Salmon and Spinach Pasta Toss

Salmon Fillets
1 pound salmon fillets (4 ounces each)

Season the salmon with your preferred seasoning.  Heat a non-stick skillet, pan fry until cooked, about 3 minutes per side.

Nutritional data, per serving:
Calories:      190
Fat:               9.0g
Sat fat:          1.5g
Chol:            70mg
Sodium:        50mg
Carbs:            0g
Fiber:             0g
Protein:        24g

Spinach Pasta Toss (makes 6 servings, approximately 1 cup each)

1 tablespon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, minced
Black pepper, dried oregano, and dried basil to preference
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
2 cups whole wheat penne pasta
1 cup water
6 ounces V8 (low sodium) juice
2 ounces white wine
4 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes
6 ounces raw baby spinach
2 tablespoons (6 teaspoons) romano cheese

1.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet (10-12 inches).  Add onion.  Saute for 3-4 minutes over medium-high heat, until it begins to turn translucent.
2.  Add garlic, and spices.  Saute for another minute.
3.  Carefully pour V8, water and wine.  Turn heat up, and bring to a near boil. Add pasta, stir and return to a boil.
4.  When boiling, reduce heat to simmer, cover and let cook for 10 minutes or until the pasta cooked to your preference.
5.  Bring heat back to medium. Add half the spinach.  Toss pasta and spinach until the spinach begins to wilt.  Add remaining spinach, and toss until the spinach is wilted.
6.  Serve, with 1 tsp romano cheese on each portion.

Nutritional data, per serving of the Spinach Pasta Toss:
Calories:      159
Fat:               3.7g
Sat fat:          0.7g
Chol:            1.2mg
Sodium:       120mg
Carbs:         25.6g
Fiber:           4.4g
Protein:        5.7g


Makes four loaves, each approximately 5 ounces

1 pound lean ground beef (I used 93% lean)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
Pepper to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 350F
2.  Mix all ingredients together. Only mix enough to incorporate the egg and onion into the meat. If you mix it too much, the loaves will become very tough.
3.  Divide meat into four balls. Form each ball into an oval shape. Lay on baking pan.
4.  Bake for 25 minutes.
5.  If desired, in the last 5 minutes, top each loaf with ketchup or BBQ sauce.

Alternatives that can be added to each loaf  (the options are endless): 
1/2 – 1 minced jalapeno. 
1 tablespoon minced sun-dried tomato
One strip of cooked bacon, chopped.
1 tablespoon chopped green olives

Nutritional data for one basic loaf, no cheese or toppings:
Calories:     180
Fat:               9.2g
Sat fat:          3.4g
Chol:           123mg
Sodium:      102mg
Carbs:          0.6g
Fiber:           0.1g
Protein:       23.6g

Comfort Foods

Sometimes I just need simple comfort food.

Right now I am under a pile of papers to grade for school, which leaves little time for anything else (including this blog.) I need to prioritize my time so that I get the papers graded quickly, but I still need to eat and I’d like to eat healthy. That means I can’t simply have a pizza or Chinese delivered.

I was feeling really overwhelmed yesterday. I had a lot of work to complete, I needed to attend a meeting for my son’s summer trip, and I was just tired. In response, I made simple mini-meatloaves. They baked in 25 minutes, and I paired that with a microwaved potato (Yukon Gold), topped with plain Greek yogurt, and some green beans. Simple food, easily prepared, filling and healthy.

Of course, I couldn’t just make normal meatloaves. I needed to experiment a bit.  In one mini-loaf I added half of a minced jalapeno pepper,  and in another I added 1 tablespoon minced sun-dried tomatoes. When they came out of the oven, I topped the jalapeno loaf with sharp cheddar cheese, and the sun-dried tomato loaf with shredded mozzarella.

Next time, I think I need more jalapeno.

I will try to blog as much as possible this week, but my student’s assignments are a top priority (only 33 papers left to grade!)

Veggie Hash with Eggs

Veggie Hash
Makes 2-4 serving, depending on how hungry you are.  The picture shows two servings, on a 10″ plate.

8 ounces shredded potatoes
1 bunch (approxmately 1 pound) fresh asparagus, cut into  1/2 inch pieces
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
Black pepper to taste
Seasoning of your choice (I used Penzey’s Sunny Paris.)

1.  Heat a large non-stick skillet. Add 1 tsp olive oil, the asparagus, mushrooms.  Saute over medium-high heat until the mushrooms begin to brown.
2.  Remove veggies from heat, set aside, cover to keep warm.
3.  Add the remaining olive oil, and over medium-high heat, add the onions.  Saute for 2-3 minutes, and add the garlic, saute for an additional minute.
4.  Add the shredded potatoes.  Gently toss (to prevent mashing the potatoes) until the onions begin to brown (another 3-4 minutes.)
5.  Return all veggies to skillet, toss to mix.
6.  Serve with eggs prepared as you like them.

