorite way to combat a cold, or just a cold day.  I've lightened it a tad by removing the skin from the drumsticks, but otherwise it's pretty close to hers, although hers of course tastes better. :)  You'll notice there's a lot of "wiggle room" in the amounts of vegetables.  Adjust them as you see fit--the veggies don't add points so you can put more of what you like and less of what you don't.  If you've never eaten a parsnip, I encourage you to try them in this, especially if you're making it for someone sick.  It gives the soup a kind of "medicine-y" taste, but in a good way.

About 4 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2-3 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
About 4 celery stalks, cut into chunks (you can dice up the leaves and include them if you like)
1 small onion, chopped
10 chicken drumsticks, skin removed
4 cups chicken broth or stock (fat free)
1-2 cups of water as needed
salt and pepper to taste
fresh dill, minced
1 package Matzo Ball mix, with ingredients required to prepare (I used 1 packet Manischewitz mix, which requires 2 eggs and 2 Tbsp vegetable oil to prepare.  Nutritional info on the box is for slightly larger matzo balls than I made--I made 10 when it "should" have made 9, but that's not in the calculations).

In a large pot or dutch oven, combine first 8 ingredients (carrots through salt/pepper).  When adding water, just add enough that everything is covered--if you add to much it will taste thin and you might need to toss in some bouillon.  Bring mixture to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for at least 20 minutes (longer is fine).  Follow directions to make matzo balls (they need to go in the fridge for 15 minutes so you can do this while the soup simmers).  Bring soup back to a boil and place matzo balls in it.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes (again), covered.

I generally leave my chicken on the drumsticks, but you can take them out and remove the chicken from the bone if you wish.  Points are calculated for servings including 2 matzo balls and 2 drumsticks each.

Makes 5 servings, 6 pts each.  Spoon into bowls and top with fresh chopped dill.  Yum!

Week 5 results and back on track (week 5)

Well, it is really hard to stay within your point limits when eating at theme parks, let me tell you.  I probably would have been ok if not for the massive feast of bbq my mother-in-law ordered Saturday night along with the wine I drank.  However, this is really the first week I've gone over my points for the week, and considering what I COULD have consumed on this trip it wasn't TOO bad.  The result, though, was that I gained about .8 lbs this week, so my total loss is back to 6.8.  I expect this week to be much better.

Today I realized I still have a ton of crock pot santa fe chicken in my fridge, which I'll be throwing out since I'm sure it's no longer good.  Mental note if I make that again--it makes a HUGE amount and wasn't a hit as leftovers.

This week I'm kind of winging it and making the food I didn't make in previous weeks.  Monday night, time got away from us, so I ended up eating a Lean Cuisine type meal for dinner and The Big Geek had leftovers (little geeks ate mac and cheese earlier).  Last night I FINALLY made the Asian Glazed Drumsticks.  Holy cow, they are delicious, and 5 pts for 2 drumsticks.  I used brown sugar instead of agave nectar since I don't own agave nectar, and I put in 2 tbsp of Srirachi, and man, it was delicious.  I did make the sauce without Srirachi, then remove 2 drumsticks once they were cooked and add the hot sauce then.  That way the little geeks wouldn't complain of spiciness--but really, I didn't think it was spicy at all.  I'd add more next time.  Now I want to try Srirachi on EVERYTHING. :)  I made some sugar snap peas and put leftover glaze on it.  I could eat the glaze with a spoon.  And may have. . .

Tonight I've got chicken matzo ball soup on the stove.  I love matzo ball soup, and when I calculated the points on WW it's only 6 per serving.  Tomorrow is pulled pork sandwiches using a pork tenderloin.  I'll try to calculate points, but it's basically a pork tenderloin, onion, and bbq sauce in the slow cooker.  I bought some sandwich thins to eat it on, and I plan to throw together some cole slaw mix and salsa (thanks to a friend for the zero-point side) to have with it.  We'll have leftovers Saturday and pasta on Sunday--I'll eat my sauce on spaghetti squash to cut down on points.

Someone asked if I have a "reward" for reaching my first goal of 15 lbs.  I hadn't really thought about it.  Maybe I'll take myself to a movie or something, as there isn't really anything I want that's for me right now.  Well, I'd love a new pair of jeans but it seems dumb to buy them if I'm going to keep losing weight.  However, if my current jeans are falling off at 15 lbs I'll buy myself a pair.  So, there--my "reward" for losing 15 lbs is a new pair of jeans.

