Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Italian Quinoa Casserole

     This week I did a little bit of exploring into the super food quinoa. It's one of those grains that is highly recommended for vegetarians because it is one of the few places to get all 8 amino acids in one place. Usually to get complete proteins, vegetarians have to eat combinations like beans and rice. It is also full of other goodies like B vitamins and magnesium. Which, I just found out is good for people who suffer from migraines  Good to know as I've been known to be a migraine sufferer. Less so since I've embarked on this fitness journey though.

     Again, once confronted with something new I did some digging on the internet to find some inspiration that would hopefully pass my daughter's picky palate. This time I found a Pizza Quinoa Casserole. It looked more like a side dish than main course though so I added a healthy dose of veggies including mushrooms, zucchini, red pepper, and onion. I also cheated a bit and used premixed Italian/pizza seasoning.

   It's really a fairly simple and straightforward recipe to put together and doesn't use too many dishes. Perfect for a busy mid week meal! I was easily able to get this made up between my daughter getting home and rushing her off to Girl Scouts. With enough time, by the way, to let dinner settle before going for my Tuesday evening run.

     As for the taste? I really enjoyed it. Could have maybe used a bit more sauce, but as is is not unpleasant  My daughter thought it was alright, not something she'll mind eating as leftovers, but not one of the star dishes I've made within the last few weeks. It is also really filling, so as a side dish, you could probably get 8+ servings out of it.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Butternut Squash Mac&Cheese

     Since the beginning of this journey, my daughter has been begging for me to make one dish: Mac&Cheese. As with many young children, it is her favorite dish. And to be fair, it is vegetarian as well. But with many recipes coming in around 600 calories for a small serving, I just couldn't bring myself to make it. Until the internet lent me a hand...

     I've slowly been working on trying out new vegetables. As a kid, I hated almost all vegetables. If it wasn't carrots, cucumber, green peppers, onion, corn, or iceberg lettuce I was not having it. Those habits have followed me into my adult life and until a year or so ago it didn't bother me too much, I didn't feel deprived of anything. But nowadays I'm looking everywhere and seeing that these veggies I've previously shunned (some without even trying!) have quite a bit of value to my overall health. Take tonight's star vegetable... doctors and dietitians recommend it to control cholesterol and reduce weight. It's also full of vitamins A and complex B vitamins. Read all about it here! Anyway, I figured it was time I gave butternut squash a try. So with a rough outline of a recipe in hand, I set out to make a healthier mac&cheese.
     I did alter the original a little bit based on the comments and reviews and according to my own personal preferences. Fancy cheeses like Gruyere can be expensive and not as palatable to kids. Not to mention a little higher in fat. So I'm using some of my leftover low fat cheese from my chard quiche and some low fat smoked Gouda. Use whatever cheeses you like or have on hand though. I also removed the panko topping, I find it unnecessary. A few other small adjustments along the way and I'd say mine and the original are two different recipes.

     It was fairly simple to make up. If you have the time, you can reduce the dishes by cooking up your noodles, draining them, and rinsing with cold water then using the same pot to cook up the squash. But what's one more pot really? I also wish I had used my immersion blender to mix in the Gouda, as it looked a little lumpier that I had hoped. But it tasted great! Even my daughter liked it. To the point that she almost wanted to skip going out to eat leftovers! That's saying something! My friend that was joining us enjoyed it was well, so I'd say it received 6 thumbs up.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Slightly New Format...

   Sorry for the absence here. Work has been crazy and just started settling down. Sort of. Just getting settled into the busy season once again.

     Anyway, with the time off I've been thinking about what I can do to this blog to be slightly more informative. Such as actually writing down my recipes so you can make them at home. And with the power of technology I can even provide nutritional information! How awesome is that for everyone! Tonight's dinner was the first test run I've had with all this, and while it took a little longer to measure everything out in a way my app can understand it wasn't too bad and certainly something I'd be willing to do. Especially if doing so allows me (and thus you!) to better track my calorie intake and make better choices. On to the blogging!

     If you haven't heard of the nutritional powerhouse that is Swiss chard... you aren't alone. I only recently stumbled upon it myself. But it is high in vitamins A,C, and K, high in dietary fiber, and also high in protein. It also is a natural way to help control carbohydrate breakdown and blood sugar. For a more in depth look at all the health benefits, check out this site.

     With all those benefits  it's no surprise I decided to try and find a way to work this leafy green into my diet a little more often. Most preparations I've found online remind me of how I've seen spinach prepared, so I venture into chard territory with a slightly altered recipe from my childhood: Chard Cheese Pie. Or if it sounds more appealing, Crust-less Chard Quiche. 
Click to make it readable...
     It's a fairly simple recipe to make, fiveish simple steps and dinner will be on your plate! A few things I learned along the way though. You have to saute your chard enough to remove a good bit of the water, but not so much as to make it bitter. I under cooked it just a little bit and as a result there was a little bit of water in the bottom of my pie plate. The eggs were cooked perfectly, so I wasn't concerned about that. If you error on the side of caution like I did, it's all good. I rather have a little water than a bitter dish!

     Also, feel free to make additions or substitutions. It's a flexible recipe. Add mushrooms, spinach, peppers, bacon if you aren't going veggie... Egg Beaters instead of whole eggs. Almond milk, soy milk, or rice milk instead of skim. Use whatever cheese tickles your fancy.  I opted for 6 ounces of Cabot's Sharp Light Cheddar and 4 ounces of their Jalapeno Light Cheddar. I like a little zing in my dinner, but feel free to use whatever you have in house! I also seasoned mine with some Trader Joe's African Smoke Seasoning Blend. I love the flavors in that.

     This is mine, straight from the oven. I could have possibly even cooked it a bit longer to get more of that browned cheese flavor, but dinner was smelling good and everyone was getting hungry! I shared this dish with my parents as well as my daughter, and it went over fairly well. My parents loved it, my dad even took a second slice! My daughter... she liked the browned parts quite a bit, and after quick run through the microwave to help dry it out, she liked it well enough. Perhaps not a favorite dish for her, but not a least favorite either.

     Now, as promised nutritional values! Just some background on how these were calculated... I have a new app on my phone that I absolutely love called "Lose It!" In this app you can record what you eat and it will track your calories for you. With a little bit of information, it sets a budget for you to help you reach your goals. Mine for example are set to lose 2 pounds a week until I reach 150 pounds. So I am allotted 1,285  total calories a day. Which doesn't sound like a lot, but when I started recording everything I ate, I realized most of the calories I ate in a day were from grazing at work. By cutting that out, I've actually had trouble even getting to my budget goals. Also, by recording any (and I mean ANY... they have it all figured out including housework, romance, and music playing) exercise the app gives me those burned calories back to have a chance to eat them again. So really... you don't have to exercise to lose weight, just don't go above your budget! Anyway... in the more section, it gives you the opportunity to plug in a recipe and number of servings and it will calculate it all out for you! Which is what you see here, my recipe, broken down into eight servings. So if you alter the above recipe, the nutrition facts will be different for yours. But hey, at least I've given you a frame of reference now! Happy quiche making!