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Fall Menus!

Posted by Seattlejo on September 23, 2017 in Deb |

We’re doing another round of WW friendly menus.

Here is the first set. Note the  days do not add up to 30 SP. That’s because we want you to have room to add in snacks and increase things that are important to you.(Extra protein, extra cheese, nuts etc.)

FallMenu1

FallRecipes1

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Back in the Swing of Things

Posted by Seattlejo on September 4, 2017 in Deb |

Back in the Swing of Things

 

 

 

 

We’re past labor day, you know what that means? It’s time to get back down to brass tacks. Kids are back in school, summer vacations are over, we’re done with the lazy days of the summer. It’s almost heart breaking. The return of everything pumpkin is the harbinger for doom. It’s the end of the year.

What’s it mean to be back on track?

Being back on track means there’s dinner on the table every night. There are fewer opportunities to eat frozen yogurt for dinner. (What, you don’t do that at least once each summer? You’re missing out.)  Instead, you’re often juggling school events, late nights at work, networking events and more. Even if you have simplified your meal planning like we suggested there are challenges to navigate and you are prepared!

Back on track means:

  • A healthy breakfast, or a plan for breakfast before you walk out the door.
  • Filled water bottle at your side for sweet sweet hydration.
  • A plan for lunch or something packed up to go with you.
  • Snacks are planned, tasty and healthy.
  • There’s no scramble for dinner,  you have a plan, you shopped & prepped, or delegated your meal plan for the day.
  • Desserts are healthy options and not an everyday occurrence.

How do you get back on track?

In the next 7 days, I’m home 2, and tonight is one of those days. So how did I prepare?
First, I declared my intention to eat well while I’m on the road and to ensure there were healthy food options for my partner.  Then I sat down and figured out what that meant.
For my partner that meant having grab and go options. He’s not the type to sit down and cook dinner.  So in the fridge we now have.
-Starbucks-style sous vide  egg cups
-Hard Boiled Eggs
-Salsa Chicken
-Low Carb Tortillas
-Cheddar Cheese
-My spiralized antipasta salad
-Romaine hearts
-Cucumbers

Also in the freezer, I added a few bags of steam fresh veggies, in case he gets adventurous.

For me, I’ll pack a variety of the above, with the following added in my travel bag.
-Celery, carrot and cucumber sticks
-Hummus
-Homemade yogurt
-Yogurt made into a veggie dip.
-Smoked chicken breasts.
-Cheddar cheese slices
-Almonds
-Grapes
-Cherry tomatoes

I’ll do things like wrap the tortilla around a little chicken for lunch, turn the hard boiled eggs into deviled eggs with a little mustard, or chop the smoked chicken into my zuchinni pasta salad. It’s enough variety on hand so that it doesn’t get boring.

Sometimes you call the professionals for help.

Just like I’m willing to pay WW for diet help, I’m also willing to occasionally pay pros for a little meal planning help. What does that mean?
For me, it’s having an eMeals plan. They have plans with WW points, low carb plans, clean eating and Paleo plans. They also make it crazy easy to swap between plans. The cost? $30 for 3 months. If you’re curious you should try eMeals Free for 14 Days

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Simplify your meals

Posted by Seattlejo on September 1, 2017 in Deb, Weight Watchers |

Simplify your meals

When you’re trying to eat healthily, it’s very easy to make things too complicated. Every diet plan comes with a special list of food and special recipes to rock your world. The problem is changes like this are very hard to sustain. Even when you have discreet shopping lists and meal plans for a given week you are still having to retrain your brain and build new habits.

One of the easiest things I’ve found is to create a standard basic salad that we eat with most dinners. It’s not complicated, the ingredients are easy to find, typically in season and can be customized if we want to get fancy. There’s no dressing by default, we’ll often change up the dressing we use to match our meal.

Our basic salad (serves 2)

1 Romaine Heart Chopped

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes

1 medium cucumber chopped.

