Monday, October 24, 2011

Mexican Fall Chili


First off, I want to thank all of my loyal fans who stuck with me through my drought!  It's amazing how time flies when you get busy (and a bit burnt out too).  Was I burnt out on cooking?  Definitely not.  I was stretching myself to post once a week and it just became too much.  So instead of scaling back, which would have been the smart thing to do, I took a hiatus.

What better day to beginning posting again then on FOOD DAY!  Today, October 24th, is FOOD DAY as created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  It's all about healthy, real food being readily available to every American. I encourage you to do your part and ask congress to support FOOD DAY's goals by signing a letter to congress on their home page.  If you want to check out events in your area, click here to enter your zip code. 

Now onto a new favorite of ours - Mexican Winter Chili.  I'm cheating a bit since it isn't even close to winter, but I would call this a fall chili more so than winter.   Everything about it screams (BOO!) fall, from the color all the way to the ingredients.  Another misleading fact is the name...there are actually no beans in this chili at all.  The chili-like consistency is created through the use of pureed pumpkin.  I look at this dish as jazzed up comfort food to enjoy on a brisk fall day.  The addition of a poblano chili pepper (sold in most stores under the incorrect name of a pasilla pepper) gives it a warm spiciness that isn't overbearing but complimentary.  You can find the recipe at the link above, but after tasting as I cooked, I upped the amount of all spices (except for the garlic powder and cocoa powder) and made a few adjustments below.  The picture does not do this dish justice but it really does look like this (unfortunately).  One taste, however, and you'll be hooked.
Mexican "Fall" Chili
adapted slightly from Better Homes & Gardens

1 - 1 1/4 lbs boneless pork shoulder, cut into bit size pieces, or buy pork stew meat if available
2 TBL olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large fresh poblano pepper, finely chopped
1 large red pepper, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
18 ounces chicken broth
1 15 ounce can pureed pumpkin
1/4 cup whipping cream
Fresh cilantro
(Note: The amounts for the spices is approximate since I didn't exactly measure - taste as you go remembering you can always add more but not less!)

In a Dutch oven cook and stir pork in hot oil over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until browned. Stir in onion, poblano, and sweet pepper. Cook and stir 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in cocoa powder, cumin, garlic powder, cinnamon, and cayenne. Add broth. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until pork is tender.

Stir in pumpkin, cream, and salt and black pepper to taste. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer 5 minutes. Top with fresh cilantro. Makes 4 (1-1/4 cup) servings.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Monday Morsel - Cadbury Creme Eggs and Healthy Recipe Links

Weekly Monday Report:

Pounds Lost = 0
Total pounds lost =8
# of Diet Cokes Consumed = 4
# of Times Exercised = 0 (except walking the streets of New York)

Uh-oh.  It's that time of year where the stores are filled with one of my archenemies - the Cadbury Creme Egg.  My numbers aren't bad due to those sinful chocolate eggs, but rather due to my time in New York.  I'm not too disappointed since honestly, I thought it would be worse.  I'm back on track this week and hope to make great strides...except for those darn delectable eggs. 
I'm not sure what it is about them - their milk chocolate exterior, their insanely sweet fondant interior, or their similarity to an actual egg - but they draw me in.  It's one of the first signs of spring when I see the colorful foil wrappers calling out to me from the store shelves.  I'm glad I live in America.  I guess the eggs in the UK are even bigger - 40 grams compared to 34 grams in America and Canada.  Less calories = less guilt! 
Last night (after cooking some healthy hard boiled eggs) I introduced the creme egg to Ryan.  We each had half and reveled in the art of this chocolate.  The thick milk chocolate shell.  The fondant filling that oozes when you bite into it.  The brightness of the white and yellow center.  Maybe I should start counting creme eggs consumed just like I do diet cokes! 