By the way, I have smaller jeans in my closet, but I don't think losing 15 lbs is going to get me into them.  They are from after my daughter but before my son, when I'd actually managed to lose all the baby weight plus 20 lbs.  After my son, I lost most of the baby weight but then re-gained 20 lbs.  And I was hoping it would go the same way again.  Oh, well.  The point is that between the expanded hips, baby pooch, and extra weight gain, it's going to take more than 15 lbs to get me into those jeans.  But maybe I'll try it then just for fun. :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Week 4 results and hiatus

I have now officially lost 7 lbs, even with the birthday party bonanza on Saturday.  I did not count points Saturday and had more than one serving of brie, plus cake.  But I don't think I went TOO overboard.

Last week was really busy and I didn't end up making the chicken parm or drumsticks, so I'm going to make those this week.  We will probably have leftovers on Wednesday, or maybe I'll get a corned beef for the crock pot.  Then we will be visiting family and dining out a lot, which will be a challenge but I've survived before so I am sure I can do it.

One challenge--some restaurants only give you calories, not complete nutritional info for their food.  If the restaurant also isn't on the WW ap (I'm looking at YOU, Outback Steakhouse), that leaves me making guesses about what to order.  I chose a low-calorie salad at Outback, got home and looked up the complete nutritional info online and discovered it was 15 pts!  I probably could have ordered my second choice that was actually more calories for fewer points.  At any rate, I had the points to "spend" so it was ok, but it's just frustrating because I know that eventually I won't have the points to spare.  I think when in doubt I'll just be ordering a plain grilled chicken breast and veggies.

I did ask for the complete nutritional info but was told they didn't have it.  I find that odd since it is on their website.  And if it is on their website, WHY isn't it on the app?

Hopefully any excessive points consumption this weekend will be evened out by the walking I'll do while there.  Oh, I did fine yesterday even with hubby's ribs.  I only had 2 ribs, but along with a baked potato it was plenty.

I figured out how to change my weigh/week start day to Monday.  I think this will work best as I usually plan meals Monday-Sunday, and I'd rather have my weekend days together at the end of the week.  For those who don't know, while you have the point tracker screen up on the WW website, click on "settings" and its in there somewhere.  I swear I thought I looked there once before but apparently did not.

Also:  fat-free greek yogurt is an ok substitute for sour cream, but when making dips in the future I'll use 1/2 yogurt and 1/2 low-fat sour cream.  I think it would just taste better.  Anyone want some fat-free yogurt-onion dip?  I have a lot in my fridge and will probably throw it out.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Weekly results (week 3)

The WW website seems to really want me to keep Sunday as my weigh days, so I guess I will do that.  So far I am down 5.8 lbs and have lost one of my points.  That's ok, I have plenty of points anyhow.  This did prompt me to look up the point range, though, so at least I now know the minimum points is 29 (plus the 49 weekly points).  Not too bad, I guess, although I'm sure it will be a challenge when I'm down to 29 (assuming I'm ever down to 29)! 

The maximum daily points is 71!!!!  This made me feel better about my current "huge" number of points.  You must have to be a large breastfeeding teenaged boy to get 71 pts!

My quest for snacks continues.  This week I tried out the fat-free cool whip and really like that in the evenings with fresh berries.  I also found Wheat Thins "Fiber Selects" vegetable crackers (15 crackers for 3 pts) and Kale Chips.  I will try to make some of my own Kale Chips, maybe next week or the week after, because they are expensive at Whole Foods.  1/2 a bag is 3 pts, though.  Check individual bags because different flavors are more.  I had Kool Ranch.

My biggest challenge right now is having time to eat breakfast every day.  I am not hungry when I first get up in the morning, but I don't always have time to "wake up" and then eat.  I like having 2 scrambled eggs with salsa (4 pts) for breakfast, but that's not really portable.  I can do 1 egg in a pita half with salsa for 4 pts also, but I have to remember to MAKE and TAKE it.  I'm sure I'll get better at this as time goes on.

I ate out last night and actually had points to spare afterwards.  Drinking water with the meal helped, as did having a salad ahead of time, but what really kept the points down was an entree of fish.  I guess a LOT on points, counting points for breadcrumbs on the fish, blue cheese on the salad, the salad dressing, glazed pecans, and olive oil for cooking. Still, it wasn't a bad total.  I was pleased with myself.  Then of course I "ruined" it by coming home and eating a leftover slice of my kids' pizza, but I did count those points as well.  And I had them, so it wasn't the end of the world.  I just didn't get a skinny cow ice cream sandwich last night. :)

I actually have not cooked yet this week as Monday just didn't happen and I have a TON of leftover Santa Fe chicken.  I still have lasagna rolls, too.  I've been eating it for lunch but I feel like it's going to take forever to eat it.  I'll try the chicken parm on Thursday night, though, and the pasta on Friday and then move the drumsticks to Saturday night.

