01/16/15

Low fat pina colada breakfast parfaits

Half way through January and I’m still standing strong with my commitment to healthier and cleaner eating. Most importantly, it has begun to show on the scale and measuring tape results.  The numbers aren’t yet life-altering but it is certainly easier to stay the course when you are seeing your efforts pay off.

Next weekend, I’m going to be allowing myself a bit – okay a lot – of a cheat when I attend the La Cookie Con & Sweets Show in Pasadena.  With a name like Doughgasm you better believe that I won’t be denying myself the chance to sample all the cookies and other goodies that will be at the show.

On the run up to the Cookie Con, I’m going to be extra good at counting calories and saving some in the overflow bank for all the intended nibbling.  Hopefully, that will mean I can have the fun of the foodie event without feeling too much guilt about it when weigh-in day comes around.

Adding to my motivation, I’m going to continue posting the healthy recipes that I  made frequently when I was in the midst of my 100 pound weight loss. Hopefully, bringing some of them back can help me make that 101 pounds lost and downwards from there.

Brain training is the biggest part of the weight loss process for me. Eventually, the rest of my body will follow once my brain has finally gotten the message.  So much decision making in regards to what I eat comes down to how I look at the choices before me.

These low fat pina colada breakfast parfaits are a good example. Really they are just yogurt, fruit and nuts in a bowl. Something which we all know to be good for us but may not feel as alluring first thing in the morning as that glistening croissant winking at you from behind the glass at Starbucks.

Start thing of it as something fancy like a pina colada and then suddenly it is more like a treat and not only could it be a breakfast dish but perhaps something your brain may also accept as a low fat dessert recipe. If you did want to go that path you could try subbing out the yogurt for fat free frozen yogurt for a similar but different experience.

Best of all, they could probably be prepared in less time than it takes to stand in that morning Starbucks line.

This recipe is for two servings of the pina colada breakfast parfaits so you will need to have two serving glasses or bowls to hand. Don’t worry if you are flying solo on this one though because it is easy to halve the recipe and it just means you have the ingredients to make it again the next day.

Low Fat Pina Colada Breakfast Parfaits

Low Fat Pina Colada Breakfat Parfaits Recipe

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups fat-free vanilla yogurt
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
2/3 cup banana, chopped
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, from a can, well drained
4 tablespoons flaked almonds, freshly toasted

Directions:

1. Put the yogurt into a bowl and stir in the coconut extract. Set aside.

2. Divide 1/3 of the yogurt between two parfait sized glasses.

3. Put half the the pineapple, then banana on top of the yogurt and then sprinkle with half of the toasted almonds.

4. Top that layer with another third of the yogurt, the rest of the fruit, the final third of the yoghurt and finally top with the remaining toasted almonds.

 

01/1/15

Accidentally Vegan Cardamom Macadamia Nut Pancakes

My attempts to focus on healthier eating are going pretty well. Life hasn’t been entirely void of treats but they’ve been few and far between and the rest of the time has been sticking to calorie counts consisting largely of fruits,vegetables and healthy proteins.

It’s easier to stay on track when I am cooking for myself rather than eating out. Not always the easiest thing in Los Angeles because there are so many foodie temptations here. However,as long as I have some quick but satisfying recipes to hand I can usually manage to make the right choice.

I’ve found myself reaching back to recipes that became fixtures during my previous weight loss success. This pancake recipe is one that I came up with several years back when I was living in London and was at the height of my weight loss. It was one of those mornings where I was super hungry but had barely anything in the house. Since I was taking the whole healthy eating kick thing super seriously what I did have were things like soy milk and nut oils.

What resulted where these really yummy cardamom macadamia nut pancakes which just so happen to also be vegan pancakes.  It’s one of those recipes that is a jumping of point where you can switch up the ingredients any number of ways to either suit what you have to hand or to try out new flavor profiles. As long as you have a milk, an oil and a spice, it should work.

Of course, you could take it out of the vegan category and use cow’s milk. I’m probably going to experiment more in the other direction and see which other non-dairy milks I can use. I have little doubt that almond milk would work just fine. Coconut milk would be an interesting experiment. Particularly,with the macadamia nut oil notes.

I like to top these off with some fruit,I grew particularly fond of adding slices of grilled bananas, and then drizzling with honey.  It feels like you are eating something special but with barely any fat in the recipe. That’s a win win in my world.

