Category Archives: Food

Baked Oatmeal with Fruit

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Honestly, maintaining weight loss is a not very exciting, lifelong struggle. I have now been maintaining for several years, although just in the last few months, I put about 20 pounds back on. I am still exercising regularly, but I’ve been straying a bit with my snacking.I’m sure a trip to Italy didn’t help either. But man, the food was good! I also suspect now that it might be partly because of starting to use Flonase, which is a steroid. I started having irregular heart beats again (the reason I started taking better care of myself in the first place) which stopped as soon as I stopped using Flonase. As soon as I stopped using it, it seemed easier to start eating healthy again so I suspect the steroid was increasing my appetite and/or decreasing my ability to resist sugary foods.

In any case, I’m back to tracking what I eat and the weight is coming back off pretty quickly. I’m guessing this is the story of my life going forward, although I usually don’t let so much weight come back before doing a reset, and going back to tracking my food intake for a time.

I think I’ve talked about this before, but one of the things that really helps with my weight loss and maintenance is having a pretty standard breakfast and lunch. My breakfast is just about always oatmeal in some form, and my lunch is almost always a salad in some form.

This baked oatmeal is my favorite way to have oatmeal. You make it once and for 6 (or 3 if you are sharing) days you have a quick and easy breakfast. I adapted it from this Baked Oatmeal Recipe by Heidi Swanson, to remove the added sugar and make it easier to mix together.

Baked Oatmeal with Fruit (serves 6, 319 calories when made with apples & blueberries)

  • about 2 cups of fruit, chopped apples, blueberries, peaches, mixed berries, or any combination
  • 2 bananas (riper bananas will be easier to mash, and make for sweeter oatmeal)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups milk (can use your choice of milk substitutes)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups rolled oats (I used Bob’s Red Mill Thick Rolled Oats, but regular would work)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon (I really love cinnamon, use less if not as much a fan)
  • scant 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F (FYI, I make this in my toaster oven and it works great). Spray the bottom of an 8″ square glass baking dish with cooking spray (or use butter to grease dish).
  2. Place a layer of fruit at the bottom of the baking dish, saving about 1/2 cup for decorating the top. You can use more or less than 2 cups, it is pretty flexible.
  3. Thoroughly mash bananas at the bottom of a large mixing bowl.
  4. Whisk in egg, milk, and vanilla extract until well blended.
  5. Pour oats directly on top of wet mixture, without mixing in. Add almonds, baking powder, cinnamon and salt, then stir together thoroughly with a rubber spatula.
  6. Pour mixture in an even layer on top of fruit in baking dish. Tap the dish against the counter lightly a few times to get mixture to settle down into fruit. Use rubber spatula to smooth the top.
  7. Use leftover fruit to decorate the top of the oatmeal mixture. Press down slightly so it is slightly sunk into the mixture with the top still showing.
  8. Bake for about 40 minutes, turning once about halfway through cooking.
  9. Remove from oven, and let cool. Can be eaten immediately, but I let it cool completely, the slice into 6 even pieces and put it in the fridge.

I reheat by removing a slice of oatmeal, placing in a bowl and chopping up just a bit and then pouring milk over the top. I then heat in the microwave for about 1.5 minutes. My husband pours milk over and then stirs it all together before heating. You could probably also leave it whole but the inside might take awhile to heat up enough. I’m guessing you could also eat it cold.

I’ve made this recipe with the following variations of fruit:

  • 2 apples and about a cup of blueberries (both fresh and frozen work)
  • mixed berries
  • 2 peaches and a cup of blueberries

I am currently working on a pumpkin/apple variation. I’ll post it when it is perfected.

Enjoy!

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Maintaining…and Maybe Losing a Little

I haven’t blogged in awhile, because my kids started school and all those fun after school activities started as well. I also teach music as a volunteer at my kids’ school, so I started back up with that too. I think I’ve gotten into the groove of things now.

It is almost 3 months after I hit the 100 lb. loss milestone, and I’m mostly maintaining, although still losing a little bit very slowly. I still weigh myself every day, and my weight goes up and down a bit throughout each week, but there is a very slight downward trend over time. This is why I like having a digital scale; I use the Withings scale, which has an iPhone app with a graph that shows the moving average–or general trend–of my weight. Today I hit a new low weight, putting me only 1 pound from my original goal of 135 lbs. I don’t know whether I will actually stay that low though…sometimes these outlier lows and highs happen, not sure why. Still not really trying to get to the 135 lb. goal before my skin reduction surgery, though it would be fine if I end up there.

