Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wednesday Taste Test Challenge: Breyer's YoCrunch 100-Calorie Yogurt

One of the healthy-eating changes that I've been trying to incorporate lately is eating/drinking more dairy products. I'm in my 40s, so I need to do all I can to keep my...ahem...older bones strong and healthy. I like skim milk, but I have to admit that I wasn't making it a priority in my daily diet. I've been making a real effort to have at least one...and preferably two...dairy products each day for the past couple of months. For me, an easy way to reach that goal is is to have yogurt for breakfast or for one of my snacks.

I tend to rotate between several favorites: Yoplait Light Thick & Creamy Key Lime Pie, Fiber One Key Lime (zero WW points!!), and Yo-Plus Light Vanilla Honey.  Last weekend, I had a coupon for Breyer's new YoCrunch 100-calorie I decided to give it a try. I had it for breakfast yesterday and thought it was pretty tasty. There were several different combinations of yogurt and crunchy toppings on store shelves, but I decided to try the strawberry yogurt with granola to sprinkle on top.

This yogurt is sweetened with a blend of sugar and Truvia, which is an all-natural zero-calorie sweetener that's made from the stevia plant. The yogurt has a nice creamy texture, and the granola stayed very crunchy. Together, it was a great flavor combination! The only complaint that I have about this yogurt is that the serving size is pretty small...about 1/3 of a cup. I think that it will make a great after-work snack, but I needed to add a granola bar to make it a satisfying breakfast. Bottom line: this yogurt won't replace Yoplait Light Thick & Creamy Key Lime Pie in my affections, but it is still quite tasty.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tuesday Food Corner: Salmon

This week's spotlight food is salmon, a food that tastes fantastic AND packs a huge nutritional punch. Salmon is a recent addition to my healthy kitchen. I had ordered salmon in restaurants before, but I had never actually cooked it at home until a couple of weeks ago. We enjoyed the delicate flavor so much that I decided to put salmon into regular dinner rotation in the kitchen at Casa Garcia!

Salmon is as nutritious as it is tasty!! A six-ounce serving contains 242 calories, 10 grams of fat, and a whopping 34 grams of lean protein. Yes...that's more fat than most seafood, but the fat in salmon is unsaturated and heart-healthy. Salmon is also high in Vitamin D and Omega-3 fatty acids. According to the Mayo Clinic, "There is evidence from multiple studies supporting intake of recommended amounts of [Omega-3s]...lowers triglycerides, reduces the risk of...heart attack, dangerous abnormal heart rhythms, and strokes...slows the buildup of..."hardening of the arteries", and lowers blood pressure slightly." That's a lot of health benefits for something that tastes so good!! 

A lot of people are afraid that salmon will taste "fishy," but I haven't found that to be the case. It stands up well to seasoning and breaks into large flakes with a fork. Last Friday, I tried a KILLER glazed salmon from Cooking Light. This is seriously the BEST recipe that I've tried in recent memory. It has a bit of heat from the Cajun spice blend, and the marinade makes a delicious glaze as the salmon cooks. The glaze is tangy and sweet, and it compliments the spice blend very well. I served this salmon with lowfat cheese grits and a strawberry/feta/field green salad. So...go buy some salmon and give this recipe a try!! My personal modifications to the recipe are noted below.

Bourbon-Glazed Salmon
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons bourbon (I used Wild Turkey)
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 garlic cloves, grated with a microplane
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 (6-ounce) skinless salmon fillets
1/2 tbs. olive oil (I added)
Chef Paul Prudhomme Seafood Magic (I added)
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions (I omitted)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted (I omitted)
(1) Combine the first 7 ingredients in a large Ziploc bag. Add fish to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator, turning occasionally. I marinated the fish for about 6 hours, but the recipe says 1.5 hours is sufficient.

(2) Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish liberally with Seafood Magic on one side. Add fish and marinade to pan, seasoned side down. While fish is cooking on the first side, sprinkle more Seafood Magic on the side that's facing up. Cook fish 4-5 minutes per side, or until the fillets flake easily when tested with a fork. 

(3) Place 1 fillet on each of 4 plates. Drizzle each serving with about 2 teaspoons remaining sauce in pan. Sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon green onions and 3/4 teaspoon sesame seeds (if using).

CALORIES 353 (36% from fat); FAT 14.1g (sat 3.2g,mono 6g,poly 3.6g); IRON 4.3mg; CHOLESTEROL 87mg; CALCIUM 41mg; CARBOHYDRATE 13g; SODIUM 281mg; PROTEIN 37.4g; FIBER 0.3g 
Weight Watchers Points = 7 

Saturday, April 3, 2010

These Things In My Head...Taking the Scenic Route

Happy Easter weekend to all! We're heading to Houston in a bit for a quickie trip home to see our families tomorrow for Easter, but I wanted to stop by here to post before I'm away from the computer for the next 24 hour or so. I'm sitting here coloring my hair as I type. Hey...I don't have any kiddos to color Easter eggs for, so I figure coloring my hair is the next best thing!!

