Sunday, September 24, 2017

Control

"Everything's fine. Look, I made a lot of martinis. That's all anybody every drinks at these things. You know, martinis?" Spencer Tracy, "Father of the Bride", MGM, 1950

In the movie, "Father of the Bride", Spencer Tracy (the father) is continually trying to regain control of an uncontrollable situation... A wedding. In one scene in particular, Tracy is put in charge of serving drinks at the reception, a responsibility he's been given simply because (unbeknownst to him) those truly in charge want him safely out of the way. He uses the opportunity to try to take control yet again, though, mixing up pitcher after pitcher of the only drink he thinks anyone will want... A martini. And, when the guests proceed to order anything but martinis, he is 'forced' to drink them himself.
The reception scene from MGM's classic film is both humorous and cautionary. As someone who's spent quite a bit of time "Searching for the Perfect Martini" (both metaphorically and literally), I can certainly empathize with the movie father's approach to controlling the uncontrollable... while appreciating the humor of his failure. Many a heroic tale has taught us that Tracy's character should have been able to rise to the occasion and find the ideal solution, becoming the savior of the moment... versus the comic relief.   
As a Weight Watchers member, though, I've learned to appreciate that 'uncontrollable situations' and 'ideal solutions' are simply examples of all-or-none thinking. By focusing on incremental goals and smaller (and therefore more achievable) solutions, we can overcome obstacles over time that, previously, might have seemed insurmountable.
Case in point? Old favorite recipes......
Many of us have special recipes we once enjoyed but have since given up on, perhaps because we're embracing healthier lifestyles or avoiding particular foods (e.g. foods high in sugar, saturated fats, etc.). Changing such recipes would be impossible, after all, as the changed recipe wouldn't taste as good as the original, or would fail to live up to our memories. We simply need to find entirely new recipes that are healthier... albeit less delicious... right?
Perhaps... Or perhaps not... As the original recipe above and the 'tweaked' recipe below recently proved.

A WEIGHT WATCHER'S FRIENDLY PEACH COBBLER
Ingredients:
  • 6 medium peaches, peeled and sliced
  • Butter-flavored cooking spray
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup Splenda
  • 1/2 cup Brummel & Brown spread (w/yogurt)
  • 1 egg
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9x13 pan with butter-flavored cooking spray. Cover the bottom of the prepared pan with sliced peaches, spray with butter-flavored cooking spray, sprinkle with cinnamon and set aside.

Pulse rolled oats in a blender or food processor until the consistency of flour. Combine the oat 'flour' with the Splenda. Place the Brummel & Brown spread in a microwave-safe bowl, cover, and melt in the microwave for 15-30 seconds (in 10-15 second increments). Add the melted spread and egg to the oat 'flour' and Splenda mixture, combine to make a batter, and spoon the batter evenly over the peaches.
Bake for 45-50 minutes. Serve warm. Top with 1/4 cup Halo Top Vanilla Bean Light Ice Cream or fat-free whipped topping.

Serves 8, 4 WeightWatchers Smartpoints per serving (5 Smartpoints with light ice cream or fat-free whipped topping).

A note to social media users: Here is a sample tweet you can use to share this recipe: 
  • A few thoughts on #control, accompanied by a @WeightWatchers-friendly #peachcobbler #recipe: http://bit.ly/2xDEDND #foodblog @Splenda


Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Taco Wednesday

In a recent post, I shared a few thoughts about change. With the vernal equinox mere days past, signs of spring -- including new families of whitetail deer -- serve as reminders of the natural constancy of change.

The seasons and Mother Nature aside though, change is something I think many of us struggle with on a number of levels. For example, as a [relatively]new Weight Watchers leader, I'm often challenged to find fresh ways to present core concepts like mindfulness, activity/fitness, asking for help, etc. By thinking that I need to come up with an entirely new and unique approach to a topic, I allow myself to get overwhelmed by the challenge, forgetting something I sometimes share with fellow Weight Watchers members...... How to eat an elephant.

