No need to rehash what an unprecedented year 2020 has been. It has been a horror story in so many ways, but has also produced some wonderful epiphanies for many of us. I have become aware of being more compassionate towards others, and have learned to take better care of myself, both inside and out. And for these realizations, I am grateful.
I did have some fun with meal preps this year. In no particular order, here are my favorites of the year:
Like most of the world, I did a little baking this year. My favorite recipe conversion came from the PB & J Blondie I made for Baking Baby Boomer Mermaid Style, published July 3.
It’s the holidays! And yet we are all still going through very stressful times. The uncertainty of life with Covid-19 continues. It’s unfortunate that we won’t be able to enjoy the holidays with our friends and families in person this year, but virtual family gatherings are a great way to connect with your loved ones this season while keeping yourself safe and healthy.
It is more important than ever to stick to our regular self care routines as closely as possible. Keep your body, your mind, and spirit active. Continue your exercise regimens. Read. Explore new cuisines, foods and recipes. Stream – enjoy all that Netflix and the like have to offer. Learn to paint with watercolors, or take on a 100+ piece jigsaw puzzle. One of my girlfriends continues to play Trivia virtually weekly. Remember, prioritizing your health and well being is not an extravagance, it is part of being human.
My meal prep this week is a super simple vegetarian spinach miso soup. Miso is a fermented food, which good for our gut health. It is also rich in essential vitamins and minerals.
Additional add ins were edamame and tofu for protein, Trader Joe’s Thai Vegetable Goyza (because I had about a half of a package of it in my freezer), shirataki noodles, and sliced scallions. I also kept about half of my sliced up scallions fresh to add right before eating. The goyza is 9 points/ 160 calories for a serving of 5 dumplings. I won’t have more than 1 or 2 per serving. Everything else in this work week lunch is 0 points :).
As we get into winter, the produce in the markets are changing. Don’t forget to explore new fruits and vegetables throughout the year. This month alone enjoy parsnips, persimmons, all of the wonderful varieties of winter squash, turnips, and yams, to name a few.
Wishing you all a holiday season filled with love, joy, health, and happiness!
The holidays are definitely looking different this year, but there is no reason not to be festive! Decorate now. Spend time with the friends and family you would normally see this time of year in person virtually, or at least by telephone. Most importantly, continue to be kind to yourself, and take good care of yourself. Here are a few reminders on how to stay on track this season:
Don’t skip meals before your big feast.
Alternate your alcoholic beverages with glasses of water, or mix water or club soda into your cocktail or glass of wine.
Use a smaller plate to control portions.
Make your splurges “worth it”.
Veggies first! Load your plate up with vegetables.
Take 10. It can take a few minutes for your belly to send the “I’m full” signals to your brain. For this reason, give yourself at least ten minutes before you decide to go back for a second helping. Remember, we’re going for satisfied,not stuffed.
My meal preps are becoming more and more simple. Today’s is probably the most simple yet, and it’s based on one of my favorite fast foods – bean & cheese burritos from Taco Bell! My plan was to incorporate as many veggies as possible in my mixture. I drained a can of diced tomatoes with chilis, and added them to the saucepan that already had diced red onions that had been sweated down, and a can of fat free refried beans. I just stirred it all through, and took it off the heat to cool. I put the mixture in the refrigerator for about a half hour, then filled my Ole Extreme Wellness Whole Wheat Tortillas with the mixture, and a pinch of shredded Lite 3 Cheese Blend. I rolled them up, and made individual foil packs out of them, so I can grab an go. This entire meal is barely 2 points on the WW Blue Plan. I say barely because the cheese is 2 points for a 1/4 cup serving, and I’m barely using a teaspoon of it per serving. My salad side is Trader Joe’s Power greens mixed with their Chopped Veggies, and that will be topped off with 2 tablespoons of Cilantro Salad Dressing, which is also 2 points. Now I have a filling, satisfying, and yummy 4 point lunch to eat throughout my work week.
I don’t like “preachy” people, therefore I try not to be “preachy”. But friends, please take a look at your sodium intake. This subject was inspired by my October 2020 issue of Nutrition Action, a health periodical I have been receiving for years. It’s the best $20.00 a year I spend: https://cspinet.org/nutrition-action-healthletter. The article is “Salt Wars”, and is an interview with the author of the new book out by the same title https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/salt-wars. It explains how salt raises blood pressure, which caused hypertension. This increases our risk of heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and more. The foods that are the biggest culprits are processed meats like bacon and cold cuts, frozen meals, prepared soups, and breads. But the foods that are highest in salt are restaurant meals. The bottom line is to be mindful of your salt intake. Try to stay away from processed foods, but if you do choose to use them, read the labels and compare products. Many chain restaurants post their numbers online. The best thing we can do for ourselves is to choose clean and healthy foods such as fresh produce, beans, low fat dairy, fish, and poultry rather than processed foods. Making these changes will not only lower your blood pressure, but will increase your potassium levels. Potassium is known to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. Replacing sodium with potassium is the way to go. End of lecture.
