Monday, February 21, 2022

Eat & Stay Slim Project - Week 3

I restructured my meals this week so that I could have a big mid-morning meal after my workout, a couple small snacks as I wanted them, and then a satisfying dinner. It worked out okay, and I think I'll continue this next week as well.

I kept up my exercise routine with three days of core strength exercises, three days of yoga, and one rest day.

The recipe I intended to make as part of my lunch had to be reworked because the potatoes that came with my grocery delivery this week were all about the size of golf balls, and the shelves were cleared out of Neufchatel cheese. Trying to split and stuff such tiny potato skins seemed like a silly task, so instead I've made a lazy version of Duchess Potatoes, and added it to my poached egg breakfast. This made storing leftovers safer, and better allowed me to control portion size. It would have been difficult to pick out even portions while relying on the random size of the potato skins.

BRUNCH: Lazy Duchess Brunch

Carrot Potato Patties

1 lb russet potato guts, baked or boiled
1 lb boiled carrot chunks
8 oz cream cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
2 oz shredded cheddar cheese
4 spring onions

Smash everything except the shredded cheese and spring onion together using the method of your choice until it's thoroughly smashed. I used a wire potato masher. Feel free to add other seasonings to taste. I added about 1/4 tsp of a West Indies spice blend this time and it was delicious. Heap or pipe 2-3 inches apart in eight equal piles on a parchment paper lined pan, top with cheese, bake at 375° for 15 minutes. Top each with half a sliced spring onion if desired. Makes 8 servings at 205 calories each.

The flavor of this dish was very nice, and the texture of the patty is soft and creamy which was perfect with a bit of toast and some roasted veggies. Some days I had this with a poached egg and some days without, depending on how hungry I was in the morning.

To reheat the patties I put ten cherry tomatoes and 2 oz quartered baby bella mushrooms in a ramekin, placed a patty upside down on top, and baked at 350° for about 20 minutes.

I want to make this again because I think it can be improved on. The shredded cheese was probably unnecessary, but I needed to use it before it expired and this dish seemed like the best place for it in my meal plan. I will probably use bread crumbs next time, or perhaps cook these in my egg bites tray or a scone pan instead of heaps. They spread out quite a lot if you can't chill them properly before baking, and the oil from the cream cheese is probably enough to keep them from sticking.

SNACKS: Cottage Cheese & Fruit, Spicy Mocha

I only ate my fruit with the cottage cheese twice this week, as it fit more easily into my day as separate components. One small nectarine and 110g low-fat cottage cheese, 137 calories.

The spicy mocha is based on a recipe called "Mexican-Style Hot Chocolate" which is essentially hot chocolate with vanilla and cinnamon. I decided to make a spicy mocha as an option for one of my two daily coffee drinks.

Spicy Mocha

3 oz espresso
6-8 oz low-fat oat milk
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp cocoa powder
a couple drops of vanilla extract
a few dashes of cinnamon
cayenne to taste

Mix the sugar, spices, cocoa powder well in a mug. Add a splash of oat milk, or hot water, and vanilla, then mix into an even paste. Add espresso and mix thoroughly. Top with steamed milk and decorate with a dash of cinnamon or cayenne if you wish. Makes one 116 calorie serving.

DINNER: Pineapple Pork Stir Fry & Rice

I forgot to take a picture of this in the bowl, but this picture is four servings in the pan.

Pineapple Pork Stir Fry

1 small fresh pineapple (about 48 oz)
12 oz pork tenderloin, trimmed
1/4 c soy sauce
1/2 c orange juice
1 head garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp chicken bouillon
1 medium red or green bell pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
4 tsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tb cold water to make a slurry
1 tb cooking oil

Peel and core pineapple, cut into chunks, reserve any juice. Partially freeze pork if needed, slice into thin bite-sized pieces. Combine orange juice, soy sauce, bouillon granules, garlic, reserved pineapple juice, and red pepper, set aside. Cook pork and bell pepper over medium heat in the cooking oil until just starting to brown, remove to a bowl. Pour sauce into warm pan, add pineapple chunks, cook covered for 2-4 minutes until starting to soften. Remove pineapple to a bowl. You can put it in with the pork and peppers. Add corn starch slurry to pan, stir well and cook until sauce begins to thicken. If it is too thick, add a bit more water as needed. Return other ingredients to the pan, toss to coat. Makes 4 servings, 389 calories each. Served over half a cup of rice, add 121 calories for a total of  510 calories per serving.