Tomorrow is a planned foodie splurge for us...a BIG one! We're going to Easter Jazz Brunch at Brennan's of Houston. The landmark restaurant burned down during Hurricane Ike in 2008 and recently reopened to the delight of many Houston foodies. We had our wedding reception in their ballroom in 2003, so this place is near and dear to our hearts. We're so excited to have scored one of the most sought-after reservations in town. I fully intend to savor every single high-calorie bite of this fabulous three-course meal tomorrow...and I plan to do it with no regrets and no guilt!

As you know by now, moderation is one of my mantras when it comes to losing weight...and it's been working pretty well for me so far. I'm down nearly 10 pounds since February, and I haven't felt the least bit deprived thanks to a few planned, strategic splurges along the way. I've had some people point out to me that I could be down even MORE weight if I'd not taken these "foodie detours" along they way. They're right, I suppose...but this weight loss journey I'm on wouldn't have been nearly as fun!!!

I'm a realist. Birthday cakes and celebration dinners in restaurants are going to happen. Life doesn't stop just because I'm trying to lose some weight. I stay within my Weight Watchers daily/weekly points 90% of the time, but I also have a few splurge meals here and there. They help keep me sane...rather than let them derail me, I find them refreshing. I enjoy a splurge meal...or even splurge DAY for that matter...for what it is. The key is that I get back on track immediately afterward. I refuse to use a splurge as a reason to give up on my ultimate goal of losing weight.

I guess you could say that I'm taking the "scenic route" rather than the expressway when it comes to losing weight!! It might take me a bit longer to get to my ultimate goal weight, but I guarantee that I'll enjoy the experience of getting there a whole lot more.

P.S. I tried a KILLER salmon recipe last night...Bourbon Glazed Salmon from Cooking Light. I served it with garlic-cheese grits and my signature strawberry/field green/feta salad. Come back next week for the recipe. I meant to take pictures, but it smelled so good that I started eating dinner and forgot. Spoken like a true foodie!!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wendy's Toolbox: Cast Iron and Enamel Dutch Oven

This week's essential kitchen tool is the cast iron and enamel Dutch oven. A Dutch oven is a versatile cooking pot that every cook should have in their arsenal. They have a myriad of uses in the kitchen...I use mine at least once a week. They're excellent for making soups, stews, and gumbos. They also make even the toughest cuts of meat cook up tender and juicy in the oven!

Why specifically an enamel-over-cast iron Dutch oven? Cast iron evenly distributes and retains heat, so your food cooks very evenly. The enamel coating is nearly non-stick, so all you have to do is spray it with a bit of non-stick spray. That saves tons of fat and calories. The enamel also makes clean up a breeze!

My Dutch oven of choice is my true-blue Le Creuset 5.5-quart that I received for a wedding present in 2003. Le Creuset products are made in France and can be purchased at most major retailers, including Williams-Sonoma. A 5.5-quart oven like the one pictured above costs approximately $235. Yes, that's a bit steep...but I consider my Le Creuset pieces an investment. They're extremely well made, and they're durable. They're designed to last a lifetime.  If you have a Le Creuset outlet near you (there's one at the outlets in San Marcos), you can sometimes find excellent sales on Dutch ovens of all sizes.

Dutch ovens don't have to be expensive, though. I saw this 5-quart enamel-over-cast iron Tramontina Dutch oven at Walmart for less than $50 the other day:
Lodge also manufactures a non-enamel cast iron Dutch oven that ranges in price from $40-90, depending on the size you buy. Whatever your budget, if you don't own a Dutch oven...go out and BUY ONE soon!! You'll wonder how you ever lived without one in your kitchen. If you already own a Dutch oven, let me know what you use it most for.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Taste Test Challenge: Special K Lowfat Granola

This week's taste test spotlight is on Special K's new lowfat granola. I had a $1 off coupon, so I decided to buy a box and give it a try. I don't usually eat granola as cereal since you don't get much bang for your caloric buck. But...I like to sprinkle it on top of a bowl of fresh fruit and yogurt...and it can be a great snack right out of the box!

Granola has long been touted as a healthy, tasty food. It usually contains oats, honey, nuts, and dried fruit...all healthy foods to be sure. The trouble is that most granolas pack a TON of excess fat and sugar in a fairly small serving size. The average granola contains 10 grams of fat per serving, especially if it contains lots of nuts or coconut! Thankfully, the folks who make Special K have come to the rescue with a lower-fat granola that tastes GREAT!