Nutritional Data (for one serving of hash only, without the eggs):
Calories:  102
Fat:            3.8g
Sat fat:       0.6g
Chol:            0mg
Sodium:    163mg
Carbs:     14.7g
Fiber:        3.3g
Protein:     4.2g

Fish Fries and Fitbits!

Today was a happy day!

It is Lent and in Wisconsin that means Friday Fish Fries.  Most restaurants and pubs offer fish specials with perch, cod and shrimp as the most common offerings. We have a restaurant near us (the Redwood Inn) that offers those options, but also has walleye pike, frog legs, and fresh smelt.  Everything at this place is lightly breaded and deep fried.

I like all fish, but I have a very special place in my heart for fresh smelt.  I don’t know how familiar everyone is with this tasty little fish. It’s common in the Great Lakes (and Green Bay is bordered by Lake Michigan) and I grew up eating these whenever my parents were able to get them from friends that had just gone “smelting”.  The best smelt are not much bigger than your finger, and you eat them whole (well, the head is normally removed, and the abdominal organs are removed), bones, tail and all.

Obviously, I didn’t make this meal, but it was so tasty I needed to show you a picture of it.

If you are wondering how I can eat deep fried fish and keep at my goal weight, the answer is planning and prioritizing. I really, really wanted this meal. That means I ate very carefully the rest of the day. I did not skip any meals, but I ate a little lighter than normal for breakfast and lunch. This gave me a calorie cushion for my evening meal. (I didn’t eat the french fries or the cole slaw. Those are for my son. I ate a baked potato instead.)

That means that you, too, can eat a special meal, something that you really want but are afraid it will put you over budget. Just make sure that you balance your day so you spend your calories wisely.

My replacement Fitbit arrived today! That was pretty fast, because I ordered it late Saturday evening, and it arrived in five business days. I already have it charged and programmed. Tomorrow, we will go for a walk (wow, I’m making is sound like it is my pet or part of my family) and I will finally have a better estimation of calories burned.

I hope everyone has a great Friday and a wonderful weekend! Tomorrow will be a challenging day because I will be at my parent’s home, celebrating my father’s 80th birthday. My mom usually puts out a pretty nice spread of food so I will need to make careful choices. We’ll see how it goes!

Scrambled Eggs with Sauteed Leek

Scrambled Egg with Sauteed Leek

3 large eggs
2 small leeks, sliced (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salsa (I used an artichoke-garlic salsa)
Preferred seasoning (I used Penzey’s Sunny Paris salt-free blend)
1/2 avocado, mashed

1.  Slice the leeks the long way.  Separate the leaves and rinse under running water to make sure all dirt is removed.  Slice across the grain in 1/4 inch slices.
2.  Heat a non-stick skillet over med-high heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Add leek.  Saute the leeks until they begin to brown.
3.  Reduce heat to medium.
4.  Scramble the eggs, pour over the leeks.  Let the eggs cook until beginning to set, then scramble them until cooked to your desired level of hardness.
5.  Top with 4 tablespoons salsa, and 1/2 mash avocado.

Nutritional Data:
Calories:           475
Fat:                   39.4g
Sat fat:                8.1g
Chol:                 635mg
Sodium:             432mg
Carbs:               12.7g
Fiber:                  6.8g
Protein:             20.4g

This is a fairly big breakfast. You can certainly make it smaller by using only two eggs, or just three egg whites. You can reduce the sodium load by using less salsa (or no salsa).  But this is a meal that will keep me going all morning. 

And it was delicious!

Shirataki Lo Mein

Shirataki Lo Mein
Makes 3 servings, approximately 2 cups each

2 packages Shirataki (tofu) noodles (8 ounces each)
1 medium onion, sliced
8 ounces fresh mushrooms sliced
6 ounces snow pea pods, chopped
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1-2 tsp fresh gingers, crushed and minced

1.  Drain shirataki noodles in a colander. Set aside.
2.  In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon sesame oil over medium-high heat. 
3.  Add onions and mushroom, saute until the onions are beginning to get soft.  Add pea pods, carrots and the fish sauce.  Saute until the carrots are hot but crunchy.
4.  Add bean sprouts.  Toss to mix.  Remove from heat, and set aside in a bowl.  Cover to help it stay warm.
5.  In the same skillet, reheat the remaining sesame oil.  Add the crushed garlic and ginger. Stir for 1 minute.
6.  Add the drained shirataki noodles.  Toss occasionally for 2-4 minutes.
7.  Add noodles to vegetables in bowl.  Gently mix together.