This dish was just okay. I feel like it's another good jumping off point if you've never tried to cook a stir fry before, or you're not sure about pineapple in savory food. One of my favorite Thai dishes to cook at home is red curry with pineapple, and this just tastes like I was trying to make that dish but forgot half of the ingredients. It does give me some ideas about how to make a version of the Thai dish that is lower in calories though, so I will have to give that some thought and see if I can improve upon a house favorite.

In all, this week's menu was okay and easy to see where it could be improved on. I think too much of my protein and fat was from cheese, so I am ready for a break from that for a while. I would like to move toward a more vegetarian diet, and I need to remember to incorporate more of the non-dairy protein sources I enjoy.

Below are the charts from my spreadsheet and LoseIt. As always if you have any comments or questions feel free to ask! See you next week.




Sunday, February 13, 2022

Eat & Stay Slim Project - Week 2

I had a hard time putting together a good menu plan this week. It seemed like every time I had enough of one thing I didn't have enough of another, and it was really difficult to fit all the things into a 1200 calorie plan. If I wasn't checking my recipes for calorie value I'd definitely be eating too much.

This week I did better on my exercise commitment than I did last week, thanks to an accountability buddy doing the same four-week core workout plan I'm doing. It is nice to have a friend to check in with to keep me on track while daily exercise doesn't feel like a natural habit.

This week's recipes were all edible, but I think they each have room for improvement. I continue having two espresso drinks per day, each with 3/4 to 1c of low-fat oat milk and 2tb brown sugar.

BREAKFAST: Veggie Quiche & Coffee

Veggie Quiche

for the crust:
2/3 cup AP flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 tb shortening
150g clabbered (or drained) cottage cheese

for the filling:
5 oz baby spinach, blanched and pressed
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup sliced green onion
2 oz shredded cheese
3 beaten eggs
1 cup skim milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Preheat the oven to 325°. Prepare the crust by combining flour, salt, and shortening. Cut together with a fork until the shortening pieces are pea sized, then add cottage cheese. mix until combined enough to form a ball. Roll into a 1/8 inch flat disc on a lightly floured surface/, then transfer to a pie plate or 8-9" springform pan. Flute the edges of the crust in any way you like.

In a small bowl combine vegetable and onion, mix them well then spread evenly into your prepared crust. In a large bowl combine eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Pour over vegetables, sprinkle cheese evenly on top. Bake 45-50 minutes until knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before serving. Makes 8 servings. 232 calories per serving.

The original recipe called for a can of mixed vegetables, but I figured I'd like this better. I used cheddar cheese, but I think this could be good with a whole variety of combinations. I was unsure about the crust recipe, but after trying it I think I will make it again. Next time I'm going to use less shortening though, because I felt like it turned out more oily than it needed to be.

The flavor and texture of the crust were good on the first couple days, but after two or more days in the fridge it started to take on moisture and get a bit doughy. Reheating it in the oven helped with that, but next time I think I'll split the recipe and make two small quiches a few days apart.

LUNCH: Chef's Salad Bowl 

4 chopped green onion
8 oz chopped watermelon radish
4 oz swiss cheese
4 hard boiled eggs
8 cherry tomatoes
1 1/2 cups cauliflower
4 oz roast beef
4 cups spring mix

Divide all the stuff up between four bowls. Makes 4 servings of 268 calories each.

I  chopped up a head of cauliflower at the beginning of the week and prepared the rest of the salad every day at meal time. I served it with 1tb of whatever pre-made dressing I wanted. Mostly I use Brianna's Creamy Balsamic which is 80 calories per tb.

I could not come up with a way to chop the radishes that wasn't totally jarring when mixed in with the other ingredients. I like radishes, and the peppery flavor was welcome with the other ingredients, but it was just weird texturally.

DINNER: Fish Creole with Zucchini & Rice

I was surprised to see that the only seasoning in the original recipe for this dish comes from instant bouillon granules.

16 oz fish fillets cut into chunks - I used cod
1/3 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 cups canned plum tomatoes
2 tb chopped parsley
1 tb chicken bouillon
2 tsp (or more) hot sauce
1-2 tsp creole seasoning mix like Tony Chachere's or Emeril's Essence
1 tb corn starch mixed in a little cold water to make a slurry
1/4 tsp salt

Salt chopped veggies and allow to sit for a few minutes until they start to release some moisture. Cook over medium heat with a small amount of water until tender. Add canned tomatoes with their liquid, bouillon, parsley, hot sauce, seasoning mix, and 1/2 c water. Simmer covered for about 10 minutes, then add the cornstarch slurry. Stir well, add fish, cook over medium-low heat 5-7 minutes until fish is done. Serve over 1/2c rice. Makes 5 servings at 224 calories each. I added half a medium zucchini, sliced and steamed, for an additional 25 calories.

