Monthly Archives: February 2013

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili – For a Busy Meatless Monday

As I mentioned in a previous post, Mondays are always very busy. I am busy all day, and then need to have dinner on the table quickly, as I get back from driving my daughter home from gymnastics at about 5:45, and need to leave the house again at 6:45pm. I’ve decided that slow cooker meals are definitely the solution, but I’d also like to try to do Meatless Monday. Last week when I made the Slow Cooker Chicken Chili, I got to thinking how easy it would probably be to put together a vegetarian chili recipe. This was my first time making up my own slow cooker recipe, and I was so happy with how it turned out!

I prepped everything on Sunday. I chopped up all the vegetables, and put the frozen corn in the bag too so it would be thawed by the next day. The one downside of this is the onion smell permeated throughout the fridge by Monday morning, even through the bag.20130210-181636.jpg 

I also measured out the spices and put them into another container. I had all of the cans of ingredients ready to go.20130210-181649.jpg

On Monday around noon, I dumped the bag of veggies in the slow cooker, put in the spices, then opened all the cans, rinsed the beans and put it all in the slow cooker. It took about 5 minutes. I mixed it together, and it was pretty thick, but I figured the veggies would release a lot of liquid.

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I cooked it for about 6 hours on low. It came out tasting and looking terrific! The sauce was just the right consistency. The kids liked it, because I used the mild chili powder this time. My husband and I added some Sriracha in ours to spice it up. I had mine with some cheese and Greek yogurt (for taste, and added protein). We all agreed it was just as good as chili with meat in it, and my kids ate up all the zucchini and orange bell pepper without even noticing it was in there.

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Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili

  • 1 large zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 orange bell pepper, cut into approx. 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder (I used McCormick’s, which is very mild)
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce (or pureed tomatoes)
  • 1 15 oz. can diced fire roasted tomatoes with green chiles (though regular diced tomatoes would probably be fine)
  • 1 15 oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz can great northern beans, drained and rinsed (probably could use any other kind you like)
  1. Put everything in the slow cooker
  2. Cook for about 6 hours on low (would probably work well for 3-4 hours on high)

Serves 6. Cal: 194, Carbs: 40g, Fiber: 11g, Sugar: 9g, Protein: 11g, Fat: 0g

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Flawless Whole Wheat Belgian Waffles from The Informed Healthnut

Our family loves to have pancakes or waffles every few weeks, so I’ve been looking for a way to make them healthier. Fairly healthy pancakes are easy, but healthy belgian waffles that are crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy in the middle have seemed a bigger challenge. So, I was excited to find a recipe for Flawless Whole Wheat Belgian Waffles on The Informed Healthnut blog. I was still worried they would not be as good as she said they were, but I was very happily surprised when I made them today! They are pretty easy to make, really nutritious, and absolutely delicious. I actually like them a bit better than the yeasted waffles I used to make, which weren’t even vaguely good for us. I had mine with nonfat plain Greek yogurt and blueberries. The kids and my husband had an assortment of butter, maple syrup, whipped cream and blueberries.

I use a Cuisinart Griddler with waffle plates for our belgian waffles, usually I cook waffles for about 3 1/2 minutes, these I cooked for 4 minutes and they could still have been a little crisper, so next time I’ll try 4 1/2 minutes. The batter was very loose when pouring the first few waffles, so be careful not to overfill. After sitting while making the first waffles the baking powder started reacting, so the batter got a bit thicker towards the end and I had to use a rubber spatula to spread it out. It filled the Griddler 4 times, which makes 16 little waffle rectangles. I had 2 waffles for my serving, so I recalculated the nutrition information using MyFitnessPal, based on 8 servings instead of 5. I used regular sugar, 2% milk, and the optional wheat bran, as well. An additional note, it was my first time using coconut oil, I got the Trader Joe’s brand and had to melt it for 30 seconds in the microwave before adding it to the batter.

  • Calories: 210
  • Carbs: 27g
  • Fiber: 5g
  • Sugar: 4g
  • Protein: 8g
  • Fat: 9g

For our family of 4, we each ate 2 waffles and had 8 leftover to put in the freezer. I’m guessing we can just pop them in the toaster to have yummy waffles for breakfast throughout the week. Thanks to The Informed Healthnut for a wonderful new recipe!20130210-135252.jpg

Slow Cooker Chicken Chili and Cornbread

As I mentioned before, Monday evenings are crazy for me and it is hard to get a good dinner on the table on time. So yesterday I made Slow Cooker Chicken Chili from Skinny Ms., another recipe suggested by a friend. It was very good (sorry, no picture but there is one on the linked website) although I used spicy chili powder so it was a bit too spicy for the kids. Next week I want to try to do a vegetarian chili (with regular chili powder) in the slow cooker for meatless Monday. I’ll have to start researching.