Nutritional Data:
Calories:     194
Fat:             10.1g
Sat fat:          1.3g
Chol:               0mg
Sodium:       438mg
Carbs:         21.3g
Fiber:            6.1g
Protein:         7.2g

Note:  If you are concerned about sodium, eliminate the Thai fish sauce.  That will reduce the sodium per portion to 42.3mg.  However, you will need to add more spices to help bring additional flavor.  In that case, double the garlic and ginger, or add Chinese Five Spice blend.

Waiting for the Fitbit

Day four without my Fitbit. I’m not worried. I’m not frustrated. I’ll be okay. (If I keep repeating those statements, I’m sure I’ll start to believe it.)

Yesterday, out of curiosity–okay, desperation–I went to the county fairgrounds and searched the area that I was in when I lost it.  I didn’t find it. But I tried! It’s not that I am superstitious, but my I wore my Fitbit through almost all of my weight loss. It was my constant companion, my silent partner. I really didn’t need it. I rarely ate the exercise calories that I burned. But it was a great reminder to keep active.

Now that I am at goal weight, it is actually even more important because it gives me a more accurate measurement of my calories burned. As odd as this sounds, I really do not want to continue losing weight. I am happy where I am. That means I need to eat as much as I burn. However, if I don’t know how much I am burning, I must simply guess. And I don’t like that. If I guess too high, I will gain a bit (and as much as I don’t want to lose more, I REALLY, REALLY don’t want to start regaining!) And if I guess too low, then I continue to slowly lose weight. (Which is really not a major deal, but I made a goal of a specific weight range, and right now I am one pound under the low end of that range.)

My new Fitbit should be here by the end of the week, and we will have a joyful reunion. I really do recommend the Fitbit to everyone that I talk to unless they already have a heart rate monitor. The Fitbit is small, easy to wear concealed, records movements automatically, and then automatically transmits the data to LoseIt (of course, that assumes you are using LoseIt.) Just as LoseIt makes logging your meals easy, Fitbit makes recording exercise even easier.  (End of non-compensated commercial for my Fitbit.)

Being at goal weight is good. It feels great to be here. But is it just as much work as losing the weight, because I can’t lose my focus. I am still following a calorie budget. The only difference is that the budget has an additional 500 calories a day, and now I eat my exercise calories. It also requires that I look for calorie-dense and yet nutritious foods that are now sodium filled.

It would be easy to hit my calorie goal. A few pieces of pizza would do it. But that would also blow my sodium levels out of the water. So my careful consumption will continue. Stay tuned to see how I make my way through this new maze.

Beer Festivals and Frustrations!

Last night, I attended a local beerfest. In case you don’t know what that means, in this case it is a fundraiser for the local Jaycees club, held at a the county fairgrounds.  About 30 breweries were in attendance, pouring their beers for the 750 people that paid $35 to drink for four hours.  I was there representing my college, giving away the four beers that my students brewed at a recent beer science seminar.

It was fun.  I drank very little, partly because I needed to drive 40 miles home, and I don’t need a drunk driving arrest to add excitement in my life, and partly because I had tasted most of the beers that were available, but mostly because I didn’t want to burn my budgeted calories on beer.

Life is a series of choices. I could have chosen to have some beer.  A couple of pints over a four hour session would not have been an arrest concern. And I could have drank those calories because I had room in the budget. But I chose to eat a nice meal after the fest instead of drinking beer.

I have decided that although I have a large budget of calories to “spend” (about 2,500 now that I am at goal) I still only want to spend them on things that are really worth it. I don’t want to eat average food, I want food that is delicious. That way, when I log my calories, I know that I am getting good value for the budget.

The beer that I am pouring above was a Scottish 60 Shilling ale. I think it was the best beer that I brought, and it was the first tank that we emptied.

The frustration that I referred to in the title was the fact that I went to the fest wearing my Fitbit, but when I got home it had fallen out of it’s holster.  I took the empty holster off my belt when I got home, and that really irritated me. I wear it all the time, and now I need to order a new one. (And for those of you who do not know me, I am as frugal with my money as I am with my calories. I don’t like spending either if I don’t need to.)

There will be another festival in about six weeks. I’ll be pouring at that one too. And I will duct tape my Fitbit to the holster!

French Toast

French Toast

(The picture is actually two servings.)

2 slices of bread, your preferred type (I used Healthy Life 100% Whole Wheat)
1 egg
2 Tablespoons milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Mix egg, milk, vanilla and cinnamon. Heat a non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray.

Dip bread into egg mixture and flip to let both sides soak in the egg.

Lay on heated griddle.  Turn when brown on the edges (2-3 minutes.)  I served mine with just a dusting of powder sugar.

Nutritional data (for two slices):
Calories:     172
Fat:              6.1g
Sat fat:         2.9g
Chol:         214mg
Sodium:     295mg
Carbs:         1.4g
Fiber:          5.7g
Protein:     11.3g

My son preferred his served like this:

He added whipped cream and maple syrup.  Yeah.  It looks better than mine!