Spring Inspiration

Daffodils! The first sign of Spring
photo credit: Lea Roussos

Spring is a time to refresh and renew. It adds new life and new beauty to our worlds. It’s the perfect times to clean out our cupboards, our drawers, to purge old things that we no longer need or use. It is also the perfect time to take stock of ourselves, and how we care for ourselves. I created a little food for thought this week in addition to my Sunday meal prep –

My meal prep this week went back to one of my favorite salads. Full of spice and flavor, but very low in fat, calories, and of course WW points. I made a taco salad the Baby Boomer Mermaid way. Easy! Using mostly pantry ingredients.

Baby Boomer Mermaid Taco Salad

I took about 2 cups of meatless crumbles, and sauteed them with a little chopped red onion, then added an envelope of low sodium taco seasoning mix. I then added 2 cans of drained pinto beans, and one can of chopped tomatoes mixed with green chilies. I let the mixture simmer until the liquid from the tomatoes evaporated. And that was it. Note that you can easily substitute any lean protein for the meatless crumbles, and any type of beans for the pinto beans. This is my recipe. It doesn’t have to be yours. My intent is to inspire you to create healthy, satisfying meals that you will enjoy throughout the week. Meals that will keep you on track.

Tomorrow morning when I put my salad together, I’ll put the greens in my bowl, and will put all of the other ingredients in separate containers until I put my lunch together at the office. The shredded cheese and salad dressing will both go in small 2 tablespoon size containers. The “meat” and bean mixture will go into a 1 cup container. That is how I keep my portions in check. Not shown in the photo is the 1/4 of avocado I’ll be adding to my final dish. I’m excited.

For breakfast this week, I made my egg white frittata with frozen spinach that I drained well and dried, roasted red pepper out of the jar, also drained, and dried, a little chopped red onion, and 1 small tomato that I diced up. I seasoned it with the TJ’s Umami seasoning, salt, and pepper. I did also add about a teaspoon each of ground flax seeds, and chia seeds. Because they are good for me, and they add a little bulk to the dish. I’ll trade off my breakfasts with the cinnamon overnight oats that I made last week, or a little plain Greek yogurt mixed with cinnamon, flax seed, chia seed, and topped with berries.

Happy Spring, my friends! Have a great week!

Please send any comments or meal prep tips that you have. I’d love to hear from you!

Honoring our Heritage

My beloved Nana, Hannah; November 2, 1952

Last week, while perusing Facebook I came across one of those great recipe posts that always reel me in. I am a foodie, after all. Always have been, always will be. This one was from an organization called My Jewish Learning. The recipe was Kasha Varnishkes, otherwise known as Kasha & Bows. My Nana loved this dish, and passed that love on to me. She knew how much I loved it, and made it for me often. Seeing that recipe in that moment brought back all of the love I had ever felt for my Nana. It evoked the memory of eating it at her table, and all of the fun we had together. I loved being with her. During my younger years, she was really my best friend. I could go on and on, but that would be a blog for another time.

As an adult, it actually never occurred to me to make Kasha & Bows myself. First of all, Nana made it with schmaltz (which is Yiddish for rendered animal fat, and in this case chicken fat). Back in the day, schmaltz was used commonly in Jewish traditional cooking. I think for many years I didn’t consider trying to make it because whatever I made would never live up to her recipe.

As an older adult, Lifetime WW member, and now blogger on all things healthy, seeing this recipe on FB inspired me to take it on, but to recreate it in a healthier way. Kasha is actually buckwheat, which is a healthy grain, rich in complex carbohydrates and fiber. It is also low in calories. 1/4 cup is 160 calories.