Cardamom Macadamia Nut Pancakes

cardamon pancakes

 

Ingredients:

1 cup plain flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 cup soy milk

1 tablespoon macadamia nut oil

Directions:

1. Mix the dry ingredients together into a large bowl and combine well.

2. Add the soy milk and the macadamia nut oil and stir until thoroughly mixed. If you are finding your batter is just a bit too thick at this stage then add a bit more soy milk.

3. Heat a griddle or frying pan until it is hot enough to make pancakes. I usually drop a tiny bit of water onto it and if it instantly sizzles I consider it ready to be used.

4. Either spray with non-fat cooking spray or use a tiny bit of the macadamia nut oil and then start to drop the batter on the hot surface.

5. Leave each vegan pancake until bubbles have started to form on the pancake. Then flip over and cook for a minute or so on the other side. Watch carefully because they can very easily go from perfectly golden brown to burned and ruined.

6.  Put pancakes onto two plates, top with your choice of toppings. I’ve enjoyed them with a bit of honey or the traditional maple syrup path. Even better topped with grilled bananas.

 

12/12/14

Quick Fix Avacado Toast With Poached Egg

Given that my birthday is merely a few days away and that Christmas is right around the corner,I am probably setting myself up for a challenge but I am going to be making an effort to focus on healthier eating. No danger exists of me giving up trips to the cupcake shop or enjoying some kick arse BBQ now and then. It just doesn’t hurt to be good to your body the rest of the time.

Nearly four years ago now, I lost about 100 pounds and  kept most of it off since. Lately though, a few of those pounds have been threatening to return. I’m  a big girl and have no hangups about it but I’d still like to strive to maintain what I worked so diligently to accomplish.

In between planning the Christmas cookie list and researching baked ham recipes, finding the time to plan out a week of healthy meals can be difficult.  Frequently, I’ve found myself falling back on some quick fix healthy recipes that I’ve kept in my back pocket throughout my health improvement journey (doesn’t that sound less judgmental that weight loss journey?).

This avocado toast recipe really couldn’t be much easier.  Yet, it is packed full of those healthy Omega 3 fats from the avocado and the protein of the egg.  Pile it all on some good whole grain bread and you’re treating your body to fiber too. Speaking of the egg, if you think a creamy yolk tastes good, just wait until you experience the lusciousness as that silky golden goodness soaks into the layer of avocado. Scrumptious and a great quick fix breakfast recipe!

 

Avocado toast with poached egg

avacado toast with poached egg

Ingredients:

1 slice whole grain bread
1/2 of an avocado
1/2 teaspoon garlic infused white wine vinegar or white wine vinegar and 1/2 clove crushed garlic
1 poached egg

Directions:

1. Put the bread into toast.
2. Meanwhile, scoop the avocado flesh into a bowl.
3. Add in the garlic vinegar and mash until it is roughly mashed and everything is combined.
4. Spread the avocado mixture on top of the toast.
5. Place the poached egg on top and enjoy.

Serves: 1

 

04/4/14

Low Fat Moroccan Inspired Baked Potato Slices

I don’t know what it is about starting a healthy eating routine but around about the second week I always start to get carb cravings. This time has been no different. The first week of green smoothies and steamed fish and veggies was easy sailing and then half way through this week all I could think about were potatoes. I don’t even eat that many potatoes when I am not counting my calories so I am not sure why my cravings go that path but sure enough I found myself fighting the urge to bust my diet and buy some fast food fries.

Luckily, I was able to take a deep breath and count to ten without the intoxicating aroma of fresh french fries to sway me from my path. Instead, I reached into my bag of healthy eating culinary tips and remembered my recipe for low fat Moroccan inspired baked potato slices.

They aren’t fries but they have worked for me throughout the years because they are a way of getting a tasty potato dish on my plate without having to swap unhealthy for bland. Also, the recipe is incredibly flexible. If you don’t like Moroccan style spices then just use your own combination of spices and create your own version of the basic recipe.

Low Fat Moroccan Inspired Baked Potato Slices

moroccan potato slices

1 1/2 lbs potatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cilantro
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
1 garlic clove
1/2 lemon, juice and zest of

Directions:

Preheat  the oven to 400 degrees.

Meanwhile, slice the potatoes into fairly thin but not ultra thin slices. I usually aim to make them about half the width of my fingernail. Leave the skin on for extra goodness and taste.

