Thursday, January 10, 2013

This couldn't be easier to follow

Super easy and informative - with endless variation. Homemade granola. It's a formula! All cooking should be a formula. I just love the thinking around the recipe deconstruction here. Everything anyone needed to know to make their own granola.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Vegan, grain and gluten-free cookie dough super bites

When I was hard-core dieting, I kind of briefly experimented with healthier desserts, like lower-sugar muffins, quinoa cookies, low-fat and low sugar granola. At some point, I realized that even really "healthy" desserts had to have a good bit of sweetness just to be worth eating, and that I really didn't have room in my calorie budget for any of it. It was better to just avoid as many sweets as possible and reduce cravings. Calories were better spent on slower release energy and meals, not extra desserts.

Well all that is still true, but I've returned to making the healthy desserts anyway, and I'm probably a 10 lbs heavier because of them, or, rather because of my inability to really be as stringent as I need to be to be 10 lbs thinner in general. The healthier desserts are one part of that.

Still - I did not revert to eating Ben and Jerry's, and I did not gain back 45 lbs. I did make some progress.

Result is, I'm obsessed with medjool dates, almonds, and the alchemy derived from combining them in a food processor. So I've experimented with date truffles, rolled, stuffed dates, date "cookie dough". You name it. I've added milled chia seeds, hemp seeds, cacao bits, cinnamon, orange peel, even Cheerios!

After much experimenting I came across this recipe  from the maker of Pure Bar- I knew it would be good just from watching the video and what I knew about those ingredients, and I made it even better, in my opinion. I reprinted the ingredients below with my alterations. I didn't keep it "raw" bc I like toasted almonds and the nutrition professors I've spoken with think the idea of nuts losing nutrients when roasted isn't so worrisome.

Pure Bar recipe from FitSugar video

1 cup medjool dates-pitted
3/4 cup toasted almonds (preferably the slivered kind from Trader Joe's)
3/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup cacao nibs, unsweetened
1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract or preferably this super expensive vanilla paste- from Amazon or Whole Foods
1.5 Tablespoons coconut oil OR 1/2 cup flaked unsweetened coconut (I've done both, oil has a better stronger flavor, but make them oily)
1/2 teaspoon salt or more
2 Tablespoons hemp seeds

Put all in a food processor, blend to desired consistency (more or less chunky) then press into silicone muffin tins and freeze or refrigerate

All I did to change the recipe was use the toasted almonds instead of raw cashews and I added the hemp seeds. I am not sure I used the exact measurements  - I may have had a higher date ratio, but for the purposes of this blog I'll promote the original. please taste and add more of what you think is missing and make it your own. You can try and work in some rice crispies, for a different texture.

super delicious and every ingredient adds some value - lots of antioxidents, fiber, omegas....

they go really well in a lunch box frozen or a work pouch.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Everything bagel seed crackers

Hi all,
these crackers meet with anyone's dietary restrictions.
vegan, gluten-free, sugar free, low-carb, dairy-free, nut-free, wheat free, grain free
and they're addictive and full of important nutrients. they are also very low in calories and keep you full for a long time. I've estimate about 35 calories for a 1.5 x 1 inch cracker using online recipe calculators.

I've posted this in bits and pieces on Facebook. Here is my take on the ohsheglows seed crackers. My edition is MUCH more flavorful, which some people may not appreciate. But if you spread some cream cheese on these I swear they taste like an everything bagel without the bagel.

The trick to these crackers is in getting the mixture evenly spread out on an UNRIMMED baking sheet, and having an evenly cooking oven, which I do not have.

Some people eat these raw - so all seeds raw and made in a dehydrator. I don't do any of that. I like roasted and I don't believe in the raw theories, based on my research.
The purchasing of the ingredients is annoying. You can leave out the ones you can't be bothered to find. Also most of the TJs ingredients are available at WF at a much greater price. Measurements are to taste. If you love sunflower seeds add more of those, etc.

Preheat oven to 320 and line big unrimmed baking sheet with parchment paper - not silicone mats

Put the ingredients below in a big bowl

3/4 cup chia seeds (TJs)
1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds (TJs)
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds (TJs)
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds (I roast my own in lots of batches every so often but you can skip this step or find -pre roasted ones) (in bulk at local market or WF)
1/2 cup hemp seeds (WF or natural foods store)
2 T + 1T toasted garlic bits (McCormick's - local grocery store)
2T toasted onion bits (ditto)

Put the ingredients below in a blender and blend completely.

1/4 onion
2-3 cloves garlic
1.5 cups water
1/2 tsp salt (or more)
several grinds of a black pepper mill

Mix all dry ingredients together - pulse blender, mix up water, and pour into dry ingredient bowl.

Wait a few minutes until you see the chia seeds forming a gel-like circle around them and water is absorbed. If water doesn't absorb wait a minute or two then if it still doesn't absorb add more chia seeds. If it doesn't get all gelled up, add more water.
spread mixture evenly on the parchment paper. It should be about as thick as the ones you may have tasted of mine - maybe 1/4 inch? They don't rise or anything during baking so they thickness I made works. You can use a solid pie server or some other flat implement to get it even and you can patch thinned out places easily.