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My moving average from the last 6 months

At the weight I am today though, I am just inside the “healthy” range on the BMI scale. That happened for the first time 10 days ago (Sept. 6), but then my weight went back up by a pound or so and I was back at the very bottom of the “overweight” range. Just goes to show that the BMI thing should be taken as a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. I am really healthy right now, a size 8 (and sometimes a 6 depending on the store), I look and feel strong, I am full of energy, and that is all before any of my skin reduction surgery.

As I had hoped towards the end of my weight loss, maintenance has merely been a matter of continuing on as I was doing throughout this whole journey. The only thing that has changed is I feel a bit more free to go out to dinner occasionally, and perhaps have a treat now and then. I still eat lots and lots of veggies and quite a lot of fruit, and watch my portions on everything else. I don’t feel at all deprived, I am eating delicious food. I honestly can’t imagine going back to eating all the junk I was putting into my body before. I still go to the gym almost every day for an hour, and I alternate between cardio (usually Zumba or Cardio Kickboxing) and strength training (usually BodyPump). On days I don’t have the time to get to the gym, I often do the 7-Minute Workout so I still benefit from the energy boost of a workout.

When I first started losing weight, I remember reading this study about maintaining weight loss that made me very depressed. Basically, it said that when an obese person loses weight, their metabolism slows down because the body wants to return to the weight it had grown accustomed to. The study also said that the hormones that regulate appetite change so that a person who has lost a lot of weight is hungrier. So maintaining a weight loss was very difficult, if not impossible for the people in this study.

However, if you read the study further, the people in this study were put on a highly restricted diet, and lost the weight very quickly. As far as I can tell, they never learned to eat healthier, or to live in a healthier, maintainable manner. This is why I continue to tell my friends (and anyone else who actually reads my blog), PLEASE DON”T GO ON A DIET! I feel like you are just setting yourself up for failure if you do. Just try to gradually make healthy changes in your lifestyle until you are living in a way you can maintain, that will also help you achieve your goals.

Spicy Coconut Peanut Sauce

The kids were invited to go out with their friends’ family to dinner and children’s theater tonight, so I wanted to use the opportunity to cook something spicy. My husband loves peanut sauces, so I decided to give one a try. I found a recipe that used light coconut milk, peanut butter, and sriracha (which my husband also loves), and it seemed like a good one to try adapting. We ate the peanut sauce over a shrimp and veggie stir fry and brown rice. The sauce was very good, I thought the spiciness of the sauce was perfect, but my husband thought it could be spicier. I would make it less spicy for the kids.

The original recipe said to cook the sauce for 20 minutes, but it thickened up quite a bit after only about 5 minutes of cooking. I actually ended up adding a bit of water to thin it out so I could pour it over the stir-fry and rice. You could leave it thick if you wanted to use it as a dipping sauce. The original recipe called for green onion, but I had leeks in the house so I used that instead.

I like making a simple stir-fry or grilled dish, and then having a sauce to put on top. That way each person can choose how much sauce to use. My husband, who is currently trying to gain a bit of weight (seriously!) slathered the sauce on, whereas I was a bit less generous on my dinner.

Spicy Coconut Peanut Sauce (adapted from A Nutritionist Eats blog)

8 servings, 144 calories/serving according to MyFitnessPal recipe nutrition calculator

  • 2 tsp peanut oil
  • 1 small leek (or a bunch of green onions), chopped fine
  • 1 Tbsp finely grated (or minced) ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, through a garlic press or minced
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sriracha
  1. Heat peanut oil in a saucepan over medium heat
  2. Add leeks, cook about 5 minutes, until soft
  3. Add ginger and garlic, cook about 1 minute
  4. Add coconut milk, peanut butter, soy sauce and sriracha and whisk until smooth
  5. Bring to a simmer, turn heat down to medium-low and simmer until flavors are blended and the sauce is desired thickness. If sauce is too thick, whisk in water a little bit at a time to thin it out.

The sauce was done before my stir-fry, so before thinning it out I let it sit to the side while I finished cooking the rest of dinner. I then put it back on the heat, whisked in the water to thin it out, and brought it to a simmer before serving.