Bob’s Red Mill Buckwheat

I knew I didn’t want to use the traditional bowtie pasta. I wanted a pasta that would be lower in calories, and offer more nutrition. I found that in red lentil penne pasta. This is fairly new to the market. My Ralph’s in Santa Monica only had 2 to choose from, and they were not easy to spot on the shelves. Be careful too, when choosing one. The first one I looked at was $6.49, first of all, but was also too high in calories for me to consider. Finally, I found another brand hiding on a higher shelf , tucked in the corner. This one was $4.99, and within my calorie budget.

Organic Tru Roots Just Red Lentil Sedanini Pasta

Together with these two main ingredients, I did create a pretty darn good replica of Nana’s Kasha & Bows. But mine is Kasha & Red Lentil Penne. It doesn’t taste like hers, of course, but it is delicious, and it did evoke those memories when I tasted it. The texture, and flavor of the kasha, the flavor of the cooked onion, and the pasta did take me back to Nana’s table.

I don’t know how many calories or WW points this really is, but I am very good at portion control, and won’t eat more than 1 cup of this at a sitting. The other ingredients include canola oil, an egg, and low sodium chicken stock. I didn’t even use salt, and I don’t miss it, but I have lost my taste for salty recipes anyway. Of course you should always add the seasonings of your choice.

Here is the link to the original recipe, of which the only deviation I made was the type of pasta: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/recipe/kasha-varnishkes/.

My kasha and red lentil pasta recipe ingredients
The finished product

We are going to enjoy this for dinner tonight along side a lean protein to be named later. I will have the leftovers for lunch this week with chicken breast, and a salad made with broccoli slaw mixed with Trader Joe’s Healthy 8 Veggie Mix. I have several 2 point dressings here to choose from to use with that. I will freeze a portion as well. There is no way we’ll finish the whole dish this week.

For my breakfasts I made an egg white fritatta using fresh spinach, fresh basil, and roasted red peppers. Besides salt & pepper, and my usual flaxseed and chia seeds. I added a cube of Dorot frozen garlic to it to make it a little more savory. I did taste it, and it came out delicious.

Egg White Fritatta Ingredients
My Egg White Fritatta Complete

I want to thank My Jewish Learning.com for bringing my Nana back to life for a minute the last couple of weeks. She lives on in my heart and in my spirit, and I am reminded of her every day, but the memory of this dish, and eating with her in her home, at her table was a profound one, full of love, and for that I am grateful.

Please feel free to share your memories, and your heritage with me and this audience. I would love to learn about you! Join the conversation.

Recipe Review – The Hits and Misses

Happy Oscar Day! Anyone else out there watching the Red Carpet? I have apologetically loved fashion all my life. If you have seen my Pinterest boards you know this about me. Oh, yes, and it’s my profession.

Today I want to briefly review some of the recipes I have presented to you. There has definitely been room for improvement. Let’s start with the Asian Veggie Soup from my first post. This particular soup was not my best. I learned that if you are going to cook the chicken with the soup to impart the flavor, it’s best to use the slow cooker. The chicken breast turned out tough and dry. If it has the chance to cook slowly, you will get the flavor you want, and the chicken will be tender, and shred easily. I want to add that the zucchini veggie spirals were great in this soup. It’s important to just heat them through. Don’t cook them for long. That way they keep a little texture to bite into. They wouldn’t be as good mushy.

The “Get Well” soup from week 2 was a hit. This recipe I followed to the letter. I am reposting the link in case you missed it. Try it while the weather is still cold. https://champagne-tastes.com/onion-and-garlic-get-well-soup/

Get Well Soup with Caramelized Onions and Garlic

The Simple Noodle Soup I made up the week of Feb 3 – FAIL. Only because of the herbs I added. The Herbs de Provence I used made the soup bitter. It works great on meats, though. A little dried basil would have been much better. This is still one of my favorite quick soups to make for the week. The bone broth makes it rich, and the mirepoix veggies makes it taste like old fashioned chicken soup.

