Thursday, October 1, 2015

Challenge Time and New Recipes


Happy October!  A new month brings new goals. I am especially excited because this month marks the one year anniversary of an amazing group of ladies which formed as a result a challenge last October. To celebrate we have decided to challenge ourselves again. As a result of getting to know each other we have come to realize each person has their own unique personality and needs different approaches to achieve success. Instead, of one specific challenge goal, each person has identified her own nutritional goals for the month.

Here is what I have decided for mine:


1) Track calories. Tracking has worked well for me in the past, but for some reason I have struggled with getting back in the tracking groove. I have decided to take a little inspiration from WW this time. I will not count fruits and veggies towards my daily calories. I want to encourage myself to eat them.


2) 3 "treats" per week. This may be a nice dinner out, a decadent dessert or snacks at game night. This might put me over my daily calorie goal. I am thinking this again may be more like WW flex points - you can use them how you like throughout the week in addition to your daily points. (At least that is the way it was when I did WW and it worked for me). Outside of those three "treats" I will eat within my calorie range - and it may include a cookie.

The point is, I am working toward balance. I am not going to give up "treats" for the rest of my life. I am embracing more of an 80/20 approach. I am hoping to improve my ability to treat treats as treats and not the basis of my diet (diet - meaning what I eat). In the past, I have found myself just throwing in the towel because having treats made me feel like I was failing. I want take away that guilt by incorporating it into my actual plan. 


An issue I have with tracking is eating out is that I really don't know the ingredients and end up stressing over an accurate calorie count. I know the basics of what makes a dish high/low in calories. I can make judgements about what I order based on the basics and not the legalism of every single calorie.


3) No eating out by myself - i.e. bakery treat in the car on the way to work, take out at lunch, husband is not home, so I'll grab dinner on my way home. As expensive as it is to eat out, I would like it to be more of an experience to be enjoyed. Not a grab and go I am ashamed of later.



I think, these three goals are tied together in that they will "force" me to plan and make choices. At the beginning of the week, I can get a sense of when I might want to have my "treat". For example, this Saturday is our game night and I will call that one of my 3 treats for the week. Additionally, what can I take that will help me balance out some of the other snacks that I plan to have? Fruit is always a hit.

I am hopeful this challenge will help me refocus on better eating habits. I may have to do a little tweaking, but I now have a jumping off point.

And since we are talking about food. One of my unofficial goals has been to try new things. Last weekend while my husband was working I decided to test a couple recipes. Apparently, I am on a bit of a Cooking Light trend. Mary at Runs to Get Waisted raves about her subscription and has shared her experiences with the magazine. I think she has me on the verge of subscribing :)

 Cooking Light

The cast of ingredients. I needed to use the rest of the lentils I had bought for my Lentil and Sausage Soup a few weeks ago. It was nice to have everything on hand to make this dish. The potatoes and chard are from our garden - bonus :) The ham was left over from a dinner at my in-laws - I had stashed it in the freezer.
Like so many soups/stews the onions get a head start in the cooking process. The recipe said to put the onion and garlic in at the same time, which I am reluctant to do because garlic can turn on you in a heartbeat and become bitter or burnt. I added it about 30 seconds before the chicken stock. That first 30 seconds of garlic cooking has to be one of my all time favorite smells.
The rainbow chard from my garden was so beautiful and I was super excited to use it.

I am always amazed how a pile of greens can wilt down to almost nothing.
And the final bowl of yumminess...or NOT. The stew was an epic fail and it was ALL my fault. It tasted like a big bowl of dirt. Apparently, my gorgeous chard ruined the dish. I don't think the taste of dirt is what chefs are referring to when praising a dish for its earthiness. Part of the reason I disliked spinach for a long time was because I thought it tasted like dirt. I now love spinach, but mostly eat baby spinach. Knowing that greens can be "dirty" I was very careful to soak and rinse the chard.

So this whole experiment ended up in the trash :(  I will say I would make this recipe again using the baby spinach instead of the chard. I would also omit the tomatoes - just not big hunks of cooked tomatoes kinda girl. Live and learn. Check out Mary's review here.

Thankfully, my second dish turned out much better.


Cooking Light 


The recipe starts with lining the bottom of the casserole dish with the peppers. I have never bought the whole canned chiles before and they were a little hard to find. I wasn't sure how much spice they would have - they had a nice kick without being overpowering.
Next brown ground chicken and onions. Mix in a can of refried beans and some seasonings. Yes, I am completely aware this looks like a big pan of dog food. But keep in mind it is for a casserole and casseroles are not loved for their outer beauty but instead for their inner beauty.
Layer the cheese, meat/bean mixture, corn and more peppers and cheese.
Final step is to combine the milk, flour and eggs and pour over the casserole.
This mimics the batter chilis rellenos are normally dipped and fried in.
This casserole pretty much has what you expect - warm comfort food. It was an easy to assemble recipe with pretty basic ingredients. If I had one criticism, it might be the prominence of the bean flavor - it may be the brand I used or maybe I would use a little less beans. I am considering a remake that uses fresh poblano peppers and corn that have been grilled. I think I would like the the veggies to have a bolder and fresher flavor.  I am sure most casseroles suffer from a lack of freshness factor. We grill pretty frequently, so it would be easy to pop those veggies on the grill when I am making another meal. I would also like to assemble the casserole in advance then bake later. The bake time is an hour so it would be nice to pull it out of the fridge and pop in the oven when I get home from work.

And of course, because it is a casserole it is delicious reheated and I am eating it this week for lunches at work :)

15 comments:

  1. You are right...totally tied together! I LOVE LOVE LOVE the no eating out alone challenge. That one would kill me as I am single and alone most of the time. (since I purged people that were toxic and ended up with very few local friends. ha ha ha) But I can see how it would work well for me!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Now I need to try that chili rellenos casserole! Did it reheat well?

    Next week is my week to cook so I'm addin git to my list. Plus, Trader Joe's makes a frozen grilled corn so I will use that instead of regular corn. Thanks for the tip!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes it reheats great...I am having it for lunch at this very moment :) I

      Delete
  3. Replies
    1. It is a trouble spot of mine...hopefully I can conquer it.

      Delete
  4. Holy moly, that casserole looks amazing. The ham and lentil stew is on my list for this week--good to know about the chard! I love your goals, especially what you said about eating out being more of an "experience"... I'm finding myself looking for that more and more, which is making me less likely to eat out just for the sake of eating out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly if I quit eating out on the run or food I don't really want, it would be so much more fun to go out to eat as a treat.

      Delete
  5. That casserole looks super good!! You have some great goals! I love the no eating out alone one. I need to get on that too :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I think that is a tough one for a bunch of us.

      Delete
  6. I saw this and thought of you today... Thought I'd share :)

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10154300000511110&set=gm.940294276045845&type=3&theater

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh rats, the link was denied. It said I didn't have permission (or something like that).

      Delete
    2. Drat... didn't even connect that the photo is from a closed group. This should link you... http://www.amazon.com/Star-Pancake-Molds-Heroes-Villains/dp/B0062875QG Not as cute as the original, but still applicable!

      Delete
    3. Aww those are so cute. I rarely make pancakes, but those make me want to :)

      Delete
  7. That casserole looks AMAZING - I will have to check that out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was pretty impressed how it held up for leftovers (lunches) too.

      Delete