Sunday, January 29, 2012

Soup, Glorious Soup

Mmmmm...I love soup. There's nothing better than hot soup on a cold winter day. I especially love the taste of Campbell's Tomato Soup. I've been making all kinds of tomato soup recipes, trying to duplicate that velvety taste without all of the salt and HFCS, but so far, no luck.

I did, however, make this yummy soup. It may not look all that tasty, but it was. The whole family ate it with no complaints -- a red letter day. I think I got it from the cookbook The 30-Minute Vegan. I did change it slightly -- I added an entire jalapeno instead of a tablespoon, and I used chopped cabbage instead of sliced.
Quinoa Vegetable Soup
serves 6

7c water or vegetable stock
3T soy sauce
3/4c uncooked quinoa, rinsed if needed
1 1/2c chopped purple potatoes (or whatever potato you want to use)
1 large carrot, sliced
3/4c diced yellow onion
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1c chopped cabbage
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1/4c minced fresh cilantro
1/4c minced fresh Italian parsley
1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp black pepper, or to taste
Add quinoa to water and soy sauce in a large pot over med-high heat.
Begin cutting the veggies and add them to the pot as you go in this order: potatoes, carrot, onion, garlic, cabbage, jalapeno, and tomatoes
Cook until potatoes are tender and quinoa is cooked, about 20 min from the time the quinoa was added.
Add the cilantro, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Stuffed Butternut Squash

My dh and kids liked this recipe, which makes it an automatic keeper. The only thing I'd change would be to add in some beans or something. It didn't keep me full for long. It also made way too much stuffing for one squash. It probably would have stuffed 3 -- at least 2, anyway. It was quite tasty, anyway.

Stuffed Butternut Squash
serves 4
1 med onion, minced
2 med carrots, shredded
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 1/2c cooked brown rice
1 T minced fresh parsley
1 tsp dried sage
salt & pepper to taste
1 large winter squash, halved and seeded
1c hot water
Water sautee the onion, carrot, and bell pepper til softened, about 5 min. Stir in the garlic & turmeric. Then stir in the rice, parsley, and sage. Season w/salt & pepper to taste. Mix well and spoon mixture into the squash cavities.

Pour the water into a 6-qt oval slow cooker and add the squash halves, stuffing side up. Cover and cook on low 4-6 hours, til squash is tender. I don't have an oval slow cooker, so I cut the squash's "neck" off so the halves would fit -- I had to overlap one with the other, but I'd washed off the outside of the squash, so it was okay. I tucked the "necks" in on the sides. It worked okay, though it wasn't as pretty as it would have been if I'd had an oval cooker.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Kale = Blech! or Maybe Not?

You can't turn around these days without reading about how fabulous greens are, especially kale and spinach. I like spinach and make my salads at home almost exclusively with spinach, but kale is another matter. I just don't much like it. I don't care for any cooked greens. The texture is unappealing to me, and though I choke them down, I really wouldn't eat them if they weren't so healthy. I've bought kale a few times and thrown it away two weeks later after it has turned to slime. I made the ubiquitous (in the healthy blogging world, anyway) kale chips, but eh. They weren't very good, IMO.

So, I brought home yet another bunch of organic kale a couple of weeks ago, determined to make a salad recipe I'd found in a cookbook. When the time came, I just didn't want to go to the trouble, and let the kale wilt for a week before I decided that I needed to cook it, at the very least. Maybe if I mixed it in with a bunch of other vegtables, I wouldn't notice it? I started a pot going, and threw in the kale, several ounces of spinach that were also getting old in the fridge, and a box of mushrooms that I'd bought with some vague intention of sauteeing. I rooted in the cupboard and found a jar of garlic salsa and poured that in. Hmmm. It was starting to look like stew. I added a jar of roasted red peppers packed in water that I'd had for months, and found most of a packet of sun dried tomatoes in the fridge that needed using up, and tossed those in as well. It looked quite unappetizing and I was wondering if I'd be able to make myself eat it when I had a brainstorm.