This was just okay. The fish breaks down a lot on subsequent reheating, and the flavors were just not very exciting. Without the seasoning mix it was a good base of flavors but so very bland. I made my husband's portions with sliced chicken cooked in the same sauce, and he had about the same opinion on the flavor. Because my daily count for bread exchanges was too low this week, I allowed myself up to a cup of rice with this meal if I wanted it.

SNACKS: Tapioca Parfait, fresh fruit

I was afraid to make the version of this pudding where you whip the egg whites and don't actually cook them, because I wasn't sure how safe it would be to keep and eat over a few days. I went ahead and used the same ingredients to make regular old tapioca pudding and served it with a generous portion of strawberries.

2 cups skim milk
2 tb quick cooking tapioca
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup equivalent zero calorie sweetener, I used a blend by In the Raw
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
6 cups strawberries

Combine the milk, salt, tapioca, and sweetener, let stand for five minutes. Beat eggs, incorporate into other liquids, heat over medium-low heat until near boiling. Remove from  heat, whisk in vanilla. Chill before serving with diced berries. Makes 8 servings at 84 calories each.

The tapioca came out a bit eggy and I think that might be because I cooked it over too high heat. I'll have to give it another try because I do love tapioca. In order to get my other fruit exchanges in, I allowed myself to eat one or two cuties tangerines per day if I wanted them.

Here's the nutritional breakdown for food exchanges and my entry for a full day in LoseIt!


Coming up next, I'll be having a poached egg breakfast, a carroty potato lunch, and a tropical stir fry for dinner. Thanks for reading, see you next week!

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Eat & Stay Slim Project - Week 1

If this week is any indication, I'm really going to enjoy cooking through the rest of this book. Out of the four recipes I made this week, I liked four of them. I'll be making a different version of the jello next week as well.

I did not eat these exact meals for seven straight days because the recipes didn't make that many servings, and it's not safe to keep most leftovers for that long anyway. I staggered making them over the course of the week so I would have different combinations.

On days when I did not eat exactly this menu I tried to use the exchange system to make up other meals of equivalent value. I did not closely track calories on those days, but I may start to.

I'm not supposed to need to count calories at all using this program, but it's important that these meals conform to the nutritional values the book is actually recommending. Considering the changes I've insisted on making, I make my recipes while logging the full day in LoseIt! and then use that day as a template when cooking and preparing the meals later.

BREAKFAST: Savory Spinach & Turkey Custard, Blueberries & Coffee

Spinach Custard

8oz fresh spinach
2 eggs
1 cup oat milk
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 oz shredded cheese

Blanch fresh spinach in a little boiling salted water, drain and press to dry, chop coarsely. Beat eggs, milk, nutmeg, and salt until blended. Separate Spinach and cheese between four oven safe containers, divide egg mixture between the containers as well, stir each, then bake in a hot water bath at 350° for 35-40 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

I prepared these for the week using my silicone instant pot egg egg bites tray and reheated them in a steam bath each day. Place two at a time in a ceramic ramekin over an ounce of chopped up turkey, and steam for about ten minutes.

If you like creamy scrambled eggs and don't mind if they're a bit wet, you'll probably like this. The nutmeg in the recipe seemed out of place to me, but I put it in anyway. I'm glad I did, it was an interesting addition and it had a real harmony with the spinach that I wasn't expecting. The turkey I chose had a peppered edge, which I think was the thing that took this from "okay" to "pretty good." Half a cup of blueberries as a side is far more blueberries than I thought it would be. Along with my morning oat milk latte, his was a satisfying and filling meal. I allow myself a second coffee in the morning or early afternoon for my other milk exchange.

I got the egg bites tray from Costco in a set of accessories meant for the instant pot, but since they are silicone I use them all around the kitchen. I like the egg bites tray a lot because it's sturdy so it's easy to carry when full of liquids, and the included lid fits well for storage in the fridge. This one is also available from Amazon.

LUNCH: Herbed Mushrooms, Celery, Tomato, and Cottage Cheese Salad

Herbed Mushrooms

2/3 cup red wine
1 small onion
1/2 tsp dry basil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
12 oz mushrooms

Clean and quarter the mushrooms. Slice the onion into rings. Bring wine, basil, onion, salt, and pepper to a simmer in a small pan. Add mushrooms and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed. Pour into a container, cover and chill until ready to use. Makes 8 servings.

