dinner theater

I made a recipe from scratch tonight.  Well, mostly from scratch.

Yet again, I was on a quest to empty our freezer…  I happened to have an abundance of frozen cranberries (you gotta stock up when they’re in season!), and a bag of pearl onions, and more ground beef.  I remembered a brisket with cranberries recipe from Everyday Food that I’d found a couple years ago and have made a few times that we love.  How could I turn that into a recipe with ground beef?

You make it into soup!  I had a beef soup bone in Andrew’s mom’s freezer (points for using up even MORE from our frozen stash!), so I boiled that and made some broth.  Then I made meatballs with parsley (also frozen into ice cubes from our garden), sun-dried tomatoes  and herbs.

I tried to make them as small as possible–kinda like italian wedding soup.  I assembled them early in the day and then refrigerated them.

I boiled the cranberries down with a little tomato sauce, tomato paste and garlic.  It smelled awesome!  Can I just say that I am SO READY to have a house?  I need more than two burners, and my knives need to be sharpened and I just miss my kitchen stuff.  Moving on.

I rolled the meatballs in flour and browned them in a skillet, then added them to the soup.  I added the last of our whole-wheat egg noodles (score!) and cooked until they were al dente.

By the time I served up the soup, the cranberries had all but disappeared.

Andrew’s face said it all when he tasted the broth–too tart!  It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t the “beefy” soup flavor I was going for.  So much for making something from scratch!  I saved the leftovers but discarded the broth; I’m going to try to find a fancy-schmancy spaghetti sauce at Wegmans tomorrow to use with it for dinner.

We rushed out the door to catch one of the last performances of “As You Like It” at Shakespeare in the Park.  Each summer (for the last 36 years!), the troupe has been performing most nights (all but Mondays) in Delaware Park and it’s free.  You can bring lawn chairs or blankets, food and drink.  In retrospect, we should have packed a picnic dinner or picked something up on the way, as most people did.  Lots of people were drinking wine.  So fun.

Next year we’ll have to be more prepared with chairs (we brought a blanket from the room), sweatshirts and dinner.  I so wanted to snack, but was full-ish from dinner.

We ended up leaving at intermission because we were cold and Andrew was a bit bored.  I had gotten into it, but it was pretty hard to follow since it’s Shakespeare, we didn’t have a great view, we arrived late and neither of us knew the plot.  Next time we’ll brush-up on the particular play before going.

We didn’t want to end our night just yet, and I was craving some hot tea, so we went to Cafe Aroma in the Elmwood section of town.  Very alternative, very trendy, very “happening.”  I caved and split a cupcake with Andrew, but stuck to tea to drink.  I did try sips of his white mocha–YUM.

I’m looking forward to my laid-back (but hopefully productive!) Saturday!

what a lunch

This post is for Emily, my sweet, sweet “Irish-twin-one-year-removed” who is a kindred spirit in terms of body type and is on her own “healthy weight” journey.  She is one of the healthiest people I know, both mentally and physically, and I love her to death!

Hi Emily!

Anyway, I found I had some extra time this afternoon due to crummy weather, which is postponing the awesome mural project at the co-op–the first thing I was going to help with as a volunteer.  I’ll be working in a writing/blogging/photographing/PR capacity for them, which I’m super excited about since it’s right up my alley in terms of my education and strengths.  Yay for God leading me right here, right now and blessing me with an opportunity to use my talents for something I truly believe in!

OK, enough of that tangent.  Back to lunch.

Emily emailed me yesterday with some food questions, like how to feel more full and what other healthy things could she try to get more variety in her diet.  I’m telling you, I missed my calling as a nutritionist.  Seriously.  Not that I necessarily want to work in a school/hospital/gym, but I want to KNOW that stuff.  Hmm… I wonder if Andrew would let me just be a perpetual student so I could become a nutritionist/cook/baker/yoga instructor…?

ANYWAY… Reining myself in here…

I replied to Emily and told her what works for me, as well as some sample snacks and lunches she could try to incorporate.  Bottom line:  protein really keeps me feeling full, and whole grains satisfy me.  Add fruits and veggies to the mix and you’re set!

The photos are nothing to write home about.  I know.

Today’s lunch was homemade tuna salad, pretzel crisps, fruit and Kefir and tea.  Let’s deconstruct:

Trader Joe’s Mango Black Tea.  I got this from a friend before we left Ohio and I have to say I’m not a huge fan of black tea.  However, tea is a great beverage to have any time of day.  For the “price” of about 15 calories (1 tsp of honey or sugar), I can enjoy a warm or cold beverage without feeling like I’ve blown it.  Whatever you do, don’t drink your calories!  WATER WATER WATER!  I cannot thank enough my nazi of a father who ONLY allowed us to have water with meals growing up.  Now I love it and don’t have an addiction to soda or juice.  I like to save sodas for special occasions, like pizza night.  Anyway, I’ve been drinking lots of different teas lately and really like my lemon ginger and peppermint varieties.  Get it, “varie-teas?” HAHA

Homemade tuna salad.  Tuna is a GREAT nutritional powerhouse, but you’ve got to keep the mayo in check.  I almost never order it at restaurants because it’s just dripping in mayo.  I made this two-serving batch with one hard-boiled egg white, some pickle and celery, 1.5 tbsp mayo and a teaspoon or two of mustard.  I added a bit more mustard on top today.

