The city is slowly coming back to life. Santa Monica finally reopened their parks and beaches (for swimming and exercise only). My favorite is Palisades Park, which spans the cliffs just above the ocean. There is the most lovely rose garden there. I missed this little piece of paradise. I am gradually starting to feel whole again.
Last week I started going back to the office to begin prep for the economy reopening. My groceries served me well. I had good, healthy lunches each day. It is indeed all about the groceries. That said, I did want to meal plan for this coming week in the office, so I went to my well stocked freezer. There I found Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi (4 pts/ 140 cal per 1 cup serving), their Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Dip (2 pts/ 45 cal per 2 tbsp serving), frozen spinach, and frozen broccoli florets. The light bulb in my Baby Boomer Mermaid head went off, and I decided to combine all of this deliciousness into one veggie forward dish for myself. I will pair this with Trader Joe’s Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage (3 points/ 110 calories per 1 sausage serving). This gives me 4 servings, so all things considered, it will be healthy, filling, and really satisfying for the week.
Last weekend, after I published the blog, I got the baking bug. I had a can of pureed pumpkin in the house, along with all of the other ingredients needed, so I made this muffin recipe from Drizzle Me Skinny. No alterations. They came out amazing: https://drizzlemeskinny.com/pumpkin-spice-cream-cheese-muffins/. I highly recommend you give this a try. 2 pts/ 88 cal per muffin. Almost everything I make is inspired by recipes I find on the interwebs, either from Instagram, Pinterest, FB, the WW website, or just by randomly searching.
Just a reminder that I am still selling hospital grade disposable masks. Masks will be a part of our “new normal” for the foreseeable future. Please contact me privately if you are interested in purchasing some for your home and/ or office: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for joining me this week! Stay safe. Be well. Take care of yourselves.
Feel free to send me comments, critiques, questions, or meal prep ideas 🙂
Recipe Schmecipe Recap – A Review of A Few of My Best, EASY Meal Preps
Not gonna lie. Although grateful for my overall good health, and the love and companionship of my husband, who’s health I am also grateful for, other than losing my parents, this is the hardest thing I have ever been through. I have lost my way the last few weeks, and in the meantime, tore a muscle in my back while stretching, which has temporarily taken away my ability to get outdoors to walk or to do anything else that resembles being productive. I am healing, taking it a day at a time. Locked up. Chin up. Putting on my big girl pants and moving forward.
Since we all are cooking most of our own meals these days, I thought I would offer you a recap of a few of my favorite past meal preps and tips in the hopes of inspiring you to make something new and fun. If you are new to the blog, my meal prep philosophy has always been budget conscious, pantry based, WW friendly, delicious, and EASY. This will also allow for you to peruse past blogs at the same time, in the hopes that you will find renewed inspiration, and get a few handy tips along the way. Let’s Go!
During this time of the Covid 19 pandemic, meal prep and a “safe” pantry have become even more important than ever. It is so easy to slip back into old habits under these circumstances.
The turkey taco prep I made last week was so good that my craving for spicy Mexican style food has continued. This week I was inspired by a recipe I found on the Skinny Ms. website: https://skinnyms.com/southwestern-black-bean-casserole/, but with the twist of adding soyrizo, which I love, and had not enjoyed in some time.
The basic recipe is great as is, but, I didn’t have black beans in the house. Plus, I wanted to add the soyrizo, so here is how I made it work: I had but one can of pinto beans in the house, the soyrizo, reduced fat shredded Mexican cheese blend (3pts per 1/4 C serving), our favorite salsa (Herdez medium), chicken broth, Dorot frozen garlic cubes, diced white onions, cumin, salt & pepper, and of course the all important Ole Mexican Whole Wheat Tortillas. Those were my ingredients.
I sprayed my saute pan with canola oil spray, then when it got hot, I threw in the diced onions (about 1/4 cup), then half of the soyrizo, which is about 3 oz (4pts), then added 2 frozen garlic cubes, and the cumin. I let that cook for a few minutes, and added the drained pinto beans, 1/4 cup of chicken broth (use vegetable broth if you want a fully vegetarian dish), a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of fresh black pepper, and let that cook down for another few minutes.