In a large bowl combine the oil, the spices, the lemon juice and zest. Mince your garlic and also put that in the bowl. However, I suggest actually grating your peeled garlic into the bowl. I use a microplane grater for this and I think it gives the garlic more punch in the mix.

Put the potato slices into the bowl and mix everything around so that all of the slices get well coated.

Line a baking tray with foil (I do this even with my non-stick trays to ensure  easy cleanup) and transfer the slices to the tray.

Put in the oven and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes or until they start to go golden brown.

Serve.

03/14/14

Happy Pi Day. Mushroom & Blue Cheese Mini Pies Are My Gift.

Ain’t no holiday like a nerd holiday.

For number nerds around the world, today is Pi Day. Well, actually not so much the whole world.

Most of the world puts the day before the month when they say a date. For North Americans, today is 3/14. Which, is taken as representative of 3.14, the approximate value of pi. Europe and most other places, however, see today as 14/3.  So, really today is an American nerd holiday.

Semantics aside, today is the day math geeks give us all an excuse to eat pie. Who is going to complain that? I mean, other than maybe Jillian Michaels and, frankly, I am happy for her pie hole to remain shut.

Doing my part for this glorious baked good celebration of knowledge, I am bringing you my recipe for mushroom and blue cheese mini pies.

Similar to the grilled cheese I shared last week, this is another recipe that I created as part of a contest where the participants had to create an original recipe out of a list of specific ingredients.  I’m going to admit that I was rather proud of this recipe.

Baking is not my thing. I fit more comfortably with the artistry of cooking rather than the scientific nature of baking.  Every now and then though, I manage a bit of baking that isn’t completely disastrous.  This was one of those times.

Mushrooms and blue cheese are two flavors I enjoy together but a little bit of that combination can go a long way. To cut through all that richness, I used red onions, sugar and balsamic vinegar to make a sort of sticky red onion marmalade for the bottom of the pies. The sweet and tangy of the mixture worked well against the richness of the other ingredients.

Mushroom & Blue Cheese Mini Pies

blue cheese and mushroom mini pies

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/4 cups brown mushrooms, thinly sliced
12 1/2 ounces refrigerated pie dough, pre-rolled variety
1 egg
1/2 cup sour cream, reduced fat is fine
1 pinch salt
1 pinch fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
2 1/2 ounces blue cheese, a nice squidgy variety

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put a pan over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter.

Once the butter starts to froth, put the thinly sliced red onions in and turn the heat down to low.  Cook, stirring often, until the onions have become translucent. This will take about 10 minutes but keep an eye on them.

Add the sugar and the balsamic vinegar to the onions and cook on low, stirring often for about 10 minutes until the onion mixture is sticky and the liquid thickened up.  Set the onions aside to cool.

Melt the remaining butter in another pan and cook the mushrooms for a few minutes until they have just started to change color.  Set the mushrooms aside to cool.

Whilst the onions and mushrooms are cooling, layout your pie dough. You want the dough to be about as thick as a pinkie. If your pre-rolled dough is thicker roll it out to the desired thickness.

Using a round cookie cutter or a glass, cut out 12 rounds of the dough.  Press each round of dough into a hole of a 12 yield muffin pan. If your pan usually sticks, spray each hole with cooking spray before hand.

Next, put the egg and sour cream into a bowl with the salt and pepper and beat together.  Stir through the dried parsley and crumbled blue cheese. Set aside.

Spoon a bit of the balsamic onions into the base of each pie. Top the onions with the mushrooms, trying to cover as much of the surface as possible.

Spoon the blue cheese mixture over the top of each pie.

Put tarts in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes until the pastry has gone golden and the cheese mixture has set.

Take out of the oven and allow to cool before serving so the cheese mixture can firm up a little bit.

03/1/14

Vampire Slayers Pickles from Pickled By Hattie

Society can be divided in to two types of people. Those that take the pickle off the hamburger and those that don’t. I am most certainly one that does not.  Maybe it has something to do with my Pennsylvania Dutch blood that predisposes me to like anything pickled but I really I love pickles.

When I was at the Hollywood Farmers Market this weekend, the Pickled By Hattie stall caught my eyes. Normally situated in the Spice Alley section of the market, this week they stood out in contrast the the fruit and vegetable stalls that surrounded them.