Moving onto something healthy...the Eat.Live.Be topic for this week is Recommended Reading - what resources help with your healthy goals?  There are tons of great websites out there but remembering to check them routinely doesn't work for me.  Instead, I sign up for their newsletters.  I realize people shy away from signing up since it's yet "another email", but that's really the only way I'll read what the website is producing.  If I'm not interested in the topic or the recipe, it's a quick and easy delete.  So here are some of my favorites and I would love to hear about others, so please do share!

Health - click the green Newsletter icon in the top right corner
My Recipes - click the "subscribe to our newsletters" link on the right hand side
Eating Well - click on the check-boxes on the right hand side under "Free Newsletters"

Please join me and the other ELB bloggers on the journey to better health!

Sarah at Cucina Bella
Cate at Sweetnicks
Maris at In Good Taste
Chris at Mele Cotte
Faith at Bon Appetit
Kristen at Dine and Dish
Emily at The Anderson Crew
Joanne at Eats Well With Others
Casey at The Starnes Family
Patsy at Friends, Family and Food
Tri-Fit Mom at Tri-Fit Mom
Claire at Cooking is Medicine
Allison at Sweet Flours
Jen at NJ Epicurean
Jenna at Stop, Drop, and Blog
Rivki at Healthy Eating for Ordinary People
Sarah at Sarah’s Sweet Creations
Denise and Lenny at Chez Us

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Monday Morsel - Live from New York

No weigh in this week.  A girl deserves a break every now and then, right?  I'm in New York, my food mecca, and happy there is no scale to be found.  This isn't entirely true since there is a scale in the gym, but it's not mine, so I'm not getting on it.  If it weighed me more, then I'll just be bummed, and if it weighed me less, then I may take that as a license to eat more!  Either way, I can't see it being a good idea. 

Here are some reason's why:

Tequila Snowcones (Strawberry, Tamarind, and Hibiscus) at Zengo
Prosciutto Wrapped Shrimp "Panzanella" and Steak Flatbread with portabella mushrooms, caramelized onion, red cabbage, and gorgonzola at Cask
Truffle Mac n' Cheese at Cask

This week's Eat.Live.Be topic is about portion control.  I didn't think I really used the idea of portion control, but in some round about way, I do.  I don't measure each meal I eat, but rather focus on portion control for the entire day.  As you may remember, my weight loss technique that works for me is to limit what I eat during the day, so that I can fully enjoy the evening meal.  If you would like something more concrete, here's a fun quiz from Women's Health Magazine on portion control! 


Please join me and the other ELB bloggers on the journey to better health!

Sarah at Cucina Bella
Cate at Sweetnicks
Maris at In Good Taste
Chris at Mele Cotte
Faith at Bon Appetit
Kristen at Dine and Dish
Emily at The Anderson Crew
Joanne at Eats Well With Others
Casey at The Starnes Family
Patsy at Friends, Family and Food
Tri-Fit Mom at Tri-Fit Mom
Claire at Cooking is Medicine
Allison at Sweet Flours
Jen at NJ Epicurean
Jenna at Stop, Drop, and Blog
Rivki at Healthy Eating for Ordinary People
Sarah at Sarah’s Sweet Creations
Denise and Lenny at Chez Us

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Monday Morsel - TJ's Omega Trek Mix with Cranberries and Carob

Carob - a legume from the Ceratonia siliqua tree
Weekly Monday Report:

Pounds Lost = 0
Total pounds lost =8
# of Diet Cokes Consumed = 2
# of Times Exercised = 1 (maybe 2...does dancing all night at a club count?)

Yesterday's scale was much kinder.  For some reason, I was down 2 pounds yesterday compared to today.  The numbers would make you think I gorged myself on Sunday, but honestly I didn't!  Exercise-wise, not so great either, but I failed to actually schedule it in my calendar.  That seemed to work the week prior, so I'm going to attempt to do that again this week.  Although, with a sprained ankle, some exercise components may have to take a back seat for a bit.
The Eat.Live.Be. topic for this week is a "Healthy Grab-and-Go Snack".  I have so many, but my favorite at the moment is Trader Joe's Omega Trek Mix with Omega Fortified Cranberries.  It is scrumptious.  I realize any trail mix isn't necessarily low in calories, but just a handful is so filling, that it ties me over for a good amount of time.  The way the package comes, it includes almonds, walnuts, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), pecans, pistachios, and cranberries.  It's not all that heavy on the walnuts or pecans, but more so on the pepitas and pistachios.  Perfect for me...well, almost.

