My Saturday, One Step One Breath Summer Part 4

One of the biggest things I hear from people when I talk about how much weight I have lost is, “don’t you miss all the things you used to eat.”  The easy answer to this is, I still eat all the foods that I love, the key has been moderation.  However soe of the foods that I love, moderation of them leaves me with one or two unsatisfying bites!  What a waste of perfectly good calories.  The things people tend to miss the most when they go on a diet are things like comfort foods, high calorie high fat warm often gooey tastes of home.  Part of what we need to do is retrain ourselves to make better choices about these foods, and find healthier ways to enjoy them.

StacyThis is where the wonderful Stacy Klone comes in, she runs a company called KitchenWerks here in the Twin Cities that helps people make changes in their diets and houses that change their lives.  I have been to several of Stacy’s classes and have taken lots of things away from each of them.  This one was about making healthy comfort foods, so I was excited.  Stacy looked even fitter than the last time that I had seen her!  You see she like so many of us has also struggled with her weight so she can relate to all of us!

We started off class with a discussion about how restaurants wow you with portion size.  Things have gotten out of hand.  Plates come out with 4 or more servings on them, not to mention you are loaded up with things like rolls before hand.  There are things you can do, like asking for half of your entrée to be boxed up before it comes out that will help you consume fewer calories.  You can also split your food with your child, or friends, or spouse.  These are acceptable things to do.  We are being over fed!

We talked about what kids menu’s look like, and they are fairly standard in every restaurant.  Chicken fingers with fries, mac and cheese, hamburger, and grilled cheese spring to mind when I think of the kids menu’s and it really bothers me.  Growing up I ate what my parents ate.  Granted we didn’t go out much, but if they were having oven baked chicken and green beans that was what I was eating.  Restaurants these days cater to what they think kids will eat.  The truth is, as a parent you have to decide what your children eat.  If you are ordering healthy food, setting a good example, your child is going to want to emulate that, ask the restaurant to skip giving you the kids menu.  Your children wont know that the grilled cheese and mac and cheese is an option.

Speaking of mac and cheese, did you know it isn’t supposed to me a main dish?  It is a side-dish!  You should be eating it wish a protein and some veggies!  Stacy took to making us a healthy batch of macaroni and cheese from scratch!  That’s right folks, no more blue box.  Which is just fine with me, I don’t really care for the blue box, although I heard buzz that there is one coming out that has cauliflower in the powder to help up the healthy factor.  She told us how to freeze the mac and cheese off at a half-cooked stage so that it isn’t a leftover, it will be fresh when you finish cooking it!

Macaroni & Cheese

  • 2c uncooked regular or whole wheat elbow macaroni (8oz)
  • 2c skim milk (you can use up to 2% but she suggests nothing higher than that)
  • 2tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground red (cayenne) pepper
  • 2c shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese (8 oz)
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed
  • Other ingredients you might like to add to the sauce are onion powder, ancho chile powder, paprika, white pepper etc
  1. In a 3-quart saucepan, cook and drain macaroni as directed on the package.  Return to saucepan and cover to keep warm.  DO NOT RISE THE PASTA!
  2. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350F and lightly butter an 8-inch casserole dish.  In a 2-quart saucepan stir together the milk, flour, mustard, salt, and peppers with a wire whisk.  (this is where you can add in the onion powder and other spices if you like)  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture boils and starts to thicken.  Stir in shredded cheese until melted.
  3. Add cheese sauce to the cooked macaroni and mix well. (if you want to make this into frozen meals or side dishes this is the point where you dish it into freezer bags and label them with the date and contents.  Because you made this you know it will be good for 2-months in your own freezer)  Spoon into baking dish and sprinkle the flax seed on top.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edges are bubbly.  Enjoy!

This can be served with things like stewed tomatoes to help get in additional veggies for the day.  You can also toss things into the mac and cheese like peas and make this dish your very own!

After making the Mac & Cheese we also made some Turkey sausage using store-bought ground turkey, and me being the ever caution person I am did ask if the turkey had been checked against the recall list.  We were safe.  I was less impressed by the sausage recipe, mostly because I am not a huge fan of the taste of fennel seeds.  They are a little overwhelming to me, but if anyone would like the recipe for that I do have it and am willing to share it.  However you know what goes with sausage right? If you said spaghetti you would be right!  We also made sauce!

We made kicked up sauce that was full of hidden veggies!  The key to making homemade spaghetti sauce is actually not following a recipe.  I do it all the time.  I never buy the jarred Ragu or Prego.  I have been off that stuff for as long as I can remember.  It just tastes too… sweet and processed.  We started off with a 16.9 ounce can of diced tomatoes and put the whole can right into the blender.  Juice and all! You want to look for a can of diced tomatoes that has less than 10% DV of sodium and less than 5% DV of sugar.  To this we added some rehydrated onion.  That’s right, we took those dried onions that you can buy in the store, 2 heaping tablespoons of them, and added some water to them and they sat for a while to rehydrated, plopped them right on in, a sprinkle of dried oregano, 5 cloves of fresh garlic, but you can use the kind that comes out of the jar in the fridge, its okay to cheat!