I hope everyone is having a great week!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Week 4 menu/shopping list

Thanks for the snack ideas, all.  I broke down and bought myself some skinny cow ice cream sandwiches for nights when I have points left and want some treats.  Those things are delicious (and 4 points plus).  I'm a bit leery of Fiber One bars b/c of the effect of that much fiber on me.  Let's just say I had a Fiber One incident in the past and haven't had one since.  Maybe I'll try again.

Here are my thoughts on last week's recipes:
  •  Arroz con Pollo:  make this.  It is REALLY good.  The portion for points is pretty high (one thigh and a cup of rice is 8 pts), but the flavor is amazing and it's easier than I expected.
  • Crockpot Sweet and Sour Pork:  This was good, but didn't wow me.  I'd make it again.  It was filling.
  • Crockpot Santa Fe Chicken:  This was also tasty, but kind of felt like it was missing something.  Cheese, maybe?  If I'd had some ff sour cream I think that would have made me like it more.  It's also filling, though, and it makes a TON.
  • Spinach Lasagna Rolls:  I liked these.  The Big Geek ate one, but I don't think he was really a fan.  The little geeks actually ate it, probably because there isn't a lot of seasoning in them.  I kept thinking they'd be good with chopped broccoli instead of spinach (but The Big Geek hates broccoli).  I think mine could have used some garlic/onions.  I made an extra batch of this for a friend and used a jarred sauce b/c I thought the flavor would be better.
This week is a chicken-heavy week.  Mainly because everything that sounded good had chicken in it.  Also, The Big Geek has decided he will use his smoker next Sunday.  This is NOT a WW friendly move, but I will survive.  I'm sure just smelling babyback ribs cooking is about 3 pts. :)  Also, Princess's birthday party is Saturday, which means cake.  I will be using my weekly points this week!

Monday:  Chicken Parmesan (serve with salad)
Tuesday:  Chicken nuggets (I am eating out)
Wednesday:  Leftovers (The Big Geek is out)
Thursday:  Penne with Chicken, Asparagus, and Lemon
Friday:  Asian Glazed Drumsticks (serve with sugar snap peas)
Saturday:  bday/leftovers
Sunday:  The Big Geek's Smoked Ribs.  I'll post a recipe for this if you'd like but you need a smoker to make them, and it is NOT a WW-friendly meal.  I'd suggest eating beef, pork, or vegetarian this day since every other meal involves chicken.

Shopping List:

I assume most people already own the following items:  EVOO, flour, salt, pepper, onions, cinnamon, dried thyme, brown sugar, onion powder, dry mustard, tomato paste, cooking spray, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder.

Dairy:  grated parmesan, egg whites, part skim mozzerella

Produce: 1 leek, fresh thyme, fresh basil, 2 lemons, 1 bunch medium asparagus (1 lb), 12 garlic cloves, ginger, chives or scallions

Meat: 2 1/2-3 lbs chicken breasts (about 6 breasts), 8 drumsticks

Aisles:  fat-free chicken broth, dry white wine, 12 oz whole wheat penne pasta, Sriracha hot sauce (with a rooster), agave nectar (or sugar), sesame seeds, 28 oz can diced tomatoes, tomato paste, panko

Plus stuff like salad, fruits/veggies for snacks/sides, etc.

Chicken Parmesan

Also from the Healthy Family Cookbook, this recipe uses thin chicken cutlets and oven-baked chicken to cut the fat and calories.

1 1/2 cups panko
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 oz)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 large egg whites (6 tbsp store-bought egg whites)
1 Tbsp water
vegetable oil spray
6 (4 oz) boneless, skinless chicken cutlets, pounded 1/4-inch thick (you can slice thicken breasts in half horizontally and then pound between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to accomplish this).
2 cups tomato sauce, warmed (recipe follows, or use jarred)
3/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella (about 3 oz)
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil

1.  Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees.  Combine the panko and oil in a 12-inch skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring often, until golden, 10-12 minutes.  Note:  This step can seem unnecessary, but it really does make things taste better.  Just do it.

2.  Transfer the crumbs to a shallow dish, let cool, then stir in teh Parmesan.  Combine the lfour adn garlic powder in a second shallow dish.  In a third shallow dish, whisk the egg whites and water together.  You're basically making an assembly line of flour, egg white, panko.

3.  Spray a wire rack with vegetable oil spray and place over a rimmed baking sheet. (DO NOT SKIP THE WIRE RACK--it is the secret to getting this chicken crispy on both sides without frying).  Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Dredge chicken cutlets in flour (shake to remove excess), then dip into egg whites, and then coat with toasted crumbs, pressing on them to adhere.  Lay the breaded chicken on the prepared wire rack.