I also had a serving, and I mean ONE serving, of garlic parmesan pretzel crisps.  I don’t usually eat a lot of pre-packaged things, but these were one of two bags Andrew picked up on our Target date and they are awesome.  At 110 calories for a one-ounce serving, they’re better than chips and they were perfect for scooping my tuna.  And measure!  I have a tiny “diet” scale that’s perfect for measuring up to one pound.  It really comes in handy for things like chips–have the chips, just don’t have three or four servings.

For sweetness and protein, I recreated my “dessert” from last night: fruit and Kefir.  LOVE IT.  A serving is one cup, which has 140 calories, but I rarely have that much Kefir in one sitting.  I usually just do a half-cup by itself or with fruit or granola.  I cannot recommend it enough.  It’s basically a tangier, drinkable yogurt that’s packed with probiotics, the good bacteria found in yogurt.  It helps with digestion.  For those who grew up on, or still eat, yogurts like Dannon Fruit-on-the-Bottom, it will take a lot of getting used to.  I stay away from a lot of the yogurt cups because they are basically just sugar.  I once heard a dietician on the radio say that one of those flavored yogurts usually has the same amount of sugar as ICE CREAM.  Seriously.  Who needs that much extra sugar in the morning?  So, I switched to plain and haven’t gone back.

Hey, this is a pretty decent picture!

Remember that chocolate from yesterday?  I never ate it…those veggies and hummus were filling!  It made a reappearance on the plate today, but alas, it’s STILL here!  It’s currently sitting on the counter, all by it’s lonesome.   I felt full after I finished everything else.  Those are probably the biggest two challenge for me: NOTICING when I’m getting full, and STOPPING.  All too often I load my plate (even with healthy things) and then switch to auto-pilot and finish it all off.  Listen to your tummy, Holly!

I’m thinking the chocolate might get eaten with some hot, decaf coffee today as an afternoon pick-me-up since I blasted more than 900 calories this morning!  First, an hour of pilates, then an hour of crazy hard kickboxing, then an impromptu one-mile run with Hadrian.  Whew!

So, this post was all about my lunch and thoughts… Hope it helps anyone out there looking to eat real food you can feel good about.  Yesterday was hummus, veggies and dried fruit, today was tuna, pretzels, fruit and yogurt.  If you keep stashes of good things, like cheese sticks, fruit, veggies, healthy dips, yogurt and smart splurges (like good chocolate!), you’ll always be able to mix and match different things for nutritious meals.

best tea EVER

I would not call myself a “tea person.”  Nine times out of ten, I’d much prefer a steaming cup of coffee with just a little too much flavored creamer stirred in.  I love the slightly creamy, sweetness of such flavors as French Vanilla, English Butter Toffee, Caramel Macchiato and Creme Brulee, just to name a few.

I read a magazine article once that rated just how bad for your health some things were, like binge-eating on the weekends, skipping breakfast and skipping a workout.  Flavored non-dairy creamer was one of them.  And it was bad.  Surprisingly bad.  Basically, the article said if it’s possible to kick your creamer habit, do it.  Like, yesterday.  (They, of course, recommend replacing it with a ‘splash of skim milk and a teaspoon of sugar.  Or, better yet, skip the sugar and add some cinnamon.’  Seriously?  Creamer makes coffee worth drinking!)

While I’m all for implementing the various health-related tidbits of wisdom I pick up here and there, this is one I will not.  WILL NOT.  I LOVE flavored creamer.  LOVE.  I have got to run enough to deserve at least one vice.  (Or five.)  So, I will not be giving up my creamer any time soon.  In fact, I just might add another flavor to my arsenal today.  (Yes, I’ve been known to keep 3-4 different flavors in the fridge door at any given time, especially during Christmas.)

ANYWAY…all this to say, I’m not a huge tea-drinker.  I do, however, like to keep a stash of “before bedtime” and energizing teas around just for those times I’d like a warm drink but not coffee.  (I can’t do caffeine past about 4 p.m. or I turn into a gremlin and toss and turn until 3 a.m.)

However, in the midst of my current weight-loss campaign, I’ve begun to drink more and more tea as it’s only an expense of 15 or so calories for a teaspoon of honey.  A nice pick-me-up in the afternoon that won’t break the caloric bank.  I currently have peach, peppermint (leftover from Christmas), a green and white combo tea and a nighttime relaxing blend (which I just pitched the last couple bags of as I’ve figured out I’m not a huge fan of chamomile).

Then I found this:

I LOVE it.  I am completely obsessed with ginger right now, so when I saw it at Kroger, I just had to get it.  Bonus that it aids in digestion!  Seriously, if I could only have one tea for the rest of my life, this would be it.  It’s just slightly sweet with a hint of warmth from the ginger.  I must have gotten it a couple weeks ago; I just finished my last bag today!  I’ve already purchased a new box for myself, and one for a special friend who just happens to have a birthday coming up…

If you like tea and ginger, go get this.  Now.