This is where things got interesting.  We took 2 cups of spinach… do you know how much spinach that is… okay it cooks down to be itty bitty but still… that plus two springs of basil and rolled it up and cut it into a chiffonade.  You could smell the basil throughout the entire classroom.  The spinach got plopped right into the blender with the tomatoes and we started to blend it up!  as soon as the color started to change and things started moving it was done.  You can blend it as smooth or as chunky as you want.  Don’t worry about that green color, as you heat it up just a bit in the pan the air comes out and it turns red!  AMAZEBALLS! Once it is in the pan being heated you can adjust the spices as you need to.  I used to try to make enough sauce to freeze a quart off (It will hold for 3 months in your freezer) so I had a second servings worth.  I am a HUGE sauce person.

cookinSo bring on the spaghetti right?  Wrong!  There was no pasta to serve this wonderful sauce and sausage over.  Instead we had the opportunity to expand our horizons and try some alternatives.  We tried the sauce over romaine lettuce, and over broccoli slaw.  It wasn’t bad, but  didn’t really care for it.  I know I could not get away with serving these alternatives to my family or friends.  I could however serve it over spaghetti squash.  We didn’t do this there but I have done that and enjoyed it.  The point is that you can think outside the box.  Also remember that a serving of pasta sauce is 1/2 cup! For those of us that are sauce junkies that 1 cup scoop is two servings so keep that in mind.  (I am okay with two servings of a homemade sauce for sure, hello veggies!)

These are great, but what about chicken fingers, seriously who can live without them?  There are tons of recipes out there for cereal coated chicken fingers, and to be honest they just haven’t wowed me.  I was fully prepared to be disappointed with just another mediocre chicken strip that tasted awful.  Boy was I headed into this with the wrong attitude!

Ginger Gone Nutty Chicken Strips

  • 4 Chicken breasts cut into strips no wider than 2 fingers
  • 3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 c cashews (or almonds or peanuts)
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350F.  Place flaxseed, cashews, ginger salt and pepper into a food processor and grind into a meal that resembles espresso powder.  Put mix onto a plate and coat chicken in it. (you can freeze the coated chicken strips at this point and use them like you would any frozen chicken strip)  Place the coconut oil on a cookie sheet and put it into the oven to make it melt.  (coconut oil is solid at room temperature and looks like Crisco, but will melt when it gets warm) After a few minutes the oil will melt you can put the chicken pieces on the cookie sheet in the oil and bake them for 20 minutes.  Because the strips are no bigger than 2 fingers they should cook in about 20 minutes.  The coconut oil provides a slightly sweet flavor, but not overwhelmingly so.  You can change-up the spices in the recipe and add different herbs and spices to change the flavor.  Like any other recipe this is just a starting point and tastes WAY better than any cereal coating I ever tried! Any leftover coating mixture must be thrown away though because it came into contact with raw chicken.

The last thing we created is something I have actually made twice since Saturday and that is healthy Pizza! Really pizza is all about cleaning out the fridge.  Take whatever veggies and proteins you have laying around, slice them up and toss them on top of some kind of bread right?  Right!  We took sandwich things and a product called lavash, from a company called Joseph’s (which I adore, I have used it before)  however you can also make these pizzas with FlatOut bread.  Put whatever you want your sauce to be, whether it is tomato based or just Olive Oil and some spices and top it with your tasty treats.  Bake in a 450F oven for about 5 mins and you are golden!  A key thing to keep in mind about these pizzas are less is more.  If you put too much on top of your pizza it will become soggy and mushy and messy.  I bake my lavash pizza on parchment paper because I don’t have a pizza stone or silpat.  The wetter your pizza is the more likely it is going to be to stick so please keep that in mind.

Some of my favorite healthy pizza toppings are: onions, mushrooms, turkey pepperoni, banana peppers, pineapple, spinach, broccoli, and fresh garlic.  Remember though pizza can be whatever you want to make it!
Unless you are Jen, When they were making pizzas, I kinda had a moment of I need to have a pizza I can eat which means No basil no turkey on it.  I have been super good about tracking how many calories I ingested since starting the BodyMedia Fit tracker and I really wanted to refrain from the turkey, and I just plain am not a huge basil person.  Jen was sweet enough to make her group pizza (which she declared to be the best, and I would agree!) without the turkey and without the basil!

Jen did an amazing job putting this event together, like she always does.  Everyone that presented did an amazing job.  It was incredible to meet Mary, and so good to see Stacy again.  I am always happy to see my old friends again, and meet new ones.  I just wish there was more time!  Why is there never enough time?  I have an idea in my mind… the wheels are turning… creaking.  We shall see what happens.

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