It's easy to get overwhelmed when you dwell on the end goal versus the journey. Focusing on each step (or 'bite') not only breaks down the [seemingly]insurmountable into the achievable, it forces us to live in the moment, allowing us to savor -- and learn from -- our experiences. Letting go of all-or-nothing thoughts like "How am I going to put a fresh spin on activity/fitness" and, instead, remembering the whitetail deer encountered on a recent Spring walk, can bring to bear new perspectives that enable surprising results.

Recipes can also benefit from small changes or tweaks. For example, I recently made my first taco salad (believe it or not), a dish I've always avoided because "it's unhealthy". Breaking a recipe down to its foundations though, allows you to apply what you've learned from past cooking experiences... Like using ground turkey instead of ground beef, baking your own tortilla chips, or leveraging reduced-fat (or calorie-free) ingredients.

I hope you enjoy the results of such little changes as much as I did!

GUILTLESS TACO SALAD

Ingredients:

Baked Chips & Salsa

  • 4 small corn tortillas
  • Olive oil spray
  • Sea salt
  • Salsa, fat-free
Taco Salad
  • 1 lb. ground turkey (93% lean)
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 8 oz. bag of shredded lettuce
  • 1 14.5 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 c. Grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/4 c. Reduced-fat Mexican-style cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 c. Calorie-free chipotle ranch dressing
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a cookie sheet with olive oil. Cut tortillas into sixths using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter. Arrange cut tortilla pieces on the prepared cookie sheet, spray with olive oil and sprinkle sea salt on both sides, and bake for 10 minutes or until crisp.

Cook taco filling per seasoning packet, setting aside/freezing half (i.e. (2) 3 oz., cooked portions) for future salads. Separate shredded lettuce onto two plates. Distribute the rest of the ingredients onto each plate, crumbling six of the baked tortilla chips on top of each salad and serving the additional chips on the side, with salsa.

Serves 2, 12 Weight Watchers SmartPoints per serving.

A note to social media users: Here is a sample tweet you can use to share this recipe: 
  • Avoiding Taco Tuesday? Enjoy a @WeightWatchers-friendly Taco Wednesday instead: http://bit.ly/2mUNdOU #tacosalad #RecipeOfTheDay #recipe #foodblog
Additional acknowledgements: Portions of the above recipe were adapted from Slender Kitchen's Baked Tortilla Chips recipe

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Seasons

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven...” - Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, RSV

I walked by a budding pussy willow tree the other day. The snow and ice have melted, song birds are singing in the [still baren]trees, and the boisterous calls of Sandhill Cranes are wafting on the blustery winds. Hints of Spring... harbingers of change.

Change can be thought of in many ways... As disruptive and dangerous, healing and hopeful, frightening and fractious. The results of change are seldom predictable, inspiring uncertainty in some, trepidation in others. Change is seldom entirely new or alien, though. An evolution of what was, a rebirth into what is, a rebalancing of life... Not necessarily for good or bad, but because life is dynamic and ever changing. To quote from the Tao by Lao Tzu:

As it acts in the world, the Tao is like the bending of a bow.
The top is bent downward; the bottom is bent up.
It adjusts excess and deficiency so that there is perfect balance.
It takes from what is too much and gives to what isn't enough.

While I embrace such ideas, I find myself constantly challenged to bend without breaking... to find and recognize the good and the positive in life... to save and cherish such finds so that they can be used as needed to balance out the bad and the negative. Sometimes, when the winds of change are blowing especially hard and life seems particularly overwhelming, the thought of breaking can seem almost comforting.

And then the boisterous calls of the Sandhill Cranes return to the blustery winds, reminding me that, for everything, there is a season... A thought that partially inspired the following recipe; a balancing of my favorite season, Autumn, with my current season, that of a Weight Watchers member (and Leader) continually in search of yummy food. Enjoy!