  • Mix salad. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with dressing of your choice.

The Joy of Simple Proteins

To match with our  salad, I keep easy proteins on hand.  Chicken breasts, pork tenderloins, lean ground beef, frozen shrimp, cans of tuna, frozen. Treat your proteins well. Chicken breasts are poached or roasted.  Cook them in salsa for an easy mexican meal.  Pork tenderloin cook quickly in the oven. Shrimp poach quickly.

Simplify dinner time, have these proteins cooked and ready to go in the fridge. If you cook a couple nights worth on Sunday, and your weeknight dinners are easy. Simply reheat your protein, make your salad, and warm up a carb if that’s part of your plate. (I often bake sweet potatoes or cook rice on Sunday so it’s easy to eat midweek.)

How we Simplify Grocery Shopping

What makes this brilliant, is how easy it all comes together for grocery shopping Plan how much protein you are going to serve per person each day, (between 4-8 ounces usually) calculate how much salad you’re going to eat (for us that’s 1 romaine head per day). Start there with your cart. Get your salad, your protein, then fill in around the edges. Planning on salsa cooked chicken? You might opt to add a little sour cream, avocado and black beans. Making hamburgers with lean ground beef? I’d use the salad as the base and top the burger with some cheddar cheese, pickles and a little thousand island dressing.

Very often I’m taking advantage of the extra pantry items we already have, making sure to maximize what we have and make easy economical choices.

 

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Starbucks does Salad? The Mercato situation

Posted by Seattlejo on August 2, 2017 in Deb, Seattle, Weight Watchers |

Starbucks now serving… Salad

I stopped at my local Starbucks to pick up a quick cold brew and a little something to nibble, I’d not had lunch and figured a sous vide egg thing would be great to tide me over. Instead, I was surprised to see signs for new salads.

I was wooed by the idea of a Green Goddess Avocado salad, though I had no clue what the points were going to be.

What’s this Mercato thing?

Evidently, in April, Starbucks launched Mercato, a line of sandwiches, salads and snack boxes in Chicago. With a receptive audience, they rolled it out nation wide, with some items (Cubanos and Farmers Protein Boxes) hitting sooner then others.

The salads rolled out today in Seattle.

Craving a fresh salad, the Avocado Green Goddess sounded AMAZING, so of course they were out of it. My second choice offered to me was a hard boiled egg salad.

Thinking I was getting an egg salad sort of deal, I happily agreed. As I drove through the barista was so happy to have me take the salad off his hands, he gave me a brochure and a lunch bag. (Weird, and huge compared to the size of the salad.)

A Hard Boiled Side salad with grains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How was it?

The hard boiled eggs were just tossed on top of a bed of kinda limp spinach with a bed of grains on top. The tomatoes were not fresh but were instead roasted (great choice to keep them fresher longer actually)  It was lightly dressed, and the grains were well cooked.  The eggs themselves had a firmness to the white you see if an egg has been peeled, then held for a few hours before serving. The “grains” were brown rice.  The eggs bumped up the calorie count and when I ran the numbers according to WW it was 11 SP.  If you counted the eggs on their own, counted the vegetables as free, you get 4 SP , you have to figure a few points at least for the vinaigrette (and any other added oil). So 11 is the official count, but you might be able to fudge it and call it 9.

A second choice?

I found the Avocado Green Goddess salad at a different Starbucks, and while I wasn’t looking for lunch I got a closer look at the salad itself.   The larger salads are very big, the greens looked fresh, and the grains looked well cooked. The avocado was distinct pieces of avocado, instead of being guacamole.

What did I like about it?

The ingredients list is amazingly clean. You can see it here on the Starbucks Site.
Basically, it’s eggs, spinach, tomatoes, brown rice, some seasoning, and vinaigrette. Not bad at all.  It’s all food that can be easily recognized.
It’s convenient, a stop at Starbucks for a mid-afternoon break could be improved with some vegetables.