The crunchy granola clusters are sweet, but not overly so compared to many other granolas that I've tried. You can definitely taste the oats and a hint of a vanilla in each bite. A half-cup of this crunchy, honey-kissed granola contains 190 calories, 3 grams of fat, and a whopping 5 grams of fiber (or 3 WW points). Beware: the 1/2-cup serving size is smaller than most cereals. If you were to eat a full cup of this granola with a cup of skim milk for breakfast, you'd consume nearly 500 calories (8 WW points!!). So, it's VITAL to measure a correct portion size of this granola to make sure you don't inadvertently overdo it!!

I'm planning to serve 1/4 cup of this yummy granola sprinkled on top of a fresh strawberry and yogurt parfait for dessert tonight. It should add lots of crunchy goodness for only a few calories and points!!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday Special Edition: Alexia House Party...and the Winning Dip Recipe

I'm taking a break from my usual Monday banter to give you the scoop about the Alexia House Party that I hosted last night. We invited my brother-in-law and sister-in-law over for dinner to try some yummy, healthy Alexia products. We ate spicy turkey and provolone burgers and tried three different Alexia sides: Spicy Sweet Potato Fries, Waffle Fries, and Onion Rings. All three were delicious, but it was especially nice to find a healthier, lowfat version of onion rings that bake up super-crispy in the oven in less than 30 minutes.

I served three dipping sauces on the side as well: salsa ranch, spicy chipotle ketchup, and the winning dip recipe from last week's contest. The salsa ranch is super simple: stir together 1/3 cup each medium chunky salsa and lowfat ranch dressing in a small bowl. The chipotle ketchup was a snap to whip up as well: it was 3/4 cup ketchup with chipotle chili powder, grated garlic, and Crystal hot sauce stirred in until the desired spice level was reached. The winning dip recipe was Zesty Lime Dip. This tangy dip went very well with the fries and onion rings, but I think it would be great with baked chips or crudite as well. As promised, here's the recipe:

Zesty Lime Dip

  • 8-ounce container light sour cream (I prefer Daisy brand)
  • Juice and zest of two key limes
  • 1 tablespoon dried cilantro
  • One clove garlic, finely chopped (I grated it with a microplane)
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2-3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • Garlic Tabasco to taste
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours to allow flavors to combine. This dip can be made the day before as it tastes even better the next day.

I have some of this delicious dip left, so I'm using it as a topping on tonight's dinner of chicken fajita tacos...yum! Stay tuned for more giveaways and contests in the coming weeks. In the meantime, let me know if you try any Alexia products and what you think about them!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

These Things In My Head...

So...what thoughts are swirling around in my head this weekend? Well...I went to my local Weight Watchers center for my monthly weigh in this morning. The results were good: I'm down 4.8 pounds for March and a total of 8.8 pounds since the first week in February. Go me!! Since I'm a Lifetime member (meaning I've been to the Promised Land of "at goal weight" before), I only have to go to a center to weigh in once a month, which is totally FINE with me.

I have what you might term as a love-hate relationship...mostly on the side of hate...with scales. In my younger days, I used to obsess over seeing a certain number on the scale and fret over minor daily weight fluctuations. Over time, I've managed to break my dependence on the scale.  I still know women who weigh themselves daily...or even several times a day. I decided a long time ago that I didn't want to be a slave to the scale and base my weight loss success solely on its whims.  So...I have a confession to make: I don't even OWN a scale, and I haven't for several years.

Eegads...the horror!! My monthly weigh in is perfect for me because it helps me gauge how my weight loss efforts are going over the course of a month. I no longer fret over daily fluctuations in my weight. It's a hard habit to break, but the scale isn't my only measure of success! I also go by how my pants are fitting...much looser these days, thank you very much! I also have more energy in the evenings since incorporating more fruit and veggies and lowfat dairy products into my eating.

I know my approach may seem a bit radical, but I have to tell you that it is SO LIBERATING to not be mentally tied to the messages that the scale gives me when I step on it at any given time.  While I was excited to hear that I had lost nearly 5 pounds this month, I knew that I had lost some weight before I even stepped on the scale. That's because I comfortably wore a pair of pants this morning that were too tight in February, and I can feel my jawbone starting to become more defined when I put on my makeup in the mornings.

I know that not everyone reading my blog is at the point where they feel comfortable tossing out their bathroom scale...and that's ok. I just wanted to give y'all some food for thought and encourage you to reflect on your relationship with the scale and the messages it gives you. If you weigh yourself daily, maybe reduce that to once a week for a start. But, in my opinion, it's vital for us to break our reliance on the scale as our sole measure of weight loss success.

Yep...that's what's on my mind today! I'd love to hear your thoughts on this fascinating topic of scales and our relationship with them. Be sure to come back tomorrow for the scoop on my Alexia Home Party and the announcement of the dipping sauce recipe contest winner. Think cilantro lime...