/This week I made my own granola! Low fat, low calorie, low sugar, low point granola is one of the hardest things to find in the grocery store. I have scanned many a bag of granola at all different markets, and end up putting them all back on the shelf. The only one I’ve found that I like can only be purchased online, and it’s getting more expensive each time. But it’s really good, and I recommend it to those of you who love a good granola, and don’t want to take the time to make your own. It’s Julian Bakery Pro Granola, Vanilla Cinnamon Cluster. It’s 97 calories for a 1/2 cup serving, which is 2 points: https://julianbakery.com/product/progranola-vanilla-cinnamon-cluster/.
I used this recipe I found online: https://cookieandkate.com/healthy-granola-recipe/. I followed it pretty closely. I made 2 changes. One was successful, the other was a big mistake. The good news is, it still came out delicious, and cost me pennies per serving on the dollar. I figure it is about 4 points for a 1/4 cup serving. Since I use it to top my yogurt bowl, I’ll be using about 2 tablespoons per serving. The author of the recipe encourages you to use whatever nuts and dried fruits you want in your granola. I chose raw walnut halves, raw sliced almonds, and (here is the flub) roasted, unsalted pumpkin seeds, or pepitas. Since the granola is baked, the pepitas are essentially roasted a second time, and they came out bitter. Lesson learned. Buy the raw pepitas. I don’t eat dried fruit any more. That is one of the things I gave up completely when I started with WW. It’s really high in sugar. I had freeze dried raspberries in the house. I reconstituted about 1/4 cup of them and tossed them in to the granola mixture with 1/4 cup of coconut flakes as well. The recipe author gives a choice of sweetener for the granola, and I chose maple syrup over honey. Since we are talking about salt today, I should alert you that there is 1/2 teaspoon in the entire recipe. Note that a little salt in recipes brings out the flavors of the ingredients.
My meal prep this week was salmon pinwheels from Trader Joe’s and a simple chopped salad with Persian cucumbers, radishes, a red bell pepper, shredded carrots, and green onions, which I will toss over fresh arugula. I’ll be dressing that with Trader Joe’s fresh Green Goddess salad dressing. I had been eying the salmon pinwheels there for weeks. They are a fresh salmon filet rolled into a beautiful pinwheel stuffed simply with spinach and feta cheese. These only give me 2 days worth of lunch preps, but I have Trader Joe’s frozen shrimp burgers in the house, as well as Dr. Praeger’s Garden Veggie Burgers, either of which will also go great with my fresh chopped salad.
The take away from this week’s blog is to be mindful of the prepared foods you choose. This week, I used a prepared fresh salmon product, as well as a bottled salad dressing. I made sure that the ingredients were clean and fresh, not overly processed. It’s great to use convenience foods. Just read the labels.
Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope I have inspired you to take better care of yourself. Make it a great week!
Hello, friends! Happy Weekend! I happen to have a busy one planned with family, and it will include a lot of driving. Not sure if I will be able to blog tomorrow, but I wanted to share my meal prep plans with you, since I have almost no time to do it this weekend. After my WW Zoom meeting this morning, which was proceeded by our WW Tribe Tailgate (one of my favorite parts of the weekend), I went out to Trader Joe’s to pick up my provisions.
I subscribe to many food blogs for inspiration and research, and yesterday I was inspired by this healthy, fresh, easy to make and store cucumber radish salad from https://diethood.com/: https://diethood.com/radish-cucumber-tomato-salad/. Of course I am making some changes to fit my needs, which are to have the vegetables keep for a few days. In place of tomatoes I am using red pepper, and in place of diced red onions, I am using green onions. I am also adding arugula for that leafy green I love so much. Also, instead of making the creamy yogurt dressing (which sounds so good, and I will make it at some point) for this week, I am using my simple red wine vinaigrette, which I already have prepared.
For my proteins, I actually have a selection, all of which are very easy to prepare on the fly.