I couldn’t get a very good picture of the sauce. It tasted much better than it looks in this picture!

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Tilapia Grilled in Foil Packets, with Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes and Red Onion

I went to a wonderful Cardio Kickboxing class this morning. The funny thing (to me at least) is that what made it wonderful was that it was challenging, worked my muscles until they were shaking, and by the end I was dripping in sweat. There is no way I every would have thought of that as a positive experience before starting this journey. Now, don’t get me wrong, there were times during the workout where I was bitching to one of the other class attendees about how completely crazy the instructor is–but it was a great workout!

I wanted fish for dinner tonight, but only had time to go to Trader Joe’s–which is right near my gym. The fish selection at Trader Joe’s is not the best, but the tilapia is always fine so I went ahead and bought some. I decided to try grilling it in foil packets, and did a bit of research into the technique and came up with my own recipe with stuff I had at home. It turned out great! Seems to me you could probably put any combination of veggies and herbs in the foil packet with the fish and follow the same technique.

I had some leftover pesto in the freezer from when I made the Eating Well Basic Basil Pesto recipe for veggie pizza, but store bought pesto would also work though you may want to add less olive oil since they are usually very oily. I defrosted a couple of cubes of the pesto in the microwave for less than a minute.

Tilapia Grilled in Foil Packets, with Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes and Red Onion, serves 4

Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 lb. tilapia fillets
  • Approx. 2 Tbsp (2 cubes of an ice cube tray) pesto
  • Approx. 1 pint halved cherry tomatoes (mine were Sun Gold)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat a grill to medium heat
  2. Lay out 2 large pieces of heavy duty aluminum foil
  3. Drizzle a little olive oil in the middle of both
  4. Put a layer of half the onion slices in the middle of each piece of foil
  5. Rub the pesto all over both sides of the tilapia, and put half the tilapia in each piece of foil. For me, this worked out to 1 1/2 fillets in each.
  6. Scatter cherry tomatoes over tilapia. Drizzle with more olive oil, sprinkle on salt and pepper.20130806-200045.jpg
  7. Seal the packets well, folding over the edges to keep the steam inside.
  8. Grill the packets over medium heat for about 7 minutes. Check tilapia is cooked through, being careful of the steam when opening the packets.20130806-200054.jpg
  9. Enjoy!

Vegetable Lasagna with Mushrooms, Zucchini, and Spinach

Today is not only Meatless Monday, but also National Lasagna Day, so I made a Vegetable Lasagna. I tried making this once before but it wasn’t quite right, so I was happy to have the opportunity to try again. The first time I used large pieces of sliced mushrooms, and my kids didn’t like them. I have since made a pasta sauce with finely chopped mushrooms, and my kids loved it. I’ve realized my kids don’t like the texture of big pieces of mushroom but they like the taste, so chopping it small solved that problem. I also pre-cooked the lasagna noodles the first time I made it, and the lasagna was a bit watery, so I decided to try starting with raw noodles. It worked out perfectly, cooked noodles and no wateriness in sight.

I made it in an 8×8 square baking dish, it always bothers me that lasagna recipes are for huge 9×13 pans, so I never want to make it just for my family; we’d have way too much leftover. Making it in a smaller pan also meant that I was able to cook it in my toaster oven, which is nice during the summer since it doesn’t heat the house up as much as a regular oven. You could probably double this recipe to make it in a 9×13 pan. I tried to remember to measure most things (I don’t normally measure while I’m cooking, unless following a recipe myself), I’ve guessed at amounts and made a note of it when I didn’t measure. While I don’t usually use low fat cheese, I had a feeling that with all the other ingredients we wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, and I think I was right. Feel free to use full fat cheese if you prefer. I tried the first batch with nonfat ricotta (couldn’t find low fat)…please, spare yourself and don’t go there.

I didn’t have time to prep this right before dinner, so I assembled it earlier in the day, put a piece of tin foil over the top, and put it in the fridge once it was cool enough. When it was time to cook it, I removed the tin foil and put it in the oven while it preheated, which I think brought it up to temp by the time the oven was preheated.

