From Mess Hall to Bistro

Trying to keep my sanity in tact, while keeping bellies full

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Stuffed Peppers

One of my favorite meals is stuffed peppers. It's a great balanced meal, all in one beautiful pepper and it's so easy to adapt to individual tastes. And I knew it was already perfect for October Unprocessed!

What you'll need:

Bell peppers
Ground meat

Start out by cutting the tops off of the peppers and cleaning out the insides. Chop the tops into small pieces to add to your meat.

Saute chopped peppers, onions and minced garlic in a little bit of olive oil, then add your meat. We opted for ground goat. Toss in whatever seasonings you like. I just used salt and pepper with the goat. While that is cooking, prepare your rice. We used the royal blend grains. 

Shred your cheese. We used Parmesan.
When the meat is fully cooked, toss the rice in the skillet and mix well. Then fill the peppers with the rice and meat mix and top with cheese.

 Bake until pepper is soft and cheese is melted. I baked ours at 375 for about 25 minutes

These are really quite filling, so I cut mine in half and saved half for lunch the next day. They are really even better reheated! 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October Unprocessed Week 3

After three weeks of unprocessed foods, things are getting much easier. Here's what we learned last week:

1. Some of my coworkers brought in snacks one day last week. It was a little sad to see a table full of food and know all I could eat was the fruit and veggies. There was also a big bowl of fruit salad. I was a little excited about that, until I took a bite. It had preservatives in it! I was a little surprised that I was able to taste it in just one bite.

2. Weight loss wasn't a goal of this for me, but I finally stepped on a scale last Friday. I didn't weigh myself at the beginning of the month, so the last weight I knew was from a doctor's appointment in July. I figured that was probably close to my October 1 weight. I was down 6 lbs! And, I lost another 1/2 lb over the weekend! Yay me!

3. While most of our meals this month have required some alterations, there are others that I haven't had to change a thing-like stuffed peppers.

4. So my work is pushing this "Healthy Lifestyles" website on employees. I get the agenda behind it-by making people more aware of their health, they will (likely) make better choices, leading to healthier employees, leading to less expensive insurance rates. Ok, sounds good. Yesterday, I started digging deeper into some of the tools on the website, specifically those dealing with weight management and healthy eating. I was disappointed to read that the majority of their suggestions included 0 calorie sweeteners in place of sugar and "lite" versions of products. So not to be all conspiracy theorist, but it did occur to me that Anthem and Healthways (owner of Healthy Lifestyles) are partners and they are pushing artificial ingredients. Seems a bit counterproductive to me. And I tried to figure my calorie/fat/protein/sugar/etc intake for the day by entering foods I had eaten. Imagine my surprise when I tried to enter "baked potato" but the only item that came up was "Wendy's Baked Potato"! Really??? That's how most of the foods were-very few items could be found in whole food form. I know eating unprocessed foods has made me more aware, but I find it unacceptable that an insurance company is pushing these processed ingredients rather than whole, nutritious foods. Now I completely understand that not everyone is going to home cook every meal (see below!!), but whole foods should be available in these calculators. Rant complete.

Week three confessions:

I made us donuts for breakfast one day. And not the whole wheat pumpkin donuts made with sorghum syrup-the white flour, white sugar cake type donuts. At least they were baked? Yeah, I don't really have much justification here. I just wanted something different-and donuts sounded good.

We went out to dinner last Friday. We've done really good this month, but I forgot to start dinner in the crock pot that morning and we were all hungry. We picked a local farm to curb restaurant. Most of their products come from a farm owned by the same person and they don't use any fillers in their meats, so I figured that was a decent meal without completely compromising the last 17 days. I had a pork tenderloin and a root beer. These tenderloins are huge.
This was from the soft opening of the restaurant, but you get the idea of the size we're talking about here! 
I didn't even make it 1/3 of the way though the sandwich. In fact, I didn't even get to the bread. So 1/3 of a tenderloin and about half of my root beer later, I was stuffed. As we were heading home, I started having an allergic reaction. My gums and tongue were swelling! I knew I had an epi pen at home if it got too bad, so we continued on home. By the time we got home and I got some benedryl down, my entire mouth was swollen and I was starting to have a hard time breathing. This is the third time this month I've had an allergic reaction to food that has never happened before. I'm still not sure if it was the tenderloin or the root beer, but to be safe, I'll just avoid them both in the future. I guess I learned my lesson about cheating on the unprocessed challenge!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Lunch-In a Jar!

I've seen several "in a jar" things floating around the internet and Pinterest for a while, but for some reason, I've never tried most of them. I'm not entirely sure why though. I was intrigued by the salad in a jar though and decided to try it out. I had Monday off work last week, so I made up a few of the salads so we would have them for lunch this week.

I didn't take pictures of the process, but here's what I did.

1. Rinse out enough clean pint size jars, lids and rings. Line them up on the table or counter, wherever you'll be assembling.

2. Get out enough bowls for all of your ingredients, along with a cutting board and knife.

3. Rinse all of your ingredients and start chopping!

4. Assemble the jars

5. Start with the dressing-just a little bit in the bottom of each jar. I used a homemade ranch dressing made from greek yogurt.

6. Then add all of your firm veggies than can stand up to sitting in dressing for a few days. I used carrots and celery

7. Next, the juicy veggies-like tomatoes. I didn't use tomatoes in this round, but I put ultra thin sliced apples here because they are a bit juicy. I also added some green onions here.

8. After that-the proteins. I used chopped boiled egg and feta cheese.

9. Top it off with greens. I had this fabulous mix of exotic greens that I used. You really want to pack the greens down so nothing moves around. No one wants soggy lettuce!