What don’t I like about it?

The points counts are a little high, for most everything. You can find the nutritional information here:Count it for yourself and see what you come up with.  Spot checking, the Green Goddess Salad is 21 SP. The Cauliflower Tabouli is 5 SP,  and that’s mostly just vegetables with a little dressing. (a tbls of olive oil is about 5 SP, so maybe that’s the count. )

So many grains. While I’m not eating 100% paleo, it’d be nice to have some of these salads without the grains. A scoop of brown rice, quinoa or orzo may be a nice way to bulk it up.

Bottom line?
Good in a pinch, but check the points before you take a bite.

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Top 5 Kitchen Tools

Posted by Seattlejo on May 29, 2017 in Deb |

My Top 5 Kitchen Tools.

I love cooking. I like firing up a frying pan and coming out with a healthy tasty dinner for my fiancee and myself. (Fiancee… that’s a new thing, very exciting) There are a number of  kitchen tools I use that make it easier, that I’d love to share with you.

5. A Good Cast Iron Pan

Start with something pre-seasoned so you can cook right away, a pan like this is ideal.( Pre Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet with Silicone Hot Handle Holder – 12.5 inch – by Utopia Kitchen

The hot handle is a great benefit and either 10 inches or 12 inches is all you need for a normal size family of 2-4. It cooks up pancakes, sauteed vegetables, and with the right amount of heat will give you a great sear. Avoid acids at first, and clean it with only a little soap and hot water, and dry it right away.

4. A Coffee Grinder

Whether is creating a custom spice blend to rub onto steaks, breaking up cardamom pods for flavoring, or creating a little rice flour with a quick blend, this does everything but grind my morning coffee. I’m a huge fan of Bodum, and recommend this one, though you can often find it in other fun colors to match your kitchen.
Bodum Bistro Electric Blade Coffee Grinder, Black

3. Tongs


Tong-ta-tong tong. That’s the noise we make every time we pick them up or hand them over to another person. I have ones that are silicone covered, like the ones up there, ones with metal end, big sturdy ones for grabbing meat off the grill, tiny ones for tossing salads in a bowl with dressing.  I use them for fishing canning jars out of my Sous Vide  bath, I toss them on the platter when serving, letting guests help them selves.

 

 

2. Canning Jars

We’re not just talking about hipster salads. (Though I’m not immune to making a good hipster salad)

We’re talking canning jars for mixing up salad dressings. Storing broths in, baking small cakes in, using in a water bath for egg custards, for drinking out of, taking homemade instant soups to work and.. making hipster salads. Canning jars are an awesome kitchen tool, not to be overrated. Keep a variety of sizes on hand. I recommend:

4 Ounce Jars

8 Ounce Jars

16 Ounce Jars

Also, consider learning to do pickling, fermenting and jam making. These are awesome versatile kitchen tools.

 

1. A Sous Vide tool

This could have easily been my Phillips Air Fryer or my Instant Pot. Heck, even my Traeger Grill is pretty useful. The number one slot belongs to my Sans Air Sous Vide though. Sous Vid is still new to the home cook and frankly looks a little alien. You heat up a water bath, seal meat into an airtight container (I use jars, freezer safe zip lock, or food saver bags.) Slip it into the water at the designated temperature, cook for the designated time, and fish it out when done. A final sear makes it ready for the table.

The magic of Sous Vide is that meat cooks at a specific temperature is very very had to overcook, and retains a moistness and cooked thoroughness that no other cooking method can really achieve.  If you’re doubting the SousVide as my most important kitchen tool, consider this.