When I want to take it up a notch, I add carob chips.  Carob comes from an evergreen shrub and is a member of the pea family.  Carob chips are healthier than chocolate chips in that they have more dietary fiber and more protein.  In addition, they are higher in calcium, lower in fat, and high in potassium.  Carob has a lot of claims to fame, but I tend to wonder how much you need to eat in order to reap theses benefits:
  • Improves digestion and lowers cholesterol levels in the blood
  • Treats dirarrhea
  • Does not contain caffiene, so better than chocolate for people with high blood pressure
  • Regular consumption helps in the prevention of lung cancer
  • Vitamin E in carob helps in treating cough, flu, and anemia
  • Carob pod husks are chewed by singers to clear the voice and throat
If memory serves me correctly, I first encountered carob chips at a young age during a trip to our local frozen yogurt shop.  As for yogurt flavors, although I would try their latest and greatest, I routinely ended up with vanilla yogurt (I know, boring) and topped it with crunchy carob chips.  I've never been a huge chocolate fan.  Carob is like my own private, chocolate-like indulgence since I seem to be alone in my appreciation of carob.  The Omega Trek Mix is wonderful all on it's own, but to also satisfy a sweet tooth every now and then, the addition of carob is a perfect match.

Please join me and the other ELB bloggers on the journey to better health!

Sarah at Cucina Bella
Cate at Sweetnicks
Maris at In Good Taste
Chris at Mele Cotte
Faith at Bon Appetit
Kristen at Dine and Dish
Emily at The Anderson Crew
Joanne at Eats Well With Others
Casey at The Starnes Family
Patsy at Friends, Family and Food
Tri-Fit Mom at Tri-Fit Mom
Claire at Cooking is Medicine
Allison at Sweet Flours
Jen at NJ Epicurean
Jenna at Stop, Drop, and Blog
Rivki at Healthy Eating for Ordinary People
Sarah at Sarah’s Sweet Creations
Denise and Lenny at Chez Us

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Monday Morsel - Tips from Experts and Horseradish Crusted Salmon

Weekly Monday Report:

Pounds Lost = 2
Total pounds lost = 8
# of Diet Cokes Consumed = 1
# of Times Exercised =4

The numbers are all going in the right direction!  I'm truly proud of myself for my (lack of) diet coke consumption and really think I've found the answer, albeit a simple one - just don't buy diet coke.  It works, so I'm sticking with it.
The Eat.Live.Be. topic for this week, "Straight from the Experts", really had me drawing a blank.  There are so many diet tips, dos and don'ts, latest fads and trends, that I wasn't sure what I wanted to focus on.  I Googled for a few days and came up with some gems.



  • "The second day of a diet is always easier than the first.  By the second day, you're off it."  Jackie Gleason
  • "A diet is the penalty we pay for exceeding the feed limit."  Author Unknown
  • "The cardiologist's diet: if it tastes good, spit it out."  Author Unknown
  • "In the Middle Ages, they had guillotines, stretch racks, whips and chains.  Nowadays, we have a much more effective torture device called the bathroom scale."  Stephen Phillips
Everything I found had a common theme that I was all too used to:  Dieting is bad...we have to deny our selves of what we want in order to loose weight...the number on the scale tells us how bad or good we've been.  Then it hit me.  Just keep it simple - Eat Less, Move More.  This isn't some sort of revelation, but more of a scientific principal.  Many people have come up with this philosophy on dieting, so it's hard to say the idea came from one particular expert or another.

I no longer subscribe to any dieting principals that have to do with denying yourself.  Not that my way of dieting is the healthiest, but it fits my lifestyle and I loose weight when I adhere to it - a small, healthy breakfast, snacking on nuts, fruit, vegetables during the day, and enjoying my evening dining experience with family and friends.  I will be the first one to say that I love food, but I love it immensely more when I'm sharing it with those I love. 

