Thursday, April 21, 2011

AW: Thirty Pounds Down!

This week I reached a huge milestone...


So many people have been asking me "what's your secret?", "how did you do it?", etc.  And honestly my answer should be that I bust my butt four days a week at the gym (2 spin classes, a weights class & kickboxing) two days at home (Yoga, running, or the Biggest Loser for Kinect) and one day for rest, and eat the best I can without depriving myself of a sweet now and then.  I also participate in an online community and owe much of my success to them for keeping me on track.

Has it been easy?  For the most part, yes, it has been.  I make it a priority to go to the gym and to plan healthy meals.  Life happens and I just can't beat myself up over a bad week.  It's about taking that week and making the next week better.

And this is it.  I am not going back to where I was.

Pesto Primavera

Over the past 3 1/2 months I haven't eaten as many veggies as I have in my entire adult life.  And I am not talking mashed potatoes or french fries here, but healthy, tasty vegetables.  We have a year round Farmer's Market and are taking full advantage of not only the quality and selection, but the prices are unbeatable.

After receiving the pasta primavera recipe in the recipe swap, we made it three times and wanted to change it up before we grew really tired of it.  My husband recommended adding a pesto sauce to the primavera.  The great thing about this dish is that it can be changed with just the different veggies you decide to throw in each time.  Some other veggies to use are: eggplant, asparagus, and any bell pepper.

Pesto Primavera
1 large carrot, cut into thin strips
2 small yellow squash, cut into thin strips
1 onion, cut into eighths
1 zucchini, cut into thin strips
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
kosher salt & black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. italian seasoning
1 lb. penne pasta

2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts (I omitted)
1/2 cup EVOO
kosher salt & black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Combine the basil, garlic, & pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.  Add 1/2 cup of oil and process until smooth.  Blend in grated cheese and season with salt & pepper.

Preheat oven to 450ºF.
Mix olive oil and seasonings in a small bowl.  Arrange cut veggies onto a baking sheet.  Pour olive oil mixture over the veggies.  Bake veggies for approximately 20-25 minutes in the oven, adding the cherry tomatoes for the last 10 minutes.

While the veggies are baking, prepare the pesto in a food processor.  Also, cook the pasta according to package directions for al dente.  Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.  In a large bowl, combine pasta with veggies and pesto.  Add the reserved pasta water 1/4 cup at a time and mix after each time.   (I only used 1/2 cup of the water).

Recipe Swap:: Thanksgiving Burgers

The latest swap category was panini or sandwich.  I really like these swaps because since I have started documenting my weight loss journey it makes me go through my recipe box and remind me of what delicious dinners we have been missing.  I submitted another Rachael Ray recipe for Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes.  The link to the recipe is from my friend Lauren who received the recipe in the swap.

The recipe I received was for Thanksgiving Burgers from Lisa's Cooking Adventures.  My husband is always excited to see what recipes we receive and we were both looking forward to these burgers since last week.

I omitted the parsley since we aren't huge parsley fans.  I used shredded cheddar since we had that on hand.  The flavors were delicious and definitely tasted like Thanksgiving dinner sans stuffing!  The apple gave it such a great crunch and added flavor.  I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant about the cranberry sauce/mustard combo, but it was so tasty!!  Such an easy recipe to follow and definitely took me less than 30 minutes from prep to plating.  I totally forgot these were supposed to be on English muffins when I was at the store and bought panini rolls instead, which was way too big for the burger so next time I would use an english muffin or a smaller roll.

On the side, I made sweet potatoes fries to accompany the thanksgiving theme and tossed them in a cinnamon-agave mixture.

(Slightly adapted from a Rachael Ray recipe)

1.3  lbs ground turkey breast (1 pkg)
4 scallions, finely chopped
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley - I omitted
1 tablespoon grill seasoning
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
8 slices  cheese
1 green apple, cut into 12 slices
1/4 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
4 sandwich-size english muffins, split and toasted

In a bowl, combine the turkey, scallions, parsley, grill seasoning and poultry seasoning. Form into 4 patties, pressing your thumb into the center of each to prevent it from bulging.
Heat a grill pan over medium high heat.   Add the patties and cook for 8 minutes on each side. Top each with 3 apple slices and 2 cheese slices, tent the pan with foil and cook until the cheese melts, 1 to 2 minutes.
In a small bowl, mix together the cranberry sauce and mustard; slather on the muffin tops; top with the patties and set the muffin tops into place.

Cinnamon-y Sweet Potato Fries
2 large yams, cut into sticks for fries
2 tbsp. agave syrup
1-2 tsp. ground cinnamon
a pinch of salt, if desired

Combine agave & cinnamon and toss with the sweet potato fries.  Layer the fries on a baking sheet and bake at 425º for about 25 minutes.  

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fajita Burgers

We planned on having burgers this week, but the weather hasn't been very cooperative to grill outside on the days we planned them.  Just a plain ol' cheeseburger wasn't sounding extremely appealing tonight especially since they would be baked in the toaster oven so I turned to FoodNetwork for some ideas....

and was very happy with my decision, as was my husband.

