Wednesday, January 29, 2014

400-calorie dinners (ii)

Two more all-star recipes to add to the 400-calorie dinner collection this week:

Falafel-Stuffed Eggplant:

I bookmarked this recipe ages ago . . . what took me so long to try this?  Light yet filling, with a welcome burst of summery flavors to brighten up the bitterest of cold winter days.  (I can imagine how much tastier this would be when everything was actually in season!)  I did modify the recipe slightly, adding the eggplant pulp to the filling, instead of "reserving for another use."  (Huh?  What on earth would anyone do with just around a cup of eggplant goo?  Hm.)  352 calories, loaded with fiber, protein, A, C, calcium, and impressively high in iron.  John claimed he wasn't all that hungry prior to dinner this evening, but managed to gobble up his portion just fine.  Must have been good!

Sauerkraut & Sausage Casserole:

This dish is as warm and cozy as the previous was bright and summery.  (Hey . . . I crave variety!)  After making my own vegetarian kielbasa, this dish was a snap to prepare, and I love the combination of tangy, salty kraut, (homegrown, home-cultured, and home-canned at our house!), savory faux sausage, sweet onions and apples, and tender-crispy potatoes.  A bargain dinner at 297 calories, packed with protein and loaded with vitamin C, there's definitely room for a chunk of dark rye with butter alongside this entree, or alternately . . .


German Honey Cookies:

If you enjoy simple yet surprising sweets, this is a cookie you MUST try.  There is enough honey in the dough to be clearly present in the baked cookie, yet the copious amount of vanilla and ground ginger sneak in and hang out in the background.  The cookies are sweet but not cloyingly so, buttery without being overly rich, and friendly to the healthy eating plan at 97 calories each.  I made a few modifications to the original recipe, following a more traditional method of creaming the butter and sugar together by hand, then stirring in the honey, egg, and vanilla, before finally adding the dry ingredients, and I also subbed in half whole-wheat pastry flour for some of the all-purpose.  This is only the second time I've made these, but I much prefer this batch -- my first attempt (years ago) was soft, pillowy, and almost cake-like using the technique in the recipe; this batch is soft, toothsomely chewy, and dense -- a perfect cookie texture, in my opinion.  (P.S. watch 'em like hawks, and pull them out of the oven JUST as they begin to brown and are completely set -- over-baking these beauties turns them tooth-breakingly crispy in a heartbeat.  Or, if you like crispy cookies, by all means, over-bake away!  I bet they would make great dunkers, in that case.)  Someday, I'll try these with fresh ginger in lieu of the ground, and likely achieve cookie nirvana.  :)

Monday, January 27, 2014

400-calorie dinners (i)

I'm still counting calories.  (Nice to know one can stick with something for longer than a couple of weeks, isn't it?)  What have I learned so far?

400 calories, or more specifically, 400 high-quality, nutritious calories, is a LOT of food.

Here are a few 400(ish) calorie dinners we've enjoyed these past few days:

Indonesian Sweet Potato and Cabbage Soup from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers.  What did this soup recipe teach me?  Sometimes soup for supper is enough.  (Especially when the soup is loaded with healthy veggies, filling sweet potatoes, pungent spices, and creamy peanut butter!)  I had a hard time finishing all 397 calories worth of this spicy, creamy goodness in one sitting!

In my opinion, there is definitely room for a slice (or two) of pizza even when you're eating healthfully!  How?  I've managed to keep my homemade pizzas around 200 calories a slice by making my own (half whole-wheat) crust, by limiting the amount of cheese I use to 8 ounces, and going heavy on the veggies as toppings.  Lately, I just cannot get enough green olives on pizza -- what's your favorite pizza topping?

The most filling 400ish calorie dinner I've made to date: Baked Barley Risotto with Butternut Squash!    Incredibly, I enjoyed this delicious risotto almost three hours ago, and I'm still comfortably full!  John adored this dish as well, since he loves butternut squash, greens, and cheese, the three main ingredients in this recipe, and the creamy, starchy, soft and comforting texture reminded him of one of his favorite meals, mac and cheese.


Okay, so, maybe this whole calorie-counting thing isn't as awful as I originally thought . . . I'm really enjoying the meal-planning aspect, and have been finding tons of new recipes to try!  What new recipes/techniques/ingredients have you tried recently?

Friday, January 24, 2014

On calorie-counting

I'm going to say this once, and then hopefully I can get over it: counting calories sucks.  It just does, at least in my opinion.  It's tedious, and I really hate thinking that hard about every bite I take, every meal I plan, but honestly?  I probably should.  I realize, after the past few weeks, that I have gotten into some bad eating habits this past year, (i.e., too much sugar, too much cheese, not enough protein or veggies, etc.), and this calorie-counting business has actually reminded me why it's so important to eat healthfully!  (Hello . . . I feel SO much better already, and it's only been a few weeks!)