I had some extra time during the day yesterday, so I made homemade cornbread. My favorite recipe is one from Cook’s Illustrated, which uses whole corn kernels, but it has a lot of butter and sugar. I decided to try experimenting with it, and replaced some of the white flour with white whole wheat, some of the butter with applesauce, and took out half the sugar. It was terrific, I think I might have liked it more than the original recipe! I am going to keep experimenting to see how much whole wheat flour I can get in it, and how much sugar and butter I can take out, but here it is with the first round:

Light All-Purpose Cornbread (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated) – serves 9 (good sized pieces)

  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal (I used Bob’s Red Mill fine ground)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/8 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup frozen corn, thawed (I used Trader Joe’s super sweet organic…don’t know if it really is sweeter than regular)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick), melted and cooled slightly
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with non-stick spray (I used canola oil spray). Whisk both flours, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl (you’ll be adding the wet ingredients later).
  2. Process sugar, applesauce, corn and buttermilk in a food processor or blender for 5 seconds. Add eggs and process about 5 more seconds or until everything’s mixed together. You should still see some lumps of corn.
  3. Make a well in the dry ingredients, and fold in the wet ingredients with a rubber spatula. Mix gently, you don’t want it thoroughly mixed yet, just combined a bit. Then pour in the butter and mix it gently, just until there’s no more dry spots.
  4. Pour into the baking dish and flatten out the top with the spatula. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then take it out of the pan and cool on a wire rack for 10 more minutes.

I entered the recipe into MyFitnessPal (a very cool part of the online website), and it came up with the following nutritional info per serving (when cut in 9 pieces): 201 calories, 31g carbs, 5g protein, 4g fiber, 6g sugar, 6g fat

Kids had theirs with butter, but I thought it tasted great plain. I had a dish of chili with a bit of greek yogurt, a big salad, and a piece of cornbread. It was a great meal for a chilly night (I know, I’m so witty).

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A Calorie is a Calorie…Or is It?

When people talk to me about my weight loss, they almost always say “It must have been hard work.” My answer to that is that no, surprisingly it actually hasn’t been. And to be honest, that has always bothered me a bit. Why has it always been such hard work, in fact impossible work, for me before now, but this time hasn’t really been hard at all? I attributed it to finding an exercise I enjoy, since that was the main change I saw, but it never felt like the whole story. Especially since, as I said in a recent post, exercise alone doesn’t help you lose weight. It’s all about the food, so why have I been able to get a handle on that this time? What’s different?

I’ve recently been reading the book Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease by Robert Lustig. Now, there’s a lot of debate about things he says, and I’m not a doctor or a scientist, and I only have my sample size of one, but I see a lot of sense in a lot of what he says. I strongly recommend the book. Also, there’s a very good YouTube series from him and others called The Skinny on Obesity put out by the University of California San Francisco.

There’s this mantra when you first start logging your food: “A calorie is a calorie.” Meaning, eat what you like, but log it, and burn it off. Especially on an app like MyFitnessPal, the goal is to make the calories in be less than the calories out so you continue to lose weight. Dr. Lustig actually says that a calorie is not a calorie, and that calories from sugar (specifically fructose) are more readily made into fat. He also says that because of the way our hormones react to sugar, it is very addictive, and makes it so we think we are still hungry, so we eat more and more. It makes us tired, so we don’t want to move and exercise as much. He blames the obesity in our society, in the world, on processed foods with added sugar. Something his critics often miss is that he also says the sugar in natural foods is okay, because the fiber in these foods slows our absorption of the fructose (however fruit juice is not, since all the fiber is taken out). He also discusses in his book how exercise can help with our bodies’ reaction to fructose. I’m not even going to pretend that I can explain the science behind it all. Read the book, watch the videos.

I don’t know whether or not all of what he says is true, but here’s what I do know. Quite some time ago I read Michael Pollan’s books, and also got into the eating local movement, and started changing the way our family eats. I cut out more and more of the processed foods, and started adding more vegetables. I still bought what I considered “treats” though, cookies, crackers that kind of thing. Our meals consisted of almost entirely whole foods, but I was still having far more “treats” than I should have been. When I started logging my food, I saw how many calories were in those snacks, and saw how much more volume I could get for many less calories if I ate whole foods, like fruit and vegetables. So I slowly started replacing those foods too. For months now, I have been eating very few processed foods, and almost zero foods with added sugar. I still have a teaspoon of sugar in my coffee, and a bit of honey in my tea occasionally. I will sometimes have some dark chocolate at night as a treat. That’s it. The funny thing is, I didn’t do it on purpose, I didn’t think “I have to get rid of sugar from my diet.” It just happened that way.