Use a slotted spoon to serve these without much of the liquid. I made a salad with cottage cheese, a chopped rib or two of celery, and a handful of sliced cherry tomatoes, topped with ground pepper. It was good all stirred up together. I will probably make something like this again, but with less celery and more leafy greens.

SNACKS: Applesauce and Sparkling Monster Citrus Jello

I hate when this happens, when I cook something that seems like a joke but then joke's on me because I really enjoy eating it.

Sparkling Monster Citrus Jello

8 oz grapefruit supreme with reserved juice
4 oz tangerine supreme with reserved juice
7 g unflavored gelatin
1 cup chilled Monster Ultra Sunrise
1 tb lemon juice

Cutting supremes from citrus is time consuming and messy, but I try to enjoy it like a nice vitamin C and citric acid treatment for my hands. I used three small grapefruits and five or six cuties, and had about a cup of juice when I was done cutting them all up. The trick is to hold the fruit over the bowl while cutting. If you don't have a full cup of juice, add a bit of your can of Monster to make one cup. Bloom your gelatin in the juice, then stir over low heat until the gelatin is incorporated and the mixture begins to thicken slightly. Stir in the lemon juice and cold Monster, then refrigerate until it begins to set. For me it was about an hour. Stir in fruit supremes and pour into a bowl or individual cups. Makes 4 servings.

The first day I had this as an afternoon snack I had so much energy afterward. I didn't really expect such a small amount of energy drink would have that effect on me, but it was a nice little pick-me-up to get through the last part of the day. Monster usually makes me crash, so I won't typically drink a whole one in a day anyway unless I'm doing many hours of physical labor.

This was delicious. I was afraid to eat it after 3pm.

For my other fruit exchange I had a piece of fruit or a serving of home made applesauce, which I didn't manage to get a picture of, but most of you have probably seen applesauce before. I make it in the instant pot on occasion when we have more apples than we can eat before they spoil.

DINNER: Beef Stew & Sourdough Bread

Beef Stew

1.25 lb stew beef, I used sirloin I had in the freezer
1 tb unsalted butter
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 head garlic minced
2 tsp salt
4 medium red potatoes, quartered
5-6 medium carrots, quartered
1 tb Worcestershire sauce
1 dash of ground cloves
2-3 bay leaves
1 tb corn starch mixed in a little cold water to form a slurry

This is vegetable stew with a little beef. The portion of beef is very small per serving. It's a pretty basic beef stew recipe. Brown your beef first, toss in the butter and alliums, sauté until softened, add veggies, water to cover, Worcestershire sauce, salt, bay leaves and ground clove. Simmer until the veggies and beef are tender, then add the corn starch if you want to thicken it a bit more than the natural starch from the potato. Taste for seasoning. Makes 8 servings.

I thought the corn starch improved the texture of the broth. The real star here is the clove, which I was very hesitant to add because I see it more as a sweet stuff seasoning, but it was surprisingly good with the beef. I may continue to add a pinch of clove to similarly flavored beef dishes in the future.

The bread was a par-bake sourdough loaf. A 50g serving is one fat slice as pictured or two very thin ones.

Here's the breakdown of "exchanges" and below is info from Lose It! Please let me know if there is any other info you'd like to see about these meals. Having something prepared ahead of time for even one or two meals a day definitely helped me stick to a plan all week, and staggering things so I didn't have exactly the same meals all day for days in a row helped keep me from feeling bored by the end of the week too.




Next week I'll be making quiche, chef's salad, fish "creole" with rice, and tapioca parfait. Thanks for reading, see you later!

Monday, January 31, 2022

Eat & Stay Slim Project - Getting Started

I thrifted this book a couple years ago because I was intrigued by the promised ease of the point system described on the cover. The idea that you can eat a satisfying quantity of food on 1200 calories a day, without counting those calories at all, sounds like exactly the type of intuitive eating I'd love to learn to do with ease.

After bringing it home and trying to figure out the "fun" system of Food Exchanges, I quickly learned that like every other weight loss gimmick out there, it is not truly easy. I set the book aside on my shelf and haven't revisited it, though every time I see it I wonder if time invested in learning this system would be worth it. Time to find out!

The book is a total of 94 pages, and I was surprised to see there are no recipes until page 52. The majority of the content is about dieting. The first chapter covers safety, and helps you determine if you should embark on a weight loss diet at all, with the recommendation that you consult your doctor, and then also listen to your doctor.

Chapter two covers the science behind a calorie. It's a measure of heat. It describes your body as the perfect calorie counter, because it never fails to count a single calorie in the food you eat. There are several warnings about the dangers of ineffective fad diets, diet pills, and passive weight loss machines. This program promises to provide balanced nutrients with a varied diet which is important for general health and longevity.