Beef Fajita Burgers by Rachael Ray

  • 1 1/3 pounds ground sirloin
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 
  • 1 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh picked thyme leaves, several sprigs
  • Several drops hot sauce - I used Crystal
  • 1 tablespoon grill seasoning (recommended: Montreal Steak Seasoning by McCormick)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
I baked them in the toaster oven on 350ºF for about 25 minutes.  These were cooked thoroughly and perhaps just a little too well done for my taste.  But the beef was juicy and quite delicious.  I topped them with a little bit of cheese & salsa (I love, love, love Wegman's Pineapple Salsa).  Accompanied with baked seasoned fries, this was one deliciously unexpected meal!

Monday, April 4, 2011

French Onion Mac 'n Cheese

When I was working, a few free issues of Rachael Ray's Every Day with Rachael Ray were sent to our school.  I would peruse the magazine, but then they went on the bottom of our bakers rack to be looked at another time.  I was doing some early spring cleaning back in January when I came across this recipe for French Onion Mac 'n Cheese.  I really enjoy her recipes because they are usually fairly easy and quick, but never lack on taste.  And this absolutely fit into those categories and will definitely be added in to our rotation.

Ingredients, Adapted from Rachael Ray's Every Day with Rachael Ray
  • EVOO
  • 2 tablespoons butter 
  • 2 large onions, very thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pound whole wheat penne 
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup 1% milk
  • 3/4 pound munster cheese, shredded

In a skillet, heat EVOO on med-high heat.  Stir in onions, thyme & bay leaf for 5 minutes; season with salt & pepper.  Lower heat and cook until the onions are browned, 10-15 minutes.  Transfer to a plate and discard bay leaf.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add pasta and cook until al dente.  Drain and return to pot.
In reserved skillet, melt the 2 tbsp butter over medium heat.  Whisk in flour for 1 minute, then whisk in the chicken stock & milk and bring to a boil.  Season with salt & pepper.  Lower heat and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in cheese until melted.
Combine onions & sauce with pasta and toss well.

Recipe Swap:: Coq Au Vin

The latest swap was a chicken dish.  I submitted my favorite Cheesy Chicken Shells recipe!

I was given Coq Au Vin from Melissa's I Was Born to Cook.  Melissa has a fantastic cooking blog with many, many recipes.  This recipe was quite delicious.  It definitely required a bit more work than I like in weeknight recipes, however, we weren't able to make this dish over the weekend.  I omitted the cognac as we didn't have any on hand and Wegmans was wiped out of carrots (unless I wanted some awfully sad, whimpy carrots) when I went food shopping yesterday so those had to be left out as well.  Overall, this dish was good - definitey a great Sunday night or special occasion dish.  This also made me remember how much I love pearl onions and that we don't use them enough.  

Coq Au Vin
adapted from 
Ina Garten (she says the recipe serves 3, but it definitely could serve 5-6)

4 oz. bacon, cut into chunks
5 chicken leg quarters
4 chicken legs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lb. carrots, cut into chunks
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup Cognac
1 cup red wine
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
10 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons AP flour
1/2 pound frozen pearl onions
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon.
Meanwhile, lay the chicken out on paper towels and pat dry. Liberally sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. When the bacon is removed, brown the chicken pieces in batches in a single layer for about 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Remove the chicken to the plate with the bacon and continue to brown until all the chicken is done. Set aside.
Add the carrots, onions, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac and put the bacon, chicken, and any juices that collected on the plate into the pot. Add the wine, chicken stock, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just not pink. Remove from the oven and place on top of the stove.
Mash 1 tablespoon of butter and the flour together and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. In a medium saute pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and cook the mushrooms over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until browned. Add to the stew. Bring the stew to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste. Serve hot.

5k:: Paulette Steps Towards Cancer

Sometimes I doubt myself a little too much.  I felt really unprepared for this 5k which took place at Monmouth Battlefield State Park in Manalapan, NJ.  I was uncertain of the course and elevation, but knew it was hilly terrain because I grew up about 6 miles from the park and had visited the park before.

The morning of the run wasn't too great in our house - my husband wasn't feeling well and I had crazy nerves; I felt like a student who woke up to find out that the final was that day and didn't study.

But I knew this was for a great cause - colorectal cancer - and so my nerves had to be put behind me and many of my personal bests were achieved during this race.

As the race began, I had Scooter's Jump That Rock helping to pump adrenaline through me and over 200 of us were off running.  We did a quick loop, about 3/4 mile, and then a volunteer was directing the runners onto the dirt trails.  Yes, trails...sand, dirt, grass, through the woods, up and down hills.  And at that point, I couldn't turn back so I just had to trudge forward.  First mile, I hit at 11:50 - my fastest mile to date.   The second mile was about 25min & crossing the finish at 41:05.  My best 5k yet.

I was quite proud of my accomplishments during this run.  Running on pavement is what I am used to.  So to hit personal bests while running trails and especially trails that are uneven was awesome.

A definite proud moment of 2011!