Yesterday, I turned the Sans Air Sous Vide on at 135degrees and cooked a pork tenderloin over 90 minutes. Fished it out and tossed it in the fridge. I changed the temperature to 160 degrees and dropped in 5lbs of chicken thighs. They were boneless , skinless and frozen. When the temperature came back to 160, I timed them for 3 hours, then fished them out. The chicken got chopped up, half of it got doused in some buffalo sauce for easy buffalo chicken salads this week (See recipe below). The rest is on hand to go into chicken tacos, burritos, stir fry, or chicken fried rice. (Paleomg has a great recipe here: http://paleomg.com/my-spin-on-chicken-fried-rice/)

 

The tenderloin got sliced up and sauteed for dinner. While the vegetables steamed and I chopped a salad it warmed up, remaining tender and tasty. Dinner was on the table, 15 minutes total from prep to plate.  That’s why it tops my list of kitchen tools.

Looking for More information?

More information on Sous Vide can be found at the following sources.

Chef Steps: https://www.chefsteps.com/activities/what-is-sous-vide

LifeHacker :http://lifehacker.com/tag/will-it-sous-vide

More information on canning in jars can be found here:

Food In Jars : http://foodinjars.com/

Natural Center for Home Food Preservation: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_home.html

 

What are your favorite Kitchen Tools?

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Week 4 Menus : Whole Foods WW

Posted by Seattlejo on April 15, 2017 in Deb |

This Week’s Menus

Challenge Menu -Week 4

Challenge Menu Week 4

Challenge Recipes Week 4

(Did you miss the previous weeks? We have those too!)

Challenge Menu – Week 3

Challenge Recipes – Week 3

Challenge Recipes – Week 1

Challenge Menu – Week 1

Challenge Recipes – Week 2

Challenge Menu – Week 2

 

Week 4 Recipes Week 4 Menu

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Whole Foods Weight Watchers Challenge

Posted by Seattlejo on April 8, 2017 in Deb |

Whole Foods Weight Watchers
30 Day Challenge

This Weeks Menu’s have been posted, including a fabulous Buffalo Chicken Dip.

Give it a try!

Challenge Menu – Week 3

Challenge Recipes – Week 3

(Did you miss the previous weeks? We have those too!)

Challenge Recipes – Week 1

Challenge Menu – Week 1

Challenge Recipes – Week 2

Challenge Menu – Week 2

 

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Whole Food Weight Watchers Challenge

Posted by Seattlejo on April 1, 2017 in Deb |

Whole Foods Weight Watchers Challenge

 

I’m currently hosting a Facebook group for women  on Weight Watchers.

We are focused on the Weight Watchers lifestyle choices while eating whole foods. We eat lean meats, fresh vegetables, whole grains, full fat dairy. This means no support for support fat free/sugar free processed foods.  Your food needs to have nutritional value. A sugar free brownie made with brownie mix and soda pop doesn’t have value.
Food substitutes like Halo Top are great, but we want to be able to eat ice cream in a non-Halo Top world. You need to know what a reasonable portion size looks like and how it fits into a healthy diet.

On March 25th, I kicked off a Whole Foods Challenge, with Menus and Recipes.

Want to play along?

Here are the menus and recipes for the first 2 weeks. Enjoy !

 

Menus – March Menu 1

Menus – March Recipe 1

Menus – March Menu 2

Menus – March Recipe 2

 

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52 Weeks of Cooking: Spiralized Italian Salad

Posted by Seattlejo on February 19, 2017 in 52 Weeks of Cooking |

Spirlalized Italian Salad

This week’s Italian theme inspired me to give a Spiralized Italian Salad a try, from the cookbook Inspiralized. I’ve had a spiralizer forever. In fact, I now have 2 different models. The first being a plastic paderno option, the second being a metal one that hooks onto my kitchen aid.

The problem is, though I like the idea of a spiralized vegetables, replacing my spaghetti and other noodley options, it always seems like a hassle pulling out the spiralizer. With the kitchenaid option, I have a really bad habit of putting the blades in a safe spot in the kitchen, then not being able to find them when I go to use it again. (My kitchen, she is small and mighty and needs organization help.)