The Black Bean Chicken Chili was so good. I will definitely make that again. Here is that link that inspired it: https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/chicken-chili-with-black-beans/

Other recipe highlights include Hungry-Girl’s Salmon Salad and my egg white frittata from last week. Both very healthy, low cal, low WW points. Of the store bought products I have mentioned, Costco’s Spinach Egg White Frittatas were a big hit in my Cousin’s house. And from my pantry, the Light Progresso Soups have become a favorite staple, as has the Good Thins The Beet One Crackers are my new favorite snack cracker. I still love the low sodium Triscuits, and Ak -Mak crackers. I grew up on those. They actually remind me of my dad.

Another essential store bought product is this chopped veggie mix from Trader Joe’s.
Also, broccoli slaw.

Yesterday I put together the best 8pt lunch that included macaroni and cheese! Make note – see below. This was delicious creamy comfort food, and was oh so easy to make. For the peas, I measured out about a cup of them and just steamed them in the microwave for about 2 minutes in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap. Everything else is self explanatory.

Lean Cuisine Mac & Cheese with Sweet Peas and Tuna Mixed in.

This week I used convenience foods again. I had heard about the Cedar Lane Eggplant Parmesan on the Hungry – Girl podcast. I love eggplant parm so had to try. I layered it under a sauce I made with fresh mushrooms, and Italian style stewed tomatoes and veggie meat balls. I like to go vegetarian for my breakfasts and lunches every so often.

Convenient, healthy ingredients Italian style

I would love to hear from you! Please critique any of the recipes, or food ideas I have presented. And send me your favorites!

Have a great week.

Balancing Act – Self Care vs Obligations

This weekend I had more on my plate than normal, but it was all things that I wanted to do, and get done. Saturday down in Orange County with dear friends, Sunday, a long overdue massage. And in between that, my Saturday and Sunday morning swims, my WW Workshop (trying to get used to that term), laundry, grocery shopping, and that all important meal prep. Oh yes – and time with my husband, downtime, and sleep. I don’t know about you, but if I don’t make that time to decompress on the weekends, I don’t feel rested, even if I get enough sleep.

I balanced everything by planning my time carefully. I thought about how I was going to manage everything in such a way as to not stress out. It was a week long process, actually. I came very close to cancelling the massage. This week I really put myself and my needs first, and I accomplished everything I wanted and needed to do. I relaxed and enjoyed my friends on Saturday, and got everything done today, including this blog. I want to inspire you to do the same for yourself. Think about your needs, and your obligations, and come up with a plan to marry them in such a way that you don’t feel stressed or rushed or overwhelmed. It is easy to get overwhelmed, and it is hard to balance life. Let’s face it.

Now to Sunday meal prep – I really enjoyed the little egg white veggie pie I made for breakfast last week. I experimented again today. I made it more into a crustless quiche, larger, and fancier. I started by caramelizing half of a red onion. After spraying my pie plate with a tiny bit of canola oil spray, I put down a layer of baby spinach, then the onions, and topped it with sliced cremini mushrooms, then added enough liquid egg whites to fill the pan up. I seasoned it with salt, pepper, and a new special ingredient – Trader Joe’s Umami Seasoning Blend. I also added my usual ground flax seeds, and chia seeds.

Spinach & Mushroom Egg White Pie Ingredients
Ready for the Oven

It ended up baking for 35 minutes at 350. I originally set the timer for 25 minutes, but it wasn’t set, so I kept it in another 10 minutes and it came out great. This is something I would serve to friends for brunch. I might just add a little cheese to make it a little more decadent for guests.