TIM'S BREAKFAST ALA MODE

Ingredients:
  • 3 honeycrisp apples, medium, diced
  • Butter-flavored spray
  • 2 tbsp. uncooked oatmeal
  • 2 tsp. unpacked brown sugar
  • 4 tsp. Splenda
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 individual containers of Fit & Active non-fat vanilla yogurt
Directions:

Preheat oven to 425F.


Combine all ingredients except the yogurt in a mixing bowl. Separate the combined ingredients into two oven-safe ramekins. Cover ramekins in foil and bake ~30 to 40 minutes, until the apples are nicely baked and a little caramelized. Serve with chilled non-fat vanilla yogurt.

Serves 2, 5 Weight Watchers SmartPoints per serving (Note: Substituting a 2 SmartPoint vanilla yogurt will reduce the SmartPoints to 3 per serving).

A note to social media users: Here is a sample tweet you can use to share this recipe: 
  • Missing #Autumn? Try this @WeightWatchers-friendly #breakfast: http://bit.ly/2nahxGB #RecipeOfTheDay #recipe #foodblog #apples @AldiUSA
Additional acknowledgements: Portions of the above recipe were adapted from ”Mom's Apple Crisp” recipe on Food.com

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thanksgiving

The sky is grey and the weather's cold in my little corner of the Midwest today. Such post-Thanksgiving Day weather is hardly unusual , though it and the afternoon's uncommon pursuit, working on a car again after a decades-long hiatus, had me contemplating something decidedly unusual... Holidays.

Holidays, including this past Thanksgiving, are characterized by traditions that can't help but stand out from the day-to-day: Lavish meals that include uncommon dishes like green bean casseroles and multiple desserts, time spent with distant family and sometimes a random stranger (or two), parades led by overweight elves, sports played by overpaid atheletes.

Oddities aside though, I do appreciate the recent reminder of the need to be thankful. Beyond the day's successful car repair (hardly a given, considering I'm not even an amateur mechanic, much less a professional), I am grateful for a number of things... Family and friends, a good job, my health. And, on this cold, grey, Midwestern day, I'm especially grateful that, this Thanksgiving of Thanksgivings, I was blessed with the opportunity to help two groups of fellow Weight Watchers members navigate the perilous waters of a holiday almost entirely characterized by food, in my new part-time role as a Weight Watchers Leader.

The following Weight Watchers-friendly recipe was inspired by such thankful thoughts. Enjoy!

BACON, MUSHROOM AND SWISS MINI-QUICHES

Ingredients:
  • 3/4 c. egg substitute
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. finely-diced mushrooms
  • 1/2 c. finely-sliced green onions
  • 4 slices cooked, finely-diced turkey bacon
  • 2 slices finely-diced, reduced-fat swiss cheese
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • Cooking spray
Directions:

Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375F. Combine ingredients. Fill each cup of prepared muffin pan approx. 1/2 full. Bake for approx. 14-16 mins. Allow quiches to stand for a few minutes before serving (NOTE: Leftover quiches can be individually wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the freezer for future meals).

Serves 7, 2 Weight Watchers SmartPoints per serving.

A note to social media users: Here is a sample tweet you can use to share this recipe: 
  • The #holidays have you exhausted? These @WeightWatchers-friendly mini-#quiches are a yummy way to simplify your holidays: http://bit.ly/2gvJtnQ #RecipeOfTheDay #recipe #foodblog
Additional acknowledgements: Portions of the above recipe were adapted from Weight Watchers Mini Zucchini Quiche recipe 

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Sweet Nothings

Childhood memories can be wonderful things; reminders of simpler times, of lives still lived in pursuit of fun, before possessions and responsibilities made adults of us. My own childhood, while often solitary in nature, included a fair share of wonders and delights... Fishing in the summer sun, endless bike rides fueled by [seemingly]endless energy, even the occasional encounter with 'magic'.