 

An Italian Theme

The other problem is, that spiralized noodles don’t always work out right. Sometimes they are too soggy, sometimes too much sauce. So I turned to the Spirlizer queen’s cookbook Inspiralized for inspiration. A quick flip through the book gave me the perfect inspiration for a Spiralized Italian Salad.

I was looking for a fresh take on Italian, something lighter and less hearty. Italian salads are often vegetable centered, so this was an easy choice.

It got rave reviews, and made an easy dinner served with air fryed chicken breast strips.

Next time? I’ll swap the shredded cheese for mozzarella balls, and consider adding chickpeas in for the salami to make it a vegetarian option. There was plenty left over after tonight, and it’ll get packed up for an easy lunch. Maybe if I’m lucky there will be enough to take on my flight to St Louis on Tuesday.

Deb’s Spiralized Italian Salad

Inspired by Inspiralized

Ingredients

  • 2 Medium Zuchinni
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, rinsed and quarterd
  • 1 cup mozzarella shredded
  • 10 slices salami quartered
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 can  quartered black olives

Dressing

  • 4  tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 meyer lemon, juiced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried onion
  • 1 tsp dried garlic
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Spiralize the zuchinni into thick noodles, catching them into your bowl.
  2. Add remaining salad ingredients to bowl and toss. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Mix dressing ingredients together, then pour over salad.
  4. Let chill for 3 hours, then serve

Serves 4
6 SP per serving

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New Orleans Trip 1

Posted by Seattlejo on February 19, 2017 in Adventure, Cruise Port, New Orleans, Travel |

Let’s go back to New Orleans (Food, Culture and Nightlife)

I think I’m ready to go back to New Orleans.  A few years ago, Mike and I cruised out of the New Orleans port. We tacked on 3-4 days on the front of the trip so we could explore the city as a whole.  I wanted more time in the city, because I grew up romanticizing it. In high school, I poured over  Anne Rice’s  Vampire novels, and steeped myself in knowledge about her and her life. As a teenager, New Orleans became my dream location. I was sure I was going to fall in love with the fair city, and that it would be hard to leave.

In a post-Katrina world, it was a little different then I expected. There was history, and nightlife as promised the sadness of Katrina recovery and the ubiquitous Bourbon Street nightlife invaded my day dreams.

New Orleans Houses
A normal house in New Orleans

The Food of New Orleans

I’m ready to go back though. The food of New Orleans, is the stuff of dreams. Fresh seafood, french sauces and home style cooking mix together on your plate. One taste of crunchy fried chicken livers, or finger licking sticky cornbread covered in honey, and it’s true love.

Boudin Balls
Jambalaya and Bread

We expanded on our interests in food by taking a cooking class at the New Orleans School of Cooking

There Chef Kevin taught us to make Pralines, Gumbo, Jambalaya and Bread Pudding.

Chef Kevin Cooks
Jambalaya

 

We came away with full stomachs, a cookbook, pages of handwritten notes about the recipes. As I revisit them, I’ll share the recipes at AlmostDinner.com 

 

 

The Culture of New Orleans

We went to Mardi Gras world and watched them build floats for the big parades, creating new floats from old, rebuilding from old ideas to new.

Mardi Gras world is in a warehouse down off the Mississippi river. It is a working art studio, storage facility and event venue. The Krewes of Mardi Gras don’t own their own floats, they only lease them from year to year , with Mardi Gras world’s artists helping recycle, restore and recreate the floats from year to year. For example, what is a hobbit hole this year, becomes Shrek’s hovel next year. The Krewes own the underlying trailers, which are worth up to 80K. Krewes have at least 14 floats in each parade, some holding as many as 40 people with their beads, plushies and other tokens. (The trailers even have bathrooms because float riders are often stuck on the floats upwards of 8 hours. )

  

 

We also visited a public art market at Frenchmen street. We got to see the works of local craftsman, and talk to people about what it meant to be an artist in a post-Katrina world.

Lots of recycled materials. The kind of work you’d see in the industrial areas of Seattle, but with a Louisiana Flair.

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