The realities of calories burned by exercise, and the math involved in determining your daily calorie needs are explained in chapter three. According to various charts and equations, I should weigh between 116 and 135 lbs., eat around 1800 calories a day for maintenance, eat at a 500-1000 calorie deficit for weight loss, and exercise regularly.

The ideal exercise regimen includes a daily commitment, and activities for flexibility, circulation, and strength. I'm told to start slow and gradually add in new activity, so I'm going to push myself to keep up a daily yoga habit again, and let my robot teacher from DownDog take me through flexibility, cardio, and strength focused sessions on different days.

Chapter four gives a few tips on satiety, salt intake, fluid retention, and suggestions on how to curb bad eating habits. It explains macronutrients and what each contributes to our body's needs - protein to build and repair tissue, fats and oils as long lasting fuel, and carbohydrates to help the body burn those fuels for energy.

Appetite suppressants or energy supplements are suggested as a way to help adjust to a calorie deficit, but only for the first few weeks of a reduction diet program. I have some caffeine-free green tea and ginseng energy supplements I'll be taking, one a day for the first two weeks. They are something I use on occasion when I feel like I haven't slept well.

I love the art style.

Using the food exchanges does seem like it will get easier, but on my first read-through of chapter five where they are explained in depth, I ended up with a full page of notes about how they all work together. 

There are seven exchanges - Lean Meat, Bread, Fruit, Vegetable, Milk, Fat, and Free.

Lean Meat exchanges are based on a 4oz raw or 3oz cooked portion of meat that provides a specific value of calories, protein, carbs, and fat. There are Medium and High Fat Meat exchanges that are different values, and for those you add one half or one whole fat exchange to cover the increase in fat and calories.

Peanut Butter is considered a Medium Fat Meat Exchange, but for some reason is the only food in the entire list of meats that is two additional fat exchanges. I don't understand the logic behind this, and it isn't explained. The book promises that the diet was developed under the care of a doctor and registered dietician so I guess I'll just have to trust the BH&G Test Kitchen and their experts.

Bread and Fruit Exchanges have an interaction where you can swap some of one for the other once per day. 

Any food cooked in oil should have a Fat Exchange added. 

Free Exchanges are leafy greens, radishes, sour pickles, mustards, and spices, and can be eaten in any quantity. Low calorie beverages like unsweetened tea, black coffee, and diet soda are allowed in unlimited amounts, as are low calorie gelatin and broth, and you should take advantage of that to help bulk up your menus. In addition, I can eat as many cranberries as I want as long as I don't add any sugar to them. Unlimited cranberries!

Alcohol is not included in any of these exchanges because the calories provided by alcohol have no nutritional value. If you choose to drink while on a reduction diet, you just have to stack those calories on top of your regular food intake. You can not exchange food for Alcohol.

Flipping through the lists of which foods are on which exchanges reveals a few items in odd categories. Starchy veggies and beans are bread, cheese is meat, avocado is fat. There's a whole list of prepackaged foods, some of them are even things you might still find at the grocery store. I don't intend to eat many prepackaged foods along the way here, so I've mostly just skipped this for now.

Next are the meal plans, and some tips on how to work with the recipes included in the book to plan a full day of food. There is a suggestion on how to divide your Food Exchanges between meals over the course of a day, but it also specifies that you can divide them up however you want, and that's part of the beauty of this program. 

I'm allowed the following exchanges every day:

7 Lean Meat Exchanges
3 Bread Exchanges
3 Fruit Exchanges
4 Vegetable Exchanges
2 Milk Exchanges
5 Fat Exchanges
 Free Exchanges

Reading through all of the recipes, out of 90 of them I'm willing to eat about 80. There are a few that will need some editing to swap out components I'm less fond of. Almost all recipes will require a bit of adjustment because I refuse to cook with diet imitation margarine, process cheese, sugar substitutes, low calorie salad dressing, asparagus, water chestnuts, and veal.

My plan is to make 3-4 recipes per week for as long as it's entertaining, and see if I can find any new favorites to add to my personal library. The last time I did a project like this I discovered a few meals that are staples in my kitchen now, and I'd like to add to that list to provide a bit more variety. Maybe I'll also lose some weight along the way.

At some point I'll let the community vote on which of those rejected recipes I should make, because if we don't have a chance at seeing some bizarre gelatin mold or egg and fish pie, are we really living?

I have this week's menu all planned out and I'm looking forward to getting started. Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next week.

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