To quote an expert, I choose Roger Ebert; a man who can no longer eat, drink, or speak.  He provided me with a wealth of inspiration for my 1st anniversary blog post, and I'm determined to keep his sentiment alive by sharing it with as many people that I can.

From Roger Ebert's blog post titled Nil by mouth:

"So that's what sad about not eating.  The loss of dining, not the loss of food.  It may be personal, but for, unless I'm alone, it doesn't involve dinner if it doesn't involve talking.  The food and drink I can do without easily.  The jokes, gossip, laughs, arguments and shared memories I miss.  Sentences beginning with the words, "Remember that time?"...So yes, it's sad.  Maybe that's why I enjoy this blog.  You don't realize it, but we're at dinner right now."  

I want to end by sharing a much-loved recipe in our household.  Its low on ingredients but high in flavor.  Horseradish, thyme and parsley, mixed with panko breadcrumbs that encrust a simple piece of salmon.  It's a perfect package since the crusty exterior wonderfully compliments the soft and moist salmon interior.  I came across this Horseradish Crusted Salmon recipe on Jennifer's blog, Savoring the Thyme.  She references her recipe back to a Good Housekeeping recipe which also includes a refreshing vinegar-based salad of English cucumbers and spinach.  I've tried that as well, and it compliments the salmon beautifully. 
I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do but more importantly, enjoy the company you are sharing it with.  Please join me and the other ELB bloggers on the journey to better health!


Sarah at Cucina Bella
Cate at Sweetnicks
Maris at In Good Taste
Chris at Mele Cotte
Faith at Bon Appetit
Kristen at Dine and Dish
Emily at The Anderson Crew
Joanne at Eats Well With Others
Casey at The Starnes Family
Patsy at Friends, Family and Food
Tri-Fit Mom at Tri-Fit Mom
Claire at Cooking is Medicine
Allison at Sweet Flours
Jen at NJ Epicurean
Jenna at Stop, Drop, and Blog
Rivki at Healthy Eating for Ordinary People
Sarah at Sarah’s Sweet Creations
Denise and Lenny at Chez Us

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Monday Morsel - Bison


Weekly Monday Report:

Pounds Lost = 0 (damn Super Bowl)
Total pounds lost = 6
# of Diet Cokes Consumed = 2
# of Times Exercised = 3

Can you believe it?  Only 2 diet cokes!  I honestly don't care that much about not loosing any weight this week since I really did well, minus the Super Bowl feast.  I couldn't be happier with myself for not buying any diet cokes.  The only 2 I had were fountain diet cokes from a store.  It is like a glorious treat to me since I actually prefer fountain diet coke over cans or bottles.  The perfect way to still enjoy my non-healthy indulgence and keep my consumption in check.  Still drinking the tea as well so all is good on that front.

Bison
The North American Buffalo.  Otherwise known as bison.  Not the prettiest-looking animals, but definitely one of the tastiest.  And with a mighty fine nutritional profile.  Believe it or not, it can be the leanest meat out there, as long as you buy grass-fed bison.
 A lot of people say that bison has a richer flavor than beef, which I think tends to scare people off.  Richer tends to equate to "gamey-er", which is totally not where the taste is at.  It's actually a clean and sweeter version of beef.  One of those things you just have to try and then you'll understand. 