I've been kind of addicted to eating vegetables with spaghetti sauce lately. I really like spaghetti squash with it, but have taken to eating it on broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, mushrooms...whatever. What if I used my hand blender to blend the concoction into a "sauce" to use over my veggies. It would be so much healthier than jarred spaghetti squash, and heartier too! Here is the end result:
My photography may be less than stellar, but the sauce was absolutely fantastic! It made about six cups, and have been enjoying it on veggies all week. Toss a half cup of beans in and lunch kept me full for hours with no need for an afternoon snack. I put the ingredients into the Weight Watchers Recipe Builder, and it came out to 2 points for a cup. Low points and satisfying -- bonus! I may be eating a lot more kale now.

Weight Watchers was a definite disappointment this week. I really like my leader's manner and personality, but her content leaves something to be desired, especially for an aspiring vegan. This week's "theme" was maximizing your points. I assumed that she'd be discussing how to bulk up your meals by adding in vegetables -- extra veggies in casseroles, pureed veggies in sauces or smoothies...that kind of thing. But, no. She spent the entire time talking about milk, and how you should make sure to get in your milk servings because of all of the good protein, vitamins, and minerals milk has. Milk is so satisfying, etc. She spent quite a chunk of time going over all of the different smoothies you could make with the Weight Watchers brand smoothie mix. I haven't looked at the smoothie mix label, but if it has half of the artificial ingredients that are in the bars...well, no thanks. If I'm going to eat artificial crap, I'd rather eat a Pop Tart.

My weigh-in this week was less than stellar. I was up 2.4 lbs (1.2 on my home scale), but I wasn't really surprised. I went on a scrapbooking retreat last weekend and ate WW-unfriendly food all weekend. I went thinking that there'd be something reasonably healthy at each meal, but it didn't work out that way. Breakfast was home fries and a white flour bagel and peanut butter if I wanted to stay away from eggs and meat. Lunch on Saturday was pizza and caesar salad already pre-mixed, along with cookies. I didn't eat the cookies, but had to eat pizza and caesar or starve. Dinner on Friday was only meat for main dishes, so I had a big salad and had some cottage cheese and hard-boiled egg for some protein. Would it have killed them to have garbanzo beans on the salad bar? Dinner on Saturday was salmon, rice, vegetables, and potatoes. Everything was drenched in butter. I also had a piece of cheesecake -- just kind of giving up.

Sunday was a disaster for me. I got up at 4:45am, but brunch wasn't til 10am. I started out eating a banana and apple, but by the time we had brunch, I'd eaten a granola bar, pretzels, cookies, and who can remember what else? I got home, and the snacking continued, unabated. I ate some sugary cereal, Pop Tarts, chocolate....well, you don't really need to know the details. I did log everything in my WW online food diary. I'm trying to do that even when I overeat, so that I can clearly see the connection between what and how much I eat and losing/gaining weight or staying the same. I've never before been this faithful about keeping track of every bite and it's kind of interesting. I've found that it's very easy to think "Oh, I didn't overeat much", only to see that, well, yes I did!

After my Sunday eating fest, I got right back on task on Monday, and ended up eating only 23 points that day, and 26 the next (26 is the absolute minimum I'm supposed to eat). I tried to eat intuitively, and just wasn't very hungry. I'm hoping my weight gain will disappear at my weigh in next Wednesday.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Six Weeks In