For lunch I made Cabbage Roll Soup. I originally wanted to make a cabbage chicken soup. Then I remembered the stuffed cabbage my Nana used to make and it brought back a wonderful memory. That was my inspiration. I knew I wanted to use the slow cooker this week, so I Googled recipes. I chose Spend with Pennies Crock Pot Cabbage Roll Soup. Here is link: https://www.spendwithpennies.com/crock-pot-cabbage-roll-soup/

Unfortunately, being new to the blogging game, the ingredients were all in the slow cooker before I realized I didn’t take any pictures. But, I’ll tell you exactly what I did. First I reworked the recipe to fit my needs. I used riced cauliflower instead of rice, and chicken instead of beef. Pretty much everything else I followed, including using the beef broth. I wanted that richness. I did leave out the tomato paste, though. I don’t like that heavy tomatoy taste. Sometimes it’s too acidic for me. For the tomato soup I used Trader Joe’s Creamy Tomato Soup because I really like it. I also played around with the measurements, as the original recipe makes more soup than I would have needed. I must say it came out delicious. It lacks salt, but I’ll put a little finishing salt on it when I heat it up to eat.

Slow Cooker Cabbage Roll Soup with Chicken

I am always looking for new seasonal fruit and vegetables. Cara Cara oranges are back in season. If you haven’t tried them – put them at the top of your list. They look like a navel orange on the outside, but are a little pink and taste like a cross between an orange and a grapefruit. They are in season now and should be in markets until April.

Cara Cara Oranges

And lastly, my cousin joined the conversation! She found what looks like a great new product at Costco. Frozen spinach egg white frittatas. She is going to let me know how they are, but wanted to share them with you today. Looks good… Let me know!

Have a good week, my friends. Make time for yourselves.

Your Pantry – Is It Safe? Is It Ready for Any Emergency?

Today’s conversation is about The Pantry. Whether you want to lose weight, maintain your weight, or just want to eat more healthily, having a pantry full of safe, yet delicious foods that you love is essential.

The good news is that we have so many wonderful choices these days. We don’t have to just shop the perimeter of the supermarket anymore to stay on track. There are great choices in those aisles of delicious low calorie, low sodium soups, low fat salad dressings, low calorie breads and tortillas, crackers, desserts, and so much more. And lets talk about what is available in produce these days – salad kits! Life changing. Prepared bags of lettuces, slaws, and vegetables of all kinds, already cut up! Let’s not forget the frozen aisles. Speaking of veggies. There are great combinations of frozen veggies already mixed for us – Asian veggie mix, Italian veggie mix. There is prepared butternut squash, spiralized veggies, riced veggies.

My suggestion is that you give yourself a good hour or more to explore the supermarket of your choice one day. Take the time to go up and down those aisles slowly and methodically, reading all the labels of the foods that are interesting to you. Make good decisions. You might try things that you don’t like, well, good, lesson learned. Move on and try something new.

My WW wellness coach (she’ll always be my leader) suggests shopping at several different market chains to explore the options. I don’t have a lot of time, so I pretty much stick to Ralph’s and Trader Joe’s. I have gone through these two neighborhood stores of mine countless times throughout the years with my handy WW point scanner, and reading labels.

I only did a little bit of meal prep today, as I decided to rely on my pantry this week for my lunches. Today instead of egg white omelette muffins, I turned them into a little crust less “quiche” thing instead for fun. And I made more cinnamon overnight oats to have on hand.

Egg White Crust Less “Quiche”
Notice the pantry items used here – jarred roasted red peppers, canola oil spray, the produce I had on hand.
The Finished Product

Below are photos of my pantry. Remember, these are just the things I like to keep in my house, that I enjoy eating. Have fun exploring the supermarkets and specialty stores in your area discovering the healthy foods that you love.

Canned Products. Some are ready to open and eat, others ready to help you create a great new recipe
Convenient proteins, salad ready
Refrigerator full of delicious condiments, and of course non fat plain Greek yogurt and berries.
I like crackers. The almond milk is on hand for my overnight oats. I use unsweetened vanilla
Sandwich options
Options from the freezer, and my go to cold cuts
Veggie options in my freezer. Perfect for veggie soups, side dishes, and add in ingredients for the recipe du jour
Dessert, of course.
Snacks on Hand

The next photos are of recent meals made with pantry items. It makes on the fly meal planning so easy.