When the mixture was cooked through, and the liquid absorbed, I sprayed my 9 x 9″ square pyrex pan with the canola oil spray, then placed the first tortilla in the pan. I layered on the soyrizo mixture, about 2 tablespoons of the salsa, and about 2 tablespoons of the cheese. I repeated this process using 3 of the whole wheat tortillas, then topped it off with the balance of the soyrizo mixture, more salsa, and cheese. I would say I used a total of about 1/3 of a cup each of the salsa and cheese. I estimate this recipe at a total of 11 points on the WW Blue plan. It made 4 servings, so just under 3 points per serving. Pretty good for a comfort food recipe, I’d say. I had a piece this morning for breakfast with a couple of over medium eggs. It was yummy and very satisfying.
Virtual WW meetings. Visiting with friends by phone while walking in different parts of town. Reaching out to more people by phone rather than text at any time of day. Visiting with neighbors out front while keeping 6′ apart. Dealing with necessary changes financially, like talking to banks about deferring payments on credit cards, cars, and mortgages. Filing for unemployment. Streaming TV shows, and watching movies in the living room. Not going to work. Not working at all. These are all things that are new to me. I’m not going to lie. I am having a tough time of it, as I am sure you all are. We are all in the same nightmare, and I hope and pray that you are staying home and safe like we are because the sooner this horrible virus irradiates itself, or a vaccine is discovered, we can all go back to work and back to our lives. Can’t be soon enough for me!
Today’s meal prep is an easy turkey taco mixture; a “dump” recipe if you will. This was inspired by my niece, the lovely Eden, who happens to be one of the best people I know (not biased, it’s the truth). She told me a while back that turkey taco meat is her go to, and she is right. Once it’s made, it is so versatile. It becomes a taco salad, can be wrapped, or can be eaten as a chili. Nothing better than having options.
All I did was brown 1 lb of ground turkey with low sodium taco seasoning, and a little chopped red onion. I added to that 1 can of tri color beans (black beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans), and 1 can of diced tomatoes with green chilies. I added 2 cubes of frozen minced garlic, then let it simmer for about 40 minutes. And that was it! I used regular ground turkey, which is 5 points for 3 oz on the WW Blue Plan, or 170 calories for 4 oz. You can use ground turkey breast for 0 points/ 120 calories. The rest of the ingredients in this dish are 0 points :).
One of the things I love doing is trying new veggies and fruits when I find them. Earlier this week, I escaped to the legendary Santa Monica Wednesday Farmer’s Market. Don’t worry, I was careful. I wrapped a scarf around my nose and mouth to act as a mask. Plus the market was practicing safe social distancing, as I knew they would be. I found a fairy squash. It is so pretty! When I talked to the farmer about it, she suggested I just roast it whole for an hour at 350. I ended up with a beautiful orange mash. It is a little sweet, as promised, like a butternut squash. I can use it now to bake with, in a risotto, in a soup, or stirred into my morning yogurt bowl, as I would pumpkin. I am excited to experiment with it this week. Here is a little more info about this rare winter squash variety: https://www.specialtyproduce.com/produce/Fairy_Squash_6685.php
I found a new fruit this week too – an Ataulfo mango. It’s really just a mini mango grown in Mexico. It was super sweet and delicious over my morning yogurt bowl, which I topped with toasted walnuts.
These days when the grocery store shelves are a little more sparse, is a good time to make new discoveries. Don’t be afraid to try new things, especially in produce.
Take care of yourselves, my friends. Make sure you move every day. I have been walking, but plan to incorporate virtual workouts in the house this coming week. Silver Sneakers has been hosting live Facebook workouts. I am going to try one tomorrow morning. Plus there are many available on your streaming channels, and online. I want to try a dance one this week too.
Junk food disguised as healthy snacks is more common than we think. Between sugar-free, gluten-free, low-carb, low-fat, organic, all-natural, and more, there’s an overwhelming amount of terms that you see on food labels. The confusion around reading these labels makes it easy to mistake something for “healthy”.
Here are just a few examples of “health halo” foods to avoid (hint: these are all processed foods):
Flavored yogurt – Packed with protein and gut healthy probiotics, yogurt is an excellent weight loss food. But don’t be fooled by flavored yogurt, it is loaded with sugary fruit. Opt instead for 0 fat or 2% fat plain yogurt and mix in your own whole fruits.