After six weeks on Weight Watchers, I've lost 5.8 pounds (8+ at home, but 5.8 on the WW meeting scale). I think I've still had only one week when I really didn't go over my allotted number of points, though this week is shaping up to be the second. Over the two weeks of Christmas and New Year's, I had a 1.2 gain, but lost it again by the following week. I was pretty pleased with that. I definitely overate for a couple of days when my brother and family were here the week before Christmas, on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and on New Year's Eve. I ate beyond satiety, and even felt kind of miserable due to the crappy carb/sugar overdose on a couple of those days. I didn't count points for three of the days -- just entered 99 points and sort of "gave up" -- though I didn't go on to eat everything in sight that day or the days after. Unlike my usual modus operandi, I started counting again the day after Christmas, and have counted every day since. Somehow, counting points doesn't make me as obsessive as counting calories. Maybe they don't seem quite as concrete. Or maybe it's because it isn't an exact system. When I've counted calories in the past, sooner or later I ended up thinking, "Ohhh, I have 50 calories left for the day...what can I eat?" whether I was hungry or not. For the past several weeks, I've had some desserts, crackers, pretzels, and the like here and there, but I enter the points and that's that. Perhaps it helps that I don't have any points left over at the end of the day? I don't know. Whatever the reason, it's working okay. I'm not focused on food 24/7, and I'm not feeling terribly deprived about staying away from the treats at work. We went to a potluck last night and I ate the beans and pita I brought (in case there were no vegan main dishes -- which was the case), a big helping of the yummy cole slaw I brought, and a hershey kiss. I didn't even feel like having a bit of anything else on the table, except a spoonful of hummus that I added to my pita. Now, there wasn't any fabulous looking homemade cheesecake or anything sitting there, so that definitely played a part. I'd like to think that trying to lose weight isn't playing havoc with my "normal(ish) eater" status.

Making really delicious vegan dinners that my family AND I will eat is helpful. Rather than trying to cook something for them and something separate for me, I've been looking for recipes that seem pretty lowfat, but likely candidates to escape the "ewww, what IS that?!?" comment. I also don't sit there with my boring beans and greens, watching them eat pizza or something. One of my successes from this past week was Red and Green Lentil Enchiladas from Peas and Thank You. I left the cheese out of half of it, and spinkled cheese over the top of the other half during the last 5 minutes of cooking time. My 9-year-old actually had seconds! I can't ever make enchiladas stay together, so I just tore the corn tortillas into small pieces and then layered it all like a casserole. It really was quite yummy. A couple of them also liked the stuffed butternut squash I made, but tasty as it was, it really didn't keep me full for very long. It was something like 9 points a serving too.

That's a complaint I still have about the Weight Watchers points system. I've entered some really healthy, lowfat recipes into the recipe builder and had them come out to 16 points a serving. That's a big chunk if your daily maximum is 26 (without using extra or exercise points). It seems kind of silly that an extremely healthy vegan dish could have more points than pizza! In my WW meeting last week, we were discussing planning. I raised my hand and said that I spent 20 min or so every Sunday planning my week's dinners, making a shopping list, and entering the recipes into the recipe builder so I knew how many points were in a serving. I commented that sometimes vegan recipes I thought were really healthy turned out to be pretty high in points. The point I was trying to make is that I then planned the rest of my day's food to be lower, but the leader went off on a tangent about how beans are full of fiber, but also high in calories. Really? 110 calories in half a cup of beans -- with lots of fiber and virtually no fat isn't what I'd call high in calories! It's far healthier for you than a chicken breast! Argh.

They also handed out free samples of a snack bar you can buy at your meeting. Whoa. It was "only 2 points!" but had a list of ingredients as long as my arm. Scary ingredients. WW is really missing the boat here. They have a real opportunity to teach people about eating for health, and they're hawking foods that are full of artificial crap. If they are going to sell snack bars, why not make a bar like the Kind bar or the Larabar? In the 1970s, WW made people eat liver, for pete's sake! You can't tell me they couldn't convince people to move toward a less processed diet. Oh, sigh. If I were in charge of the world...

I watched this video, and found it really interesting, though it really only makes the point that I'd already kind of figured out -- that I mentioned in my last post, actually. If you are pre-disposed genetically to being overweight, the only way to lose weight and keep it off without going hungry is to eat only healthy food. The more pre-disposed to overweight you are, the less processed food you can eat, even healthy things like whole wheat pasta or bread. The think I liked about the video is that the doctor is very non-judgmental. He just states it the way it is.