So, is that why this time is different? Is that why I don’t get cravings anymore? Is that why my willpower has been awesome, and I haven’t had a single cheat day in the 11 months I’ve been changing my lifestyle? Is it why a bite of cake now tastes disgustingly sweet, and a slightly tart apple tastes like perfection? I don’t have any proof, but it feels right. I think I was addicted to sugar, even though I didn’t drink soda ever or eat candy often. Sugar is in everything, it’s in flavored yogurt, crackers, breakfast cereal, jelly, “healthy” low-fat versions of everyday foods, everything. To be honest, the possibility that this is the reason for my success gives me a lot of hope. I’ve heard all the statistics about people gaining the weight back after losing. Perhaps all I will have to do is continue to avoid foods with added sugar, a prospect that no longer sounds difficult at all.

So, here’s my advice to you, if you care to take it. Try weaning yourself from foods with added sugar. Read the labels, there are many names for sugars and often a food company will use many different kinds so that the sugar doesn’t show up as the first item on the ingredient list. If you get a craving for something sweet, eat a piece of fruit. As I always say, add a bunch more vegetables. If you have to have something with some sugar (like breakfast cereal) try to find one with a lot of fiber too. Try it for a few months and see how you feel. And let me know, I’d honestly be curious to know if it works for you too.

Superbowl Snacks

Today we went to a Superbowl party at a friend’s house. I was warned that he was ordering all the food from a BBQ place, and having lots of chips and other snack food, so I made sure to bring some things that I could eat. First was my usual stand-by, veggies and hummus.20130203-210502.jpg

 

I also brought a bean salad, which my sister-in-law Leslie made last time we were visiting with her, and she gave me the recipe. There really isn’t much of one, because you can make it how you like, but here’s what I did. This made a very big batch.

  • 2 cans black beans
  • 2 cans garbanzo beans
  • 2 cans canned corn
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 diced orange bell pepper
  • 1 diced jalapeño, seeds removed
  •  1/2 diced red onion
  • juice of 1 lime
  • red wine vinegar
  • olive oil
  • cumin, salt, pepper to taste

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Even people who weren’t trying to eat healthy were eating up the bean salad and veggies, right along with all the other Superbowl snacks. So, disappointing ending to the Superbowl, but at least I’m not also disappointed with how I ate today.

 

Roasted Chicken with Veggies

We received celeriac in our farm share, which I’ve never used before. When I looked up recipes for it, most of them had to do with roasting it with other root vegetables, so I decided it was time for roast chicken and veggies. I cut up the celeriac along with carrots, parsnips, portobello mushrooms, red onion, yukon gold potatoes (just a few), garlic cloves, and brussels sprouts, trying to get everything to about the same size–maybe an inch across. I tossed these with just a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper and topped with some thyme from the garden. I chopped up some more garlic and thyme, and put it under the skin of a couple of chicken legs, and rubbed a bit of olive oil and pepper on the chicken. These were kosher chicken legs, so they were already salted, but if they weren’t I would have added some salt to the thyme and garlic under the skin. I put it all in the oven at 450 degrees for about 45 min, until the chicken was up to temp and the potatoes and carrots were tender.20130203-132040.jpg

It came out delicious! My husband and I prefer the dark meat chicken, and legs are perfect for our family of 4, since my husband and I can each take a thigh, and the kids each get a drumstick. However, with the dark meat you do end up with a bit more chicken fat in the bottom of the dish. I used a slotted spoon to serve the veggies. You could use chicken breasts instead if you like them. If I was going to serve more people than just my family, I would use a mixture of white and dark meat, like a whole cut up chicken.20130203-132047.jpg

Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Sautéed Apples from Cooking Light

Tonight I made a dish that my friend Robin recommended, Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Sautéed Apples from Cooking Light. It was a great dish, and came together very quickly. You don’t even have to peel the apples! I forgot to buy a shallot (this seems to be a theme with me) so I used a red onion instead, which turned out perfect.

I made it with a roasted butternut squash–just cut in half, sprayed with olive oil spray, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and roasted at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes. I also sautéed some carrots in the cast iron skillet after the apples came out, and added some defrosted frozen peas towards the end. The squash was wonderful, and the peas and carrots were okay, but another friend of mine said that she made it with roasted veggies, so next time I think I’ll just roast some veggies along with the squash. The kids liked it too, even my son, who doesn’t like most meat. We’ll definitely be having this dish again. Thanks for the recommendation, Robin!

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