Veggie Chips – The “healthy” alternative to chips are just another processed food. Their bag might display photos of whole veggies, but these chips are actually pulverized vegetable flour mixed with oil and salt.
Fruit smoothies – Replacing meals with protein shakes may help you reduce your daily calories, which can help you lose weight. Eventually you will need to start eating solid food again, which may cause excess weight to return if you don’t choose wisely. And if you rely too heavily on protein shakes to replace regular meals, you’ll miss out on the nutritional benefits of whole foods. As a general rule, it’s better to eat, not drink your fruits. Pair your fruit with a cup of low-fat plain cottage cheese or yogurt if you are craving something creamy.
The moral of this story is to READ THE LABELS. Take your time in the grocery store and really read the labels. Learn the synonyms for added sugars and fats. One of my rules of thumb is “if you can’t pronounce it, it is not a real food”. Also, note the serving sizees. The calories, fat, sugar, etc. shown are for the serving size, not the entire package or can. If you are a WW member, couple this with utilizing the scanner on your app to check the points. Many “light” foods will be deceivingly high in points.
Easy, veggie forward meal prep today. Even though the calendar is inching towards spring, it is still going to be cold and rainy in LA this coming week. Bring on the soup! I created an Asian veggie soup using unsalted chicken broth, seasoned with coconut aminos (my favorite is from Trader Joe’s), garlic, ginger (the frozen Dorot cubes), dry mustard, coriander, and cumin, salt & pepper. This is my own mix of seasonings. Use what you like. I used every veggie I could think of that rang as Asian to me: fresh bok choy, mushrooms, snow peas, scallions. I also added celery because I had it in my house, and a handful of frozen edamame that I had in the freezer. I would call this a Green Asian Veggie Soup if I was a recipe writer :).
This has been a hard week for all of us. I did not go out and “panic buy” supplies and shelf stable food. I did, however, cancel all of my social plans for the weekend, even my hair appointment. I did shop at Trader Joe’s today so I could complete my meal prep. I was greeted at the door by a lovely, smiling woman holding hand sanitizer, offering squirts. Thankfully, the store was stocked fairly well, and the vibe inside was comfortable. As I checked out, I was again offered a squirt of hand sanitizer, which I again accepted. Stay calm, stay well, and wash your hands.
My weight loss and fitness journey started when I was in my mid 50’s. Due to a chronic condition that developed in my left leg, I was told by my orthopedist that I could no longer walk long distances, which was my main form of exercise at that time. He told me that the only exercises I could do without hurting myself were riding a stationary bike (the upright kind only), or swimming. I knew how to swim, and enjoyed recreational time in the pool throughout my life, but swimming for fitness was out of my realm. And besides, I had already been coloring my hair for some time, and didn’t want to risk damaging that! So I joined a gym, and started riding the bike for a half hour at a time, with the intent of increasing that in increments as I got into better shape. I dabbled with upper body nautilus machines, and stretching, but overall I was so bored. I was also in denial about my weight.
After a few conversations with my neighbor about this, she convinced me to get into the pool. She had been on swim teams as a kid, and wanted to get back to it herself, so after a heart to heart about hair conditioners, I went for it, with my beloved neighbor at my side. It was slow going at first. I could barely get across the pool twice that first day. Soon I was swimming half miles, then finally a full mile. I got up to swimming 100 lengths at one point. I loved it! I started swimming a minimum of 3 times a week. I was becoming more aware of my 200 + lb weight and especially my size 16/18 physique, but I thought, “now that I’m swimming, the weight will melt right off”…. WRONG! So after a couple of particularly embarrassing photos I saw of myself during the holidays of 2011 (age 56), I made the decision to join WW.
It took me 3 years to lose 47 lbs, which I know is really slow, but I persevered, and today, at age 65, my weight is down an additional 3 lbs for a total loss of 50 lbs. And I am in the best shape of my life! I feel younger, and I look younger. At the family Hanukkah party my niece asked me if I was aging backwards. Of course I said yes! I am still working full time, I take great care of my skin (always have), and now my body is strong too. Yes, I have a few orthopedic issues, but I keep them managed with the pool workouts, which now include water jogging 3 times a week, and lap swimming on Saturdays and Sundays, daily stretching, and an anti inflammatory diet.