I have so much I want to share on the topic of buffalo, that I've decided to break it down into bullets (hopefully this doesn't remind you too much of a corporate presentation):
  • Indian Head Buffalo Nickels.  I've always had an affinity for buffalo nickels.  Not really sure why, but I do keep them should they cross my path.  Supposedly there are some 3-legged buffalo, circa 1937, coins out there, but I've heard they are quite rare.  I'm still on the lookout.
  • The buffalo of Catalina Island.  Another area of fascination for me, I've always found it intriguing that they are roaming bison on Santa Catalina Island, California.  Given that I've grown up in SoCal, I've visited these buffaloes a few times now.  I wouldn't think an animal so unattractive could be so majestic, but in person, they really are.  So how did bison end up on an island in the Pacific Ocean?  Pretty simple answer, actually.  They (14 in total) were brought there in 1924 for the filming of a silent movie, The Vanishing American.  The buffalo were allowed to remain and flourished.  Due to some in-breeding, they have introduced more buffalo to the existing herd and they now comprise an important role in the cultural fabric of the island. 
  • Bison Brew.  In my search for everything buffalo, I happened upon a brewery in Berkeley, CA that delivers a mighty fine product.  Luckily, we live in a craft beer mecca, and Mark was able to go out that same day and locate Bison Brew beer at our Best Damn Beer Shop in San Diego.  Bison Brewery concocts certified organic beer with tantalizing flavor profiles.  Honey Basil Ale?  Wow.  I actually think I saw a green tinge on the top layer when the sunlight hit it.  As I write this, I'm exciting my palate with their Imperial Brown Ale.  Many more I have to try...
Must move onto food now.
  • Turkish Pasta with Bison Sauce.  What a beautiful combination of flavors.  Between the aromatic spices such as coriander, cumin, paprika, and cinnamon, combined with pungent pomegranate juice and the sweetness of carrots, this sauce marries perfectly with our much-loved ground bison meat.  Stir in a full cup of chopped cilantro and top with Greek yogurt.  This is a great "beginner bison dish" since the flavor of the meat isn't as pronounced as it would be with a simple bison steak.
  • Bison steak.  True red meat bliss.  We've bought grass-fed bison steaks at Costco (2 per pack and not all too cheap, but big enough to split one for 2 people).  After sprinkling them with a bit of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, I sear the steak in a cast iron skillet, just until rare.  I really encourage you to try this meat on the rare side so you can enjoy it's full flavor.  The buffalo is naturally resistant to disease and grow faster than other animals so antibiotics and hormones aren't part of their regimen.  
I definitely have a passion for all things bison.  However, I have my limits, but if you have a daring palate and an adventurous spirit, you can check out GrubGrade's post on Bison Mountain Oysters.  Yeah...no thanks...
 Moving on to Eat. Live. Be., the topic for this week is "Rut Rescue 101".  What do I do to pull myself out of a rut?  A few main things come to mind, but not as many as I hoped.  Please do share yours since I would like to add them to my repertoire! 

1.  Don't let an off day get me down.  For this reason (and this reason only), I love the mornings.  I like the focused feeling I have when I wake up to start a brand new day.  If I've had an over the top eating episode the day prior, I focus on getting back on track the following day.  The thought of a new day keeps me motivated on the goal at hand.

2.  I research healthy food options.  I like to eat and I won't deny that.  So if I am in a rut, I search out new healthy items to try.  Trade Joe's, Henry's, and Whole Foods are a good places for that.  In fact, in an upcoming post, I must share with you all the glorious snack bar, Larabar. :)

3.  My closet.  Honestly, this is quite a good tactic.  Don't we all have articles of clothing hanging in our closet that we either can't or won't wear right now due to how we look in it?  When I'm in a rut or down on my progress, I head into my closet for a look-see.  Oh look, that cute top that I've only worn ONCE because now I'm too heavy to wear it.  Oh and those jeans!  I can't seem to button them anymore, but I'm holding onto them since they are such great jeans!  Yep, that does it for me. 

Please join me and the other ELB bloggers on the journey to better health!

Sarah at Cucina Bella
Cate at Sweetnicks
Maris at In Good Taste
Chris at Mele Cotte
Faith at Bon Appetit
Kristen at Dine and Dish
Emily at The Anderson Crew
Joanne at Eats Well With Others
Casey at The Starnes Family
Patsy at Friends, Family and Food
Tri-Fit Mom at Tri-Fit Mom
Claire at Cooking is Medicine
Allison at Sweet Flours
Jen at NJ Epicurean
Jenna at Stop, Drop, and Blog
Rivki at Healthy Eating for Ordinary People
Sarah at Sarah’s Sweet Creations
Denise and Lenny at Chez Us

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Monday Morsel - Tea Time

Weekly Monday Report:

Pounds Lost = 3

Total pounds lost = 6
# of Diet Cokes Consumed =  5 (pretty good, right?)