Last Sunday I tried yellow watermelon for the first time, as was shown on the blog. It was gorgeous, sweet, and delicious. This week I am trying cherry plums, as suggested by dear friend Judie. I think trying a new seasonal vegetable or fruit each week is a great habit to get into. They are 0 points, low in calories, carbs, and fat, and could add quite nicely to your food prep repertoire.
Have a wonderful weekend, my friends! I’m off! Stay safe and healthy. Wear your mask, and wash those hands. And remember to take a little time for yourselves.
Instead of going out for a fancy al fresco dinner for my birthday this week, we opted to invest the money in an instant pot/ air fryer. Honestly, it’s so exciting. Today was my first experiment with it. After it took me almost an hour to figure out how to work the lid of the instant pot, I was on my way. Honestly, I am THE most un-mechanical, least handy person I know. Maybe besides my brother…. ;).
I decided to make my favorite chicken shawarma from https://www.jocooks.com/, and lo and behold, she added an instant pot version on to her website now: https://www.jocooks.com/recipes/instant-pot-chicken-shawarma/. If you have been following by blog you know that this is one of my favorite recipes, and I have made it often. We pair it with simply hummus, and tzatziki sauce when we have it for dinner. Today, I followed Jo’s instant pot technique, then air fried the chicken for 5 minutes to give it a little crust. Note: since the chicken breast was just over 1 pound, I looked up the cooking time on line. It gave me 7 minutes. I will do 8 minutes next time. The chicken breast came out slightly underdone, but since I will be reheating it in the microwave at work, it should be just fine, and not dry when I eat it.
Now comes the really fun part – the air frying! My plan was to air fry eggplant and zucchini to go with my chicken shawarma for lunch. As I looked up recipes and techniques on the interwebs, I found one that did not require any breading. In fact the seasoning technique was the same as if I were going to roast the vegetables. No mess from the breading process, and no bread. Brilliant. https://www.melaniecooks.com/air-fryer-eggplant
My middle eastern feast for the week is complete. Just one more thing – my fun new summer fruit of the week:
Thank you for joining me today. Try something new this week: a new recipe, cooking technique, fruit, or vegetable. Experiment! And take good care of yourself! Stay safe and healthy. Wear your mask and wash your hands.
And so begins my birthday week during the pandemic. I honestly don’t mind celebrating quietly. We did that for my husband’s birthday in April when things were really shut down. It’s more about missing celebrating with my dear lifelong friends who also have birthdays this month. One good thing – my local pool is finally reopening this week. I swim on Tuesday afternoon for the first time since mid March. I just cannot wait. My poor sore, orthopedically challenged body is ready for the water! Happy Birthday week to me!
I kept it simple this week again for my lunch prep. I was inspired by a meal prep I found on my new favorite culinary blog, https://www.flavcity.com/. Here is the link to the prep that inspired me: https://www.flavcity.com/low-fat-meal-prep. I made marinara turkey meatballs and a zucchini, summer squash, and tomato saute to accompany them. I realized that if you start any saute with good olive oil, onions, and garlic you can add any vegetable you want and it will turn out yummy. I seasoned the veggie mixture liberally with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. The main dish is Trader Joe’s Frozen Fully Cooked Turkey Meatballs, and my new favorite marinara sauce. Silver Palate Low Sodium Marinara (found at Ralph’s) is 60 calories/ 3 points for a 1/2 cup serving. But it is just 6% sodium, and has 0 added sugars. The ingredients are clean and pure. No preservatives. And it’s delicious. The turkey meatballs are processed, but still fairly clean, and of course convenient to prepare, and delicious to eat. They are 100 calories/ 3 points for a serving of 2. I am having 3 meatballs per serving for lunch for 4 points.
I am switching it up just a little for breakfast this week too. I have been having non fat Greek yogurt bowls with bananas, blueberries, flax meal, and chia seeds, along with a hard boiled egg each morning, along with my mock chai tea latte (Trader Joe’s chai spiced tea bags with unsweetened vanilla almond milk). It’s good, but it’s getting boring (not the tea; must have my chai tea in the morning). I got inspired by this egg stuffed peppers idea I found on Pinterest: https://skinnyms.com/egg-stuffed-peppers. I substituted the cheese for Nutritional Yeast (https://www.marthastewart.com/7796957/nutritional-yeast-explained). Less fat and calories, but a nice cheesy flavor. I will still have my yogurt bowl in the morning, in a smaller portion, and one of these.
Make it a great week my friends. Stay safe, stay healthy, wear your mask, and wash your hands. Thanks so much for stopping by. Any critiques, questions, and comments are always welcome.