Scoopy Salmon Salad, recipe courtesy of Hungry Girl.
Pantry items: Prepared Salmon out of the pouch, Dijonaise, and the beet crackers you saw in my cupboard above for the scoopy part. This was lunch last week.
Icelandic Cod Mexican style. Made with Rotel diced tomatoes with green chiles, and Uncle Ben’s instant brown rice. This was dinner last Friday night.

I hope I have inspired you to create your own pantry and your own easy, healthy recipes. For more ideas check out my recipe collections on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/marshaleeg/

Please chime in with your pantry favorites! I would love to hear what your favorites are! Join the conversation.

February Goals

As I look at this wonderful graphic I have made the focal point of this blog entry, I realize that these 4 points really tie together. Through my entire journey of becoming fit, and weight loss, I have come to respect myself, and love myself, like never before in my life. I am proud of my personal accomplishments. I have challenged myself to the max, and still do, every day, every week. I take care of myself daily. Besides caring for my body with the food I put in it, I am also learning to take care of my spirit. Affirmations are fairly new to me, but I find that they work. I also have learned to take compliments, and take them instead of blowing them off as someone just trying to be nice. My family and friends mean the world to me, and I am finally, just now, allowing myself to feel the love. Negative self talk is becoming an old habit of my past. 2019, the year I will turn 65 years old could turn out to be my best year yet. I feel like I am the best I have ever been. Oh, what a feeling!

Because it is Super Bowl Sunday, I am going to leave the philosophy for now, and come back to it in future blog posts. My home team, The Rams are in it to win it, so lets get to today’s meal prep.

There was a lot going on today, so I streamlined my meal prep even more than usual. But I did the work, and it will keep me on track for the week.

Thank goodness for my daily e mails from Hungry Girl. Mid week they sent a recipe for great sounding salmon salad. Just what I was in the mood for. Here is the link to that recipe: http://www.hungry-girl.com/recipes/scoopy-salmon-salad. No need for me to post any pictures of mine. They do a fabulous job of laying out the recipe. I followed it exactly. I am going to eat it with these great new crackers I found in the supermarket – Good Thins The Corn one with Sea Salt, and The Beet One with Balsamic Vinegar & Sea Salt. I like to switch off. Both are super low calories for an enormous serving. Don’t you love crackers with serving sizes that are more than you would ever think of eating?

To go with the salmon salad, I made a super simple chicken “noodle” soup”. I took 2 cartons of Trader Joe’s chicken bone broth, and threw in a container of TJ’s prepared Mirepoix, which is simply diced onions, carrots, and celery. I also added a little herbs de provence, and for my noodles, I used tofu shirataki spagetti noodles. In WW language, this is a 0 point soup that will be a comforting, yet light accompaniment to the salad.

Soup Ingredients. So simple.
My chicken “noodle” soup

For breakfast made egg omelet muffins. I used fresh baby spinach, diced red onions, a little bit of roasted red pepper I had left over, and fresh cherry tomatoes, cut up. I want to mention that I always add a tablespoon each of flaxseed meal and chia seeds to my veggie mixture here for the health benefits that they add. You can’t taste them. For my WW purists, the flaxseed meal is 3 points for 2 tbsp, and the chia seeds are 4 points for 2 tbsp. I use 1 tbsp for the entire recipe, so the points are extremely minimal, and I don’t count them. I also want to mention that today I underestimated the amount of egg whites I had in the house. I only had enough for a little over 4 “muffins”, so I used whole eggs to make up what I needed. Being flexible with recipes is key. Use what you have in the house. For a good basic omelette muffin recipe check out: https://www.skinnytaste.com/loaded-baked-omelet-muffins/

Omelette muffin ingredients before I knew I’d need to add whole eggs
Before baking
Final product. 0 Points.

Have a great week, friends!

Please send along any meal prep, or program tips. I’d love to hear what you do to keep yourself healthy and fit!