# of Times Exercised = 0 :(


5 diet cokes in 7 days is quite impressive for me.  How did I do it?!  Well, basically I ran out and just didn't bother to buy any more at the store.  Amazing how that works, isn't it?  It actually reminds me of when my son was potty trained.  Noticed I didn't say when "I" potty trained my son, but it was when the preschool did it for me.  In the morning, I dropped him off in diapers and when I picked him up, he was in underwear!  Yeah, it was some other kids underwear, but I tried not to focus on that in the moment.  They simply told him they ran out of diapers in his size so he would have to wear underwear.  He said okay and voila, Ryan was potty trained (minus a few accidents here and there).  We learn a lot from preschool and kindergarten - tools for the rest of our life!  I didn't realize that preschool teachings would work on me, but alas, they did.  At least so far.  I just wish I was three years old and not able to buy diet coke on my own : )  

Tea

I needed to replace the caffeine ladened diet coke with something.  My answer was tea.  I've never been a coffee drinker and I care not to start, so tea it would be.  I have enjoyed some tea in the past, but I'm rather partial to cold drinks.  When that hankering comes, I may have to try iced tea.  For now, I'm drinking what we have in the house, which is quite a wide variety of teas.  Why?  Because I've tried this tactic before.  I've read about the health benefits of tea, so of course I tried to be a regular consumer.  Whose to say it won't work this time?!  I don't believe I've ever made this much of a conscious effort to not buy diet coke, so hopefully I'll have several more tea drinking days ahead of me.  I'm really enjoying STASH Chai Green Tea right now.  It has such a clean taste and flavorful aroma.  
Of course I have mention a bit about foods made with green tea.  Green tea ice cream is fairly common, but I've never been much of a fan.  With my renewed appreciation for green tea, I will make a point to try some again.  But what about KitKat made with Green Tea?  Only in Japan, I'm afraid. 
This cake is just too beautiful not to share.  Some people might not like the idea of eating green cake, but the shade of green is so impressive and without any food coloring!  I've never purchased matcha (the green tea powder responsible for this), but I'm on a mission to find it.  Henry's or WholeFoods maybe?  I bet if Kermit tried this cake, he may find it easier bein' green. 


Let's just hope they don't start marketing this in the US or I might give in to temptation (yes, it's no calorie coke with green tea flavor).  I know there are a lot of tea connoisseurs out there, so please share with me your favorite teas!  I need to keep this new found healthy habit going. 

The topic this week for Eat. Live. Be. is "What is your favorite healthy change?".  It's a change I'm going to make right now.  I'm sure you all noticed my big fat zero for exercise this week.  It has to change.  I actually enjoy exercising, but just don't make the time for it.  Starting today, I'm scheduling exercise into my weekly calendar, just as I would any other meeting.  Working from home, I never take a true lunch break, so this will be my break - a one hour time slot for exercise.  Let's see if next week's exercise count goes up!  
Please join me and the other ELB bloggers on the journey to better health!

Sarah at Cucina Bella
Cate at Sweetnicks
Maris at In Good Taste
Chris at Mele Cotte
Faith at Bon Appetit
Kristen at Dine and Dish
Emily at The Anderson Crew
Joanne at Eats Well With Others
Casey at The Starnes Family
Patsy at Friends, Family and Food
Tri-Fit Mom at Tri-Fit Mom
Claire at Cooking is Medicine
Allison at Sweet Flours
Jen at NJ Epicurean
Jenna at Stop, Drop, and Blog
Rivki at Healthy Eating for Ordinary People
Sarah at Sarah’s Sweet Creations
Denise and Lenny at Chez Us