Vegetable Lasagna with Mushrooms, Zucchini, and Spinach

Serves 6; Cal – 241, Carbs – 30, Protein – 16, Fiber – 6, Sugar – 8, Fat – 8

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (approx., I didn’t measure)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 10 oz. crimini mushrooms, chopped fine (I used a bag of sliced mushrooms from Trader Joe’s, made this step easier) (It will look like a TON of mushrooms, but they cook down a lot)
  • 1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise, sliced thin
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or use a garlic press (here’s a link to a great one)
  • 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce (or pureed tomatoes)
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, mostly drained (leave a little juice)
  • 1 6 oz. bag baby spinach
  • 1/2 15 oz. container low fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil
  • 6 (1/3 of package) whole wheat lasagna noodles (bionaturae is great, I get it at Whole Foods)
  • 1.5 cups (scant) low fat mozzarella cheese
  • parmigiano reggiano (I didn’t measure this, maybe an ounce?)
  • salt as needed

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Heat oil over medium in a skillet or saucier (not non-stick if possible)
  3. When oil is hot, add onion. Cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes, until translucent
  4. Add chopped mushrooms. Continue to stir frequently, until mushrooms have released their moisture, and most of it has evaporated. This takes awhile.
  5. Add sliced zucchini. Cook until zucchini is mostly translucent, and a fond (bits of stuck on food) has started developing on the bottom of the pan. Make sure not to let the fond burn, but it may be a dark brown.
  6. Add minced garlic, stir around for about 30 seconds.
  7. Add tomato sauce or pureed tomato. Stir in, using a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan (scrape up the brown bits).
  8. Add diced tomatoes, and stir in. Let sauce come to a boil.
  9. Add spinach, one handful at a time. Stir each handful into the sauce until the spinach wilts before adding the next handful.
  10. Remove the pan from the heat. Taste and add salt if needed.

    Finished sauce. This would be great by itself over pasta!

    Finished sauce. This would be great by itself over pasta!

  11. Mix the ricotta and egg together until combined. Add the basil and mix well.
  12. Put enough sauce on the bottom of your 8×8 pan to cover the entire bottom.
  13. Lay 2 noodles evenly on top of sauce and press down gently.
  14. Spread 1/4 of ricotta mixture on each noodle (so you should use up 1/2 of it).
  15. Spoon in about 1/3 of remaining sauce and spread out.
  16. Sprinkle a scant 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella over sauce
  17. Lay 2 more noodles evenly on top of mozzarella and press down gently.

    Second layer of lasagna noodles.

    Second layer of lasagna noodles.

  18. Spread 1/2 of remaining ricotta mixture on each noodle (so you should use up the rest of it)
  19. Spoon in 1/2 of remaining sauce and spread out.
  20. Sprinkle a scant 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella over sauce.
  21. Lay last 2 noodles evenly on top of mozzarella and press down gently, but firmly enough so the sauce fills in any air pockets.
  22. Spoon on the rest of the sauce and spread out.
  23. Sprinkle on the last scant 1/2 cup of mozzarella. Grate parmigiano reggiano to cover the top.

    Ready for the oven!

    Ready for the oven!

  24. Bake for 40 minutes, keeping an eye on the cheese to make sure it doesn’t burn. I let our cheese get pretty dark, it made a nice slightly crunchy topping. If you would like it lighter, just put a piece of tin foil on top towards the end of cooking.
  25. Allow to rest for about 5 minutes before cutting with a sharp knife.

    Finished lasagna

    Finished lasagna

I cut it into 9 pieces and had a very small serving (kids had 2), because I thought it must be super high in calories (it has cheese! and pasta!). It wasn’t until after I plugged the info into the My Fitness Pal recipe calculator that I realized it is ridiculously low in calories and I could have cut it in 6 pieces and had more. Oh well, next time. It wasn’t like I suffered. I had my lasagna with a big, beautiful salad of mixed greens and edible flowers, cucumber, carrots and heirloom tomato from the farmers market, and early girl tomato and sun gold cherry tomatoes from our garden.

Vegetable lasagna and farmers market salad

Vegetable lasagna and farmers market salad

Simple Farmers Market Grilled Dinner

Cooking dinner does not need to be complicated. Most nights of the week, we eat a pretty simple meal of grilled meat, veggies, and some kind of complex carbohydrate. Usually we only season with olive oil, salt, and pepper. It is nice to actually taste the natural flavors of the food.

On a day I get to the farmers market, this is a pretty typical meal. I go to the fish stand and get something local–salmon today–and this time of year we have corn every week. We don’t eat corn unless it comes from the farmers market, it’s just not worth it. I just wrap the corn in aluminum foil, and grill it over medium for about 15-20 minutes, turning often.