Sprinkle remaining garlic and a nice bit of salt on the top and press in with your hands.

Put in oven and set timer for 25 min. It will probably be about 30 min but you want them pretty solid but not crunchy for the first baking. If you have too much mixture for one pan, don't over stuff, but add a second pan.

Take out of oven and cut with a pizza cutter into your desired size and flip. If your oven cooks unevenly you can flip the outside parts in before cutting the individual crackers, like in the photo to the right. Put back in the oven for another 25-30 min depending on the oven. They should be totally crispy but not burned. I take mine out in batches bc my oven is so uneven.

They go really well with cream cheese, hummus or tuna salad. And they keep you full for hours!

I also make a sweet version. It's trickier and less "healthy" just in that it has a lot of sugar and calories, even if the sugar is in the form of dates, but still super healthy, relatively low-sugar and full of lots of nutrients and slow release energy - better than anything you'd buy for sure. Just replace the fresh onion and garlic with 8 dates and a tablespoon cinnamon in the water in the blender. Then also chop up at least 2 cups of fresh medjool dates from TJs (I really don't like the WF version) and a cup or two of chopped walnuts. Add the chopped dates/walnuts to the seed mixture (also skip the toasted onion and garlic bits). You need more add-ins than you think - at least 3 cups total, or else they are too sparse. The sweet version must be cooked carefully, and maybe lower, 315 or even 300 if you are willing to wait forever. They are harder to spread out and take a longer time to cook because of the extra moisture and fiber, and with the chopped dates and walnuts in them they are going to be thicker. It's also easy for the dates to burn, but they are the best breakfast or post-workout food around. A great thing to make when you're home all afternoon on a Sunday. I do sometimes make both versions at once and just keep track of what's in the oven. They last forever and go a long way - you don't need to eat a lot of them, so they are worth the effort every once in a while. Once you get to know your oven and the stage at which to flip and cut them it's really easy.  I know I'm making this sound really hard and it's not - it just takes a little more attention to get the first batch right for your taste and oven and then you will be good to go next time. These I cut in bars, not crackers. They are delicious and I'll make a batch this weekend and post a photo.

add smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, chili powder to taste

I have not made this yet, but I'd like to try with oregano and some parmesan cheese - I'm not sure  when to add the cheese as it doesn't need to cook for an hour like the other ingredients. When I get this right I'll post.

Next up vegan  gluten-free cookie dough bites. There are many cookie dough bite recipes out there but most of them are bad.

Friday, March 4, 2011

not new info....

This is not new information, but I like how it's formatted and organized-it's kind of helpful, especially since one of the weight examples is very close to my own weight. Calories burned in 30 minutes......

When my big project at work is over (March 10), and the wave of illnesses leave my house (when????), I will compile some articles on recent studies on the effects of exercise that I've been reading lately and post them here - as well as some nutrition articles. But the bottom line I'm gathering is this - exercise is important, especially exercise at a high intensity - and moving often, not becoming completely sedentary in the day or evening is also important, although just how much movement and for how often is not known yet. The list above shows just how few calories are burned by say, sitting at a desk. The studies don't all look at weight loss, many look at health outcomes instead. I may ask for help from an epidemiologist friend at work to make sure I'm conveying accurate information. Not all studies are created equal and my professional epi buddies help me sort that out.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Trying to get back on track

I actually need to lose a few pounds. The one downside to having a whole new wardrobe of clothes in my new size is that I have no "fat clothes" to fall back on. I am noticing now that my clothes are tight and uncomfortable. At first I didn't even put two and two together. I just thought that after work I was tired and who wouldn't want to slink into yoga pants. But I did notice many months ago, that when my clothes are loose and comfortable, I often come home and get distracted starting dinner, etc. before changing. I had to remind myself to change so that I wouldn't soil my work clothes while cooking. I made a mental note to myself that next time I experienced the "I must change now!!" feeling regularly after work, I would know it meant things aren't fitting right and I should do something about it.

So here I am working towards that goal. I knew for the past few months that my weight was a little higher, but I didn't see it as a big deal, and it is a normal occurrence in winter. Now we've passed that "little bit higher" mark. A couple days ago I quickly tried on a couple dresses at lunch time, as I'm attending a party next Saturday, and the 6s were really too tight. At first I attributed that to them being a really young style - I didn't like how they looked anyway - but in reality they were just too small. The shopping trip actually did light a fire under my behind. I was so turned off that I got more serious. I had also had a bit of a pizza debacle the day before that kind of shocked me. Since when do I even like white crust-big chain pizza?? Ick! But I ate lots of it and happily. This all sounds so dramatic! It is not.

So I'm trying very hard to control any extraneous snacking, and to really watch portion size. I'm also tracking. I find, as do some friends, that in the end it's just easier to be really stringent, as not being stringent opens the door to wanting things, and starts that constant battle in the head of, "can I have some of that?" I'd rather not feel tempted at all.

I am also finding that reporting my food intake to a few friends does make me more vigilant. I actually spit out some gummy bears - they were hurting my jaw anyway - thinking, "I can't email this to my friends."