Pickled By Hattie Hollywood farmers market

There are a good number of artisan products available at the market but I think this was the first time that I saw artisan pickles. A variety of pickles available on the stall, most of which were spicy. Sadly, I am a wimp when it comes to spicy. Spiced is a great thing but spicy not so much. My heat boundaries have been pushed back since moving to California but I am still not going to be actively buying something labeled as hot and/or spicy.

Pickled By Hattie

Being spice-challenged, those varieties of pickles from Pickled By Hattie were out for me but what did grab my attention was the ir Vampire Slayers pickles. Garlic and pickles? Jackpot!

Vampire Slayers Pickles

Vampire Slayers Pickles

When they say garlic, boy do they ever mean it. My nose was twitching like Samantha as soon as I popped the lid off the jar of Vampire Slayer pickles. It was great to look into the jar and see real ingredients such as herbs,garlic and even a lone whole chilli floating around. It gave me the impression that I was truly getting a handcrafted product rather than factory produced in faux rustic style.

Pickeled by Hattie Vampire Slayer Pickles

There are few things as sad as a limp pickle, right? Not an issue with these super crunchy pickles. To say that the Vampire Slayer pickles were bursting with flavor would be a massive understatement.  Immediately, my whole mouth was tingling from the intensely zesty garlic. The chili took my taste buds to the edge of too much spice but managed to still keep it pleasurable.

These aren’t a pickle that you are going to forget moments after they have been eaten. That flavor bomb of garlic and spice stays with you. That is good for your taste buds but does mean that you probably do want to have a stick of gum ready.  Unless the person you speak to next particularly enjoys the smell of garlic breath.

At $12 a jar, there is no pretending that the Pickled By Hattie Vampire Slayer pickles are the cheapest around. However, the jars are big,the pickle spears substantial and they are the best pickles that I have had in a long time.

 

02/12/14

Crazy easy sun-dried tomato and olive dip

February should be named national detox month. Scrolling through my Facebook feed sees that friend after friend muttering about their juicing routine, weigh ins and new gym memberships.

I’m just as guilty as anybody else. I’ve been promising myself for weeks that I would get back on the diet wagon.  Several years ago, I lost nearly 100lbs and I’ve stayed within 10 pounds of that loss ever since. However, there is a massive difference in how I feel between those ten pounds.  I also think those ten pounds are where I start to look better but even with that in mind, for some reason, I am having trouble focusing.

All the more frustrating because I know exactly what works for me. I need to count calories so that I stay under 1500 for the day and exercise four days a week. The road map to feeling better is right there and I’m not using it.

So, here I go again. Just like so many of you.

My goal for the next week or so is to re-introduce higher levels of fruit and vegetables back into my diet and to get my ample bottom onto my treadmill after work.

The trickiest part of the day for me is lunch. It has to be both easy to make and to take to work. It also has to be filling enough that I don’t find myself snacking in the later part of the afternoon.

I’m bringing a crazy easy sun-dried tomato and olive dip recipe out of retirement for this initial healthy eating push.

It is as simple as putting all the ingredients into a mini chopper or food processor for a few seconds. Which means it easily fits into my morning routine. I scoop it into a container, load another one up with raw dipping vegetables and take them both to work.

Any taste buds that aren’t awake after the first few bites are probably dead because the flavors of this sun-dried tomato and olive dip are pretty intense. If raw vegetables aren’t on your list of favorite foods, you’ll take less notice of the raw taste when you dredge them through the dip before eating.

Usually, I use reduced-fat cream cheese for this but you could use full fat just fine if the calories aren’t a concern. This time around, I tried a Greek yogurt cream cheese that my local Ralph’s supermarket is selling. I’m lactose intolerant and for some reason, Greek yogurt products don’t cause a reaction. I was curious to see if it would work.  The cheese has a bit more of a tang to it than normal cream cheese but with everything else going on in this dip recipe, it worked just fine.

The recipe makes enough that I can take it to the office for several days worth of lunches.

Sun-dried Tomato and Olive Dip

sundried tomato dip

Ingredients:

2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup green olives, pitted
1/3 cup sun-dried tomato packed in oil, drained but with some oil still clinging
1 cup reduced-fat cream cheese
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 lemon, zest of
Directions:
Put all ingredients into a mini chopper or food processor.
Combine on the pulse setting for about 30 seconds until everything is well combined but there is still a chunky texture to the tomatoes.That’s it, it is all done.