Make the most of your age. Here are a few suggestions to help you get to a younger mindset:
Try Something New
Keep an Open Mind About What Aging Looks Like
Tune Out the Negative Self Talk
Find People Who Inspire and Encourage You
Focus on Goals and Celebrate Success
Today’s meal prep celebrates the end of winter with one last squash dish. I made a warm salad with a base of quinoa tossed with a tiny bit of parm, toasted chopped walnuts, and flavored with a little lemon zest, and topped with arugula, roasted delicata squash and scallions. I’ll be topping it with Trader Joe’s Shrimp Burgers. Here is the original recipe, which I hacked into a Baby Boomer Mermaid style lunch prep: https://naturallyella.com/arugula-delicata-squash-pasta/
I used 1 packet of Trader Joe’s Frozen Organic Quinoa, which is a full cup in total, and tossed it with salt, pepper, and a pinch of chile flakes, about 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, and about a tablespoon of chopped toasted walnuts (which I keep handy for snacks – they are high on the list of the best anti inflammatory foods). I also added a little lemon zest. All the seasoning was per the original recipe, which was actually meant for pasta. I divided the quinoa into 1/4ths, and divided it into my containers. I topped that with raw arugula, then topped that with my roasted squash and scallion mixture, which I prepared according to the recipe. I pan fried the shrimp burgers to top off what will be my warm salad desk lunch, which I will heat up in the microwave at the office so the arugula will become slightly wilted and warm as well. I am figuring the whole plate at about 4 – 5 points (on the Blue Plan), counting the olive oil I used to roast the vegetables with.
This is what I like to eat. Please – scour the interwebs and find meal prep inspiration for yourselves.
My breakfasts this week will be blueberry yogurt bowls mixed with cinnamon, ground flax seeds and chia seeds topped with a sprinkling of Julian Bakery Pro Granola, which I have mentioned to you before. I’ll also take a mid morning snack to work consisting of a hard boiled egg (seasoned with Everything But the Bagel Seasoning), as well as an afternoon snack of a couple of mandarins and a light string cheese. That is my perfect pre workout snack, by the way.
Aging gracefully is a practice and a gift. Take care of yourselves. Thank you for stopping by today. Your comments, critiques, and questions are always welcome.
I came up with some fresh ideas today for my meal prep. I’ve been getting tired of my breakfasts. I haven’t even posted them recently. I eat at home every morning now, so I don’t really need to “prep” perse, just need to have healthy things in the house at the ready. I have been switching off between cultured cottage cheese and yogurt bowls with cinnamon, ground flax and chia seeds mixed in and topped with berries, oatmeal with the same mix ins, or scrambled eggs topped with salsa and wrapped in an Ole Whole Wheat Tortilla. All good, healthy choices. But I’m bored.
For lunch I hacked a slow cooker spinach and artichoke chicken recipe into a stove top version. Usually slow cooker recipes are my go to, but the poached chicken aspect of the original recipe didn’t appeal to me today, so I reworked it. Here is the original recipe, which is a great one. Love the flavor profile: https://www.thekitchn.com/slow-cooker-chicken-spinach-artichoke-recipe-256184
I used all of the ingredients in the original recipe, but I did a stove top version – using ground chicken breast. I started with a diced shallot over medium heat, let that get a little translucent and soft in my pan, then added 1 lb of ground chicken breast, and seasoned that with salt & pepper. I then added 2 cubes (or 2 cloves) of the frozen garlic cubes, and let the chicken cook through. I combined 1/4 cup each of dry white wine, fresh lemon juice, and chicken broth, and deglazed the pan, lowered the heat, and let the liquid reduce to about half. That took about 10 minutes. I added the drained artichoke hearts, which I cut in half, then started adding the baby spinach in batches as it wilted.
I also wanted a “noodle” to go with this, so I cooked the half bag of red lentil penne I had in the cupboard, and combined it with a can of Palmini linguine to use as a bed for the chicken mixture.
I honestly don’t know the calories/ points of this dish, but I do know that it is veggie based, and overall very clean and healthy. It has flavors that I enjoy. And that is what matters.
Don’t be afraid to re-imagine your recipes and experiment. It’s fun, and you might surprise yourself with how well they turn out.
Thank you for joining me today. Make it a great week, and take care of YOU.