10. Pop the lid and ring on. Now you have days worth of lunches ready to go!

When lunch time rolls around, all you have to do is loosen the greens up then put the lid back on and shake! So I guess you get a little bit of an arm workout at the same time.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Loving These Smoothies

I love smoothies...and with this October Unprocessed challenge, it's actually rather surprising I didn't start making some before the halfway point. But here we are, halfway through October and here I am, enjoying a delicious blueberry, oatmeal, honey, banana, yogurt smoothie. And I love the fact that I can make several of these up ahead of time.

All I have to do is grab one from the fridge in the morning, and whenever I'm ready for it during the day, I have a cup full of fruit and dairy!

I like the added oatmeal because it gives it a thick texture and really keeps me full. And I love that I can use whatever fruit I have around-gives me a nice variety! 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chocolate Mousse

At the beginning of the October Unprocessed challenge, I had lots of craving. Lots, and lots of cravings! They have subsided for the most part, but I did do a search the other day for a dessert that was quick and easy, yet still met the "kitchen test". I kept finding recipes for chocolate avocado mousse, but kept skipping past them because chocolate avocado mousse sounds disgusting.

But the more I got to thinking about it (and the lack of wide selection of recipes), I figured I would try it out. I happened to have avocados in the refrigerator and chocolate mousse did sound good.....

I saw several variations on the basic recipe. Some were vegan, some were low fat, and some were clearly just a way to clean out a refrigerator. But they all had the same basic core: 

Milk of some sort (most had almond or coconut milk)
Sweetener (most used agave nectar)

So I grabbed the blender and threw all of my ingredients in: 

1 Avocado, cut into large chunks
1/4 c cocoa
1/4 c skim milk
3 Tablespoons honey
Pinch of salt
Few drops vanilla

After less than a minute of blending, here's what I had: 

Yes, that is the result of just a few ingredients in a blender. And it was delicious! Even my husband, who hates avocados, just about licked the bowl. I didn't tell him until afterwards what it was. he looked at me a little funny, but there was no complaining! 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Coconut Curry Shrimp

Last weekend, I made the best coconut curry shrimp. It was delicious! It tasted so good, it was worth the time to clean the shrimp, which is the main reason we don't have shrimp very often.

What I used: 

About 30 medium sized shrimp, peeled and cleaned
One onion, diced
2 Tablespoons garlic
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 can coconut milk
Salt to taste

I started the rice while the shrimp was defrosting. I didn't want plain rice, so we tried this blend. Kind of love it! It was great for this dish because it could stand up to the curry flavors, but was still mild enough not to overpower the coconut flavor. 

After the shrimp was defrosted, I started the onions and garlic in a just a bit of olive oil. 

Then it was on to peeling and cleaning the shrimp....Ugh, I hate cleaning shrimp. But, I kept reminding myself that it would be worth it. And finally, I had clean shrimp to toss in the pan.

I only cooked them for about a minutes on each side because I didn't want to cook them all the way through at this point-they would be rubber by the time the sauce was thick. Then, I added the curry powder. I had yellow curry on hand, but this would be good with so many varieties.

Then I added the coconut milk and the paprika.

The coconut milk will start to thicken just about the same time the shrimp finishes cooking. Somehow, I managed to time this perfectly because the rice had finished cooking and sat for exactly five minutes. All that was needed was a quick fluff with a fork, then on to the plate!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

October Unprocessed Week 2

We're halfway through this challenge and I've had some time to really think about the long term impacts of it and our lifestyles. Here's what we learned this week:

1. We love barley. Love it. It's kind of fun to discover new foods that we like.

2. My taste buds are starting to change now too. I'm not sure why it took longer for me to notice it, or maybe it was because I eat less artificial sweeteners than my husband, but I'm starting to pick up on more natural sugars now.

3. Not all cottage cheeses are created equal. I found only one brand that didn't contain preservatives or artificial ingredients. We all got really excited....over cottage cheese. I never thought I would get excited over cottage cheese, but here we are!

4. I'm sleeping better. My guess is this has more to do with not having the extra caffeine in the form of Starbucks than all of the other processed foods.

5. While I thought giving up Cheerios was going to be the worst part, I actually don't think I'm going to go back to cereal. I love having whole wheat breads or muffins in the morning. They keep me full for a long time. That's not to say I won't ever eat cereal again, but it's not going to be my breakfast staple anymore.

6. We are eating a lot more salads, and skipping the salad dressing altogether. I have been making a big bowl of salad and we can eat off of it for several days. The bacon and feta cheese add a nice salty flavor and really bring out the juiciness of the tomatoes. I've never been a huge fan of iceberg lettuce, so we've been using frisee and romaine.

Week 2 Confession

I had a really bad day of cravings. All I could think about was chocolate cupcakes, peanut butter M&Ms, and Ben and Jerry's Phish Food ice cream. It was rough. I finally gave in and made peanut butter cookies. (1 c peanut butter, 1 c sugar, 1 egg) After I had a few cookies, I developed the most intense headache. I have to assume the two are related. The peanut butter and the egg are allowed in this challenge, but all that sugar was just too much for me. I used to love those cookies, but I don't think I'll be able to eat them anymore. And if I do, I'll just have 1.

Last night, I had a roast in the crock pot. It just wasn't getting tender. It was kind of a dinner fail. Normally, I'd throw in the towel and just have cereal for dinner. Since I couldn't have cereal, I ended up making popcorn, which actually is perfectly acceptable in the unprocessed challenge, but not exactly a balanced meal.

All in all, it was as pretty good week!
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