So the more the merrier. Here is what I ate yesterday:
I still use the old WW points system. Goal is 23 pts or 24 on a big exercise day. In reality I should eat 21 but i find that unrealistic and I don't want to be constantly disappointing myself.

breakfast 1
few bites oatmeal and strawberries while chatting with my cousin and making lunches - we were going to exercise but the kids got up early and we were all talking. Highly unusual morning due to house guest. 1 pts

breakfast 2
cereal, milk, yogurt 5pts

lots coffee with milk 1pt

spinach salad with turkey breast, healthy homemade dressing, 20 almonds (part-pre lunch snack), other veggies. 5 pts  -  I was craving some carbs but didn't have any in my desk drawer.

20 min run with buddy. first time in a long time! Should have done post-run push-ups.

afternoon snack
plain non-fat yogurt with berries 3pts

dinner 1 - got home starving. tried very hard to contain myself and make dinner but a contractor was in house. warmed myself up some food so as not to go crazy.
4 low-fat triscuits, many pickle slices 1 pt
natasha's leftover dinner of my homemade pizza with white-bean infused pizza sauce, ww crust, minimal cheese, 3 pepperoni slices, broccoli 3 pts (very small portion was left)

dinner 2 - after contractor left
sauteed spinach with leftover bacon and tin of sardines and orange zest. I really did learn something by watching/reading so much Jamie Oliver - 3pts

dessert - started eating gummy bears while dolling out kid desserts and stopped. Not worth it and not necessary.

22 pts before exercise!! It really is possible to not eat that extra 200 calories a day, if I just make the slightest effort to really track, feel like I have a real, strongly desired goal in mind (making my clothes fit), and if I feel accountable to someone (my blogging audience). I was not having one of my hungry days - I did only a little exercise and that makes a big difference appetite-wise. Let's see how long I can keep this up. btw, I just spent all my exercise time blogging. getting up now.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Clam pizza

I would call this Jamie Oliver-inspired, although it's not his recipe.

Whole wheat crust with:
pesto, cherrystone clams, navy beans, lemon slices, artichoke hearts, fresh parsley, parm flakes, pepper, olive oil - applied in that order. It kind of took a while to assemble.

What makes is Jamie-inspired is the addition of red pepper flakes, the more liberal use of olive oil, and the lemon slices with peel. I also was very generous with the parsley and the man is seemingly obsessed with fresh herbs. But when I saw him make clam pizza he used a slightly different recipe. And he put whole clams on there!

The pizza was also inspired by the new products display at Trader Joe's. They had whole cherrystone clams in cans. I bought 3.

What makes is a very Jenna pizza is:
-whole wheat crust of course
-using up leftover bits in my fridge - in this instance parsley-walnut pesto and two big artichoke hearts as well as half a lemon (i could have easily used a whole lemon)
-added navy beans to make the pizza have more fiber and protein and have a keep the crust to topping ratio weighted more towards the topping side.

Here are my take-aways.


iPhone there for size comparison:
notice how big clams are
The few Jamie inspirations really did kick it up a notch. I think using a bit more olive oil made all the difference. It made all the ingredients really gel together and the flavors fuse. Quite literally - flavors travel in fat molecules and I have made this pizza while being more stingy with the olive oil and it tastes like disparate parts. It may also have had to do with the pesto base, even though it was a thin spread. I didn't go nutso with the oil - it was probably 3-4 tablespoons for the whole thing as opposed to 2. But the pizza has very little cheese on it as I really don't like melted cheese with seafood. Gross. The parm is tangy but not gooey.

I'm not a fan of spicy foods - they often give me a headache. But I know a little heat is meant to also enhance other flavors and in this instance the bit of dried red pepper flakes did just that. Jamie would have used fresh hot chili of course. Same is true of the parsley - it just added to an overall flavorful-ness and interest in the mouth.

I really should invest in a pizza stone.
This pan is an embarrassment. 
First, hats off to Trader Joe's. I believe the big whole clams made the whole thing more sophisticated. Kind of strange to say anything in a can is sophisticated but I guess it's all relative. The navy beans were a great enhancement - not just a bit of heft and health, they were creamy and delicious against the chewy clams. Additionally, the artichoke hearts were really finely chopped up and spread out. I think the helped a lot - they made the whole thing (to make up a word) a good way. And finally - I loved having the bits of roasted lemon. I picked off the actual pieces but squeezed them before eating each slice. If I were serving this at a party I would also serve fresh slices and additional parsley on each plate as garnish. The brightness was fantastic. Jamie would have doused the whole thing in more olive oil at the table. He seems to do that. I found it just greasy enough as is.

My main take-away, more than anything else, is to extoll the virtues of watching cooking videos - either on television, Hulu, YouTube, Netflix, whatever. I almost never make the recipes from the shows, but bits of information and techniques do sink in. Ideas percolate that were inspired by something I've seen but were not an exact recipe. And I believe that being familiar with those techniques and ideas also breeds confidence in the kitchen and a proclivity to experiment. My husband certainly appreciates it...the kids - I'm not so sure.