We also have some kind of grilled veggie, today it was broccoli. For both broccoli and green beans, I cut them up, wrap in aluminum foil with olive oil, salt, and 1/4 cup of water. Grill over high heat for 5-7 minutes, then on a grill pan for a few minutes.

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Usually, the easiest way to cook fish with the skin on is over indirect heat on the grill, skin side down, until cooked through. My husband has some great technique for flipping fish, but he’s out of town so I did my best. Came out great even with my less developed grilling skills. I also had some heirloom tomatoes from the farmers market, and cherry tomatoes from our garden. Easy, fast, and delicious dinner!

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Grilled Swordfish with Nectarine & Red Onion Salsa, Roasted Beet Salad, and Millet Cakes

Sometimes a fantastic dinner just sort of falls into place, and tonight was one of those times. I went to Whole Foods today to buy some fish for the grill, and the swordfish looked great and was on sale. Win! We haven’t made swordfish in a long time, but I remembered that it pairs well with nectarines, so I went searching for a recipe and came across a recipe for Grilled Swordfish with Nectarine-Onion Salsa from Martha Stewart. I didn’t follow the amounts in the recipe exactly, since I was only making the salsa for my hubby and I, but I followed the general idea. I cut 2 nectarines and a red onion in half, sprayed them with olive oil, and sprinkled them with salt and pepper for my husband to grill.

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Nectarines and red onion ready for the grill

I chopped up some mint and a jalapeño pepper–including the seeds and membranes–and mixed them with some white wine vinegar, olive oil, whole grain dijon mustard, salt and pepper on the bottom of a medium sized bowl.

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Mint and jalapeño pepper dressing for salsa

Once the nectarines and red onion were grilled until they had some nice marks on them, but weren’t too soft, I chopped them up and added them to the dressing and stirred it all together. It was ridiculously good. I had to stop myself from eating all of it standing at the kitchen counter. I kept giving it the occasional stir to blend the flavors as I got the rest of the meal together.

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Nectarine & Red Onion Salsa

I made more of the Crackly Banana Bread from smittenkitchen earlier today, and remembered that I had some millet grits from Bob’s Red Mill, as I had mistakenly ordered them when I wanted to buy the whole millet for the banana bread recipe. I’d been trying to figure out what to have as side dishes for dinner, and I had read that millet grits are similar to polenta, so I decided to try to make millet cakes similar to the polenta cakes we had made on the grill previously.

Earlier in the day I cooked the millet grits according to the recipe on the label, and then poured it into a rectangular shaped storage container until it was set.

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Millet grits cooling

After it was fairly firm, I used a small biscuit cutter to cut out rounds. I was able to take the scraps that were left and form them into cakes with my hands, so you could also probably just form all the cakes by hand. I then sprayed them with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.

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Millet cakes ready for the grill

My husband cooked them in a cast iron skillet on the grill until browned and crispy. They were very good, but a little bland, so I’ve decided next time I will probably add more seasoning or herbs to the millet grits before they set.

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Millet Grits Cakes cooked in Cast Iron

For our vegetable, I decided to roast some beets from our CSA farm share, and make a salad I once had at a friend’s house, Beets and Arugula with Goat Cheese and Balsamic. First, I scrubbed all the beets and cut off the ends. I cut the bigger beets in half, and then wrapped them in foil with a bit of olive oil. I roasted them over indirect heat on the grill for about an hour until they were tender when I tested with a fork.

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Grill-roasted Beets

After letting them cool, I was able to slip the peel off by rubbing them with a paper towel. I then sliced them, tossed them with olive oil and salt, and my husband cooked them on a grill pan on the grill on each side for a few minutes. You don’t have to cook them a second time, but we like the crispy edges that come from this method.

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Second grilling of the beets

I served the beets on a bed of arugula, a drizzle of really good balsamic, and a bit of crumbled goat cheese. We also had our usual platter of cut up raw veggies. The salsa was good on both the swordfish and the millet grits cakes (and on its own at the end of the meal!) I love it when a meal comes together!

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Millet grits cakes (lower left corner) and swordfish (lower right corner) with Nectarine & Red Onion salsa. Roasted beets on a bed of arugula with goat cheese and balsamic (upper right corner) and cut up raw veggies (upper left corner)