I'm really not following any kind of "diet," per se; rather, I'm trying to eat a 300 calorie breakfast, 400 calorie lunches and dinners, and then having 200 to 250 calories worth of snacks or treats.  My new job is largely sedentary, and I also realized I was still eating the same quantity of food I had been when I was running around after small children all day long . . . not healthy.  Retraining my brain to see smaller portion sizes will help in the long run, I'm sure!

Two tools I have found helpful have been the "My Net Diary" app, and Calorie Count.  (Honestly, "Calorie Count" has an app, too, but since I already know how to use My Net Diary, I figured, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?)  I really enjoy being able to plug in my list of ingredients, number of servings, and calculate a nutrition label for my homemade meals and snacks.  I then enter those stats into "My Net Diary," and I can track my freshly-made dinners as well as my portioned-out leftover lunches.  :)

Meal planning has actually been more fun lately, too -- I've discovered a plethora of recipes I've bookmarked over the years, but never tried!  Things like Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onion, and Spinach LasagnaCreamy, Light Macaroni and CheeseSausage and Peppers Baked ZitiMiddle Eastern Stuffed Cabbage RollsVegetarian Shepherd's Pie, and Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Kale.  (Swap in veggie sausages a couple of times, there.)  And this week, possibly the most delicious meal I've made in a long time:

"Greek Frittata," with a side of "Potatoes with Lemon and Capers," both from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers.  It has never occurred to me to add capers to roasted potatoes before, and it was sort of life-changing.  :)  Do it -- you'll thank me later.  The potatoes were simple enough, (roasted with olive oil, capers, salt, and pepper,) and then tossed with freshly-squeezed lemon juice and freshly-grated lemon zest hot from the oven.  Savory, lemony without being overly sour, and just massively flavorful in spite of the limited ingredient list.  I think I'll make them again this weekend for breakfast!  The frittata was also excellent, (and John's favorite part of the meal,) but the potatoes totally stole the show for me.

What do you enjoy adding to your roasted potatoes?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Lately I've Been . . .

Watching . . . 

Smallville.  Actually, John and I have been watching this, off and on, since the summer.  We started Season 10 tonight.  I wasn't sure about the series at first, but now I'm kinda hooked.  (Basically, the series just gets better as the seasons progress.  Better writing, better acting, etc.)  Have you seen it?  Any recommendations for what we should watch next?

Reading . . .

I just finished this book on my iPad's e-reader app.  The book was good, but I'm not sold on e-readers yet.  Everyone seems to rave about What Alice Forgot, by the same author.  Perhaps I should read that one, too?

Eating . . . 

I feel like a "bad" food blogger, because I've been cooking and eating beautifully lately, (largely due to the fact that I've started counting calories after the holidays, as I unfortunately jumped a pants size this fall, and just generally feel unhealthy and out of shape,) but haven't had the motivation to photograph our meals.  Blame it on my ancient camera, blame it on poor nighttime lighting, blame it on what you will.  Got any motivation for me in that department?  :)

Drinking . . . 

Tea.  Cups and cups of tea.  Mostly herbal.  Did I mention I quit coffee this fall?  And it stuck.  I have a cup every now and then, (usually when John makes it on the weekends and has a surplus half-cup,) but mostly stick to black tea.  I have about a half-box of black tea left, then I wean further off the caffeine onto green tea, where I think I will hold steady for quite a while.

(The fact that it's freezing in my office has only contributed to my increased tea consumption.)

(Did I mention I took a new job this fall?  I don't think I did -- I've been working at a nonprofit in Minneapolis as an "Early Childhood Specialist" since mid-August, and I love it!  I'm out of the classroom, but still using my training and education to benefit high-needs children and their families.  I largely do home visits, during which I work with parents to complete developmental screenings on their children, and I also facilitate parenting groups!  It's awesome.)

Listening to . . . 

Classical MPRThe Current, and the Saturday morning bluegrass show on Jazz 88.  I really enjoy classical music in the kitchen.  What do you like to listen to while you are cooking?

Planning . . . 

An upcoming trip to Seattle for work!  I will be in training the majority of the time I am there, but I will also have the opportunity to see a friend of mine who moved there a year and a half ago, and hopefully meet a long-time blog friend, too!  I haven't flown in years, and I'm kind of excited about this!  Woo-hoo!

Looking forward to . . . 

Feeling healthier in the coming months.  I have only been cleaning up my diet for a few weeks now, and I can already feel a difference.  I have also been making more of an effort to fit in exercise, and am thrilled that I found a low-cost yoga class across the street from my apartment twice a week!  Yoga is amazingly powerful for me, (strength training and flexibility in one, plus a healthy dose of meditation/spirituality,) but I have zero motivation towards a home practice.  I am also excited that a group of friends and I have returned to our weekly walk tradition.  Being an introvert who is a socially-motivated exerciser is kind of weird, but it works for me!  Anyone else need that buddy or class to exercise?


So, what have you been up to?