Busy parent note:  You can prep the chicken to this point, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

4.  Spray teh tops of the chicken lightly with vegetable oil spray.  Bake until the chicken registers 150-160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 8-10 mins (longer if you prepped/refrigerated the chicken, 10-12 min).

5.  Top each cutlet with 2 tbsp of the sauce and 2 tbsp of the mozzarella.  continue to bake until the cheese has melted adn the chicken registers 160-165-degrees, 3-5 minutes.  Sprinkle with basil and serve, passing the remaining sauce separately.

Per serving (1 chicken breast prepared as directed):  330 cal, 10g fat, 3g sat fat, 80mg chol, 20g carb, 38g protein, 2g fiber, 750mg sodium. (8 pts plus per serving)

Sauce (this is the sauce used in calculating points.  A jarred sauce would change points value):

1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp olive oil
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1Tbsp minced resh basil
Salt and Pepper

Pulse the tomatoes with their juice in a food processor until mostly smooth, about 10 pulses (or use a handy dandy immersion blender).  Cook the garlic, tomato paste, oil, adn red pepper flakes in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the tomato paste begins to brown, about 2 min.  Stir in the processed tomatoes and cook until the sauce is thickened and measures 2 cups, about 20 min.  Off the heat, stirin teh basil, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Per 1/2 cup serving (included in pts above): 40 cal, 1 g fat, 0 sat fat, 0 cholesterol, 5 g carb, 1 g protein, 1 g fiber, 310 mg sodium, 1 pts plus.

Penne with Chicken, Asparagus, and Lemon

From The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook.

This cookbook has some of the recipes from the best light recipes book that I love, but not all of the recipes are light.  Most are quick and family-friendly.  I also like that it's in a binder and so lays flat when you're trying to read them/cook.

This will be a new recipe for me this week.

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (2-3), trimmed and sliced thin
1 leek, whte and green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced thin, and washed thoroughly
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp minced fresh thyme
2 tsp all-purpose flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 oz)
2 tsp grated lemon zest plus 1/4 cup lemon juice from 2 lemons
1 bunch medium-size asparagus (about 1 lb), tough ends trimmed, and sliced on the bias into 1-inch lengths
12 oz whole-wheat pasta
2 tbsp shredded fresh basil

1.  Heat 1 1/2 tsp of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add the chicken, break up any clumps, and cook until lightly browned but not fully cooked, about 3 min.  Transfer to a bowl.

2.  Add the remaining 1 1/2 tsp oil to the skillet and return to medium heat until shimmering.  Add the leek and cook until softened, about 5 min.  Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3.  Stir in the flour and cook for 1 min.  Slowly whisk in the broth and wine and bring to a simmer, scraping up and browned bits.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened, about 15 min.

4.  While that is cooking, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.  Add the asparagus and 1 tbsp salt and cook, stirring often, until the asparagus is crisp-tender, 2-4 min.  With a slotted spoon, transfer asparagus to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Return the water to a boil, add the pasta, and cook, stirring often, until al dente.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

5.  Return the chicken with any accumulated juice to the skillet.  Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 1 min.  Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6.  Add the chicken-broth mixture, asparagus, and basil to the pasta and toss to combine.  Before serving, add the reserved cooking water as needed to loosen the sauce.

Per 1 2/3 cup serving:  380 cal, 7g fat, 1.5 g sat fat, 50 mg cholesterol, 44g carb, 29 g protein, 8 g fiber, 540 mg sodium.  9 pts plus.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Week 2.5 and some questions

I wanted to switch my weigh-in day to Wednesday for a variety of reasons, so today I got on the scale.  I'm officially down a total of 4 lbs and well on my way to my first goal of losing around 15 lbs.  Go me.

I was HUNGRY on Monday, probably because I didn't have a real breakfast.  Yesterday I had eggs with salsa, which I had to throw into a ziplock bag to eat later since my children insisted on doing things like braining themselves on the corner of the island to make the morning chaotic.  It worked out much better for me.

I need to develop a better bag of tricks (other than plain fruits and veggies, which are great but can get boring) of 1-2 pt snacks.  Sometimes I'm hungry and fruits/veggies just aren't going to cut it.  I've been tossing the occasional 2 pt string cheese in now and again, which is better.  Also, carbs are so many points, but if I don't eat at least some I find I'm ravenous.  What are your low point carb tricks?

I'm pleased with my progress so far but I know the only way I'll survive this LONG road is to find some "treats" for those days when I just need one.  Preferably not the 7-8 pt cookie I ate the other night which, while tasty and filling, was probably not the best way to spend my weekly points.