Busy work weeks translate to busier weekends. Happily, I am maintaining the balance of getting things done vs down time. It just requires a little more planning. I am now writing things down and keeping a calendar, so that now everything fits in the way I want it to. Honestly, the only piece of my puzzle that is missing is swimming. When that opens up, I will pivot again, as to ensure the harmony that I so desire.
In addition to my meal preps needing to be quick, easy, clean (not processed) foods, anti inflammatory diet friendly, as well as low in calories and WW points, they also need to be easy to put together in the morning as well as in my work place when getting ready to eat them. I don’t ask for much ;).
Today I put together a quick and easy ground chicken taco mixture. I started my sauteing my diced red onions in a skillet, then adding the chicken, which I seasoned simply with s&p, a generous amount of cumin, dried oregano, and a couple of the frozen garlic cubes. I added canned diced tomatoes with chilies, a can of mild diced green chilies, and a can of pinto beans, which I drained and rinsed. I also ended up adding some frozen spinach. As I was cooking, I realized needed more veg, specifically a dark leafy green (for that anti inflammatory aspect I want every week).
Last week I did a different easy lunch prep that involved very little time, and very little cooking. I did a Greek salad with a little roasted chicken breast. I made a super simple red wine vinaigrette for this. It’s 1/3 cups red wine vinegar, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup water, a half teaspoon each of s&p, and I added dried oregano because it was for a Greek salad, after all.
I hope that these quick and easy lunch preps inspire you to find your own that make you happy. Meal planning and prep do not have to be complicated, or take all day. The interwebs are full of great ideas. It is so easy these days to find culinary inspiration, and to hack a recipe to fit your dietary needs and desires. Here is a short list of some of my favorite blogs/ websites for meal prep inspiration:
I have been fooling around with recipe conversions in baking for as long as I can remember, substituting applesauce for oil, experimenting with sugar substitutes, adding pumpkin or other fruits or vegetables to recipes, using egg whites, etc.
My paternal grandmother was the quintessential home baker, and I always wanted to be her, except at a healthy weight. Granted, I bake mostly very simple things like bars, and crisps. Grandma Kate baked the most beautiful challahs, cookies, and coffee cakes. Her kitchen was like a little baking factory. I have experienced many successes as well as failures with my baking experiments, but today was a grand success and I wanted to share it with you. I know Grandma Kate is proud.
As you can see by my photo, I used peanut butter powder in place of creamy peanut butter, slashing the fat and calories (and WW points). I also used a low sugar fruit spread in place of regular jelly. I did also use Splenda brown sugar instead of regular brown sugar. I used the same measurements as called for in the recipe. I am blown away at how delicious and creamy and peanut buttery my blondies are. Please give this a try.
I want to call out another recent baking success – another recipe for you to try. No substitutes needed. This brownie recipe is written perfectly: https://www.skinnykitchen.com/recipes/tag/skinny-brownies/. These are delicious, and came out perfectly both times I made them in recent months.
I’m getting busier at work, thankfully, while making maintaining a balance in my life that gives me enough downtime/ self care time. To that end, I decided to keep #mealprepsunday super simple this week. Yesterday I went to Trader Joe’s and bought a package of Nova Lox, 2 cans of tuna, veggie burgers, a bag of Power Greens, and a bag of Broccoli Slaw. My pantry and refrigerator contain everything else I need to turn these ingredients into work lunches for the week. I have 100 calorie multi grain English Muffins (3 points), Everything Bagel Thins (3 points), Ole Whole Wheat Tortillas (1 point), and the fixings for the homemade classic vinaigrette I enjoy so much. Today I put together the tuna with celery, diced red onions, and light mayo I had on hand, and the salad dressing. My other options, the lox sandwiches, and veggie burger sandwiches can be put together on the fly at work.
During what I refer to the “dog days” of the quarantine, my husband and I started eating serious deserts after dinner. Ice cream, gelato, ice cream novelties, and the like. My clothes started getting a little tight…. During the last few weeks since we have both been getting out of the house again during the day for work, we have made adjustments. I have been prepping fresh summer fruit to have after dinner most nights. We do still indulge in a cheat dessert or 2 on the weekends, but the fruit has been working great for us. The first week, I cut up watermelon. Last week, I prepped strawberries, and bought whipped cream to have with them, and this week we are doing the same with cherries. It’s all been really delicious and satisfying.
For breakfast these days I switch off between yogurt, banana, berry bowls, with a hard boiled egg, and scrambled eggs topped with salsa, and rolled into an Ole Whole Wheat tortilla, with a banana. These choices work for me, and keep me full until lunchtime. Easy peasy.