As a Weight Watchers member though, perhaps it's not surprising that many of my childhood memories involve food. Favorite casseroles, Sunday dinners, restaurants visited during family road trips. And the foods I remember most vividly are the desserts... Of course... Duh. ;-)

For example, my earliest restaurant memory was of being allowed to order my own hot fudge sundae while on a family vacation. I can also recall the taste of my mother's plum pudding, the first pie eaten on a school field trip (banana cream), my grandmother's Portuguese rice pudding, my first slice of restaurant pie (pecan).

Such memories recently inspired me to revisit a favorite childhood dessert, pineapple upside down cake. The end result was (I thought) quite yummy, while costing only 6 Weight Watchers SmartPoints. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did......

UPSIDE DOWN SUNDAES

Ingredients:
  • Breyer's sugar-free vanilla ice cream
  • Fat-free frozen whipped topping
  • Fresh, diced pineapple
  • Brown sugar
  • Unsweetened, shredded coconut (optional)
  • Rainbow sprinkles
  • Butter-flavored spray
Directions:

Scoop a half-cup of sugar-free ice cream into two small dishes. Sprinkle one tablespoon of unsweetened, shredded coconut over each scoop, if desired.

Slice a fresh, ripe (nicely yellow and sweet smelling) pineapple into bite-sized chunks. Spray butter-flavored spray into a skillet and place over a medium flame. Once the skillet is hot, toss in a cup of pineapple and two tablespoons of brown sugar. Spray a little more butter-flavored spray over the pineapple and stir until the juice from the pineapple gets syrupy and the pineapple starts to caramelize. Remove from heat.

Spoon a half-cup of the hot pineapple mixture over the ice cream, top with a quarter-cup of fat-free whipped topping and one tablespoon of rainbow sprinkles. Enjoy!

A note to social media users: Here is a sample tweet you can use to share this recipe: 
  • Fond memories of childhood #desserts? Try this @WeightWatchers-friendly variation: bit.ly/1W9z662 #RecipeOfTheDay #recipe #foodblog

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Meatless Mondays

As a Weight Watchers member, I'm open to trying just about anything new. Sometimes what I learn from the program works great (e.g. mindfulness, portion control, tracking, activity), other times not so much (e.g. "Put your negative thoughts on a conveyor"? Really??).

Recently, the idea of introducing a Meatless Monday into the weekly routine was floated. The idea comes with a number of benefits... Reduced cholesterol, higher fiber options, an incentive to try more vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables. That said, and in support of Meatless Monday supporters everywhere, I'm sharing my homemade hummus recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!



Tim's One Blender Tahini and Hummus

INGREDIENTS

TAHINI
1 c untoasted sesame seeds
3-4 tblsp. olive oil

HUMMUS
2 14.5 oz cans of garbanzo beans (drained except for 1/2 c. of liquid)
1/2 c reserved bean liquid
1/2 c lemon juice
4 tblsp. minced garlic
3 tsp. kosher salt
1 tblsp. (or more, to taste) of your favorite hot/pepper sauce (e.g. Tabasco, etc.), or 1/2 tsp. chipotle seasoning
4 pieces of roasted red pepper from a jar, minced into 1 tblsp.-sized portions

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350. Throw 1 c of untoasted sesame seeds into a metal pan and toast in oven for 11 to 12 mins (you should smell a wonderful, toasted sesame aroma). Cool.

Toss the toasted seeds into your blender. Place the lid on the blender with the center removed so you can insert a rubber spatula to use while making the tahini. Drizzle in 1 tblsp. of olive oil, run the blender on high, and use your rubber spatula to carefully push/scrape down the sides of the blender while blending (being careful not to also blend your spatula). Stop blending, push down the seeds, and add another tblsp. of oil. Repeat the process 3 or 4 times until you have tahini the texture of thick peanut butter.

Throw all the other ingredients into the blender (leaving the center out of the blender's lid) and blend on high until smooth, blended, and creamy, using your rubber spatula to help the ingredients combine. Pour/spoon the hummus into four, ~8 oz, resealable containers, placing a dollup of minced roasted red pepper in the center of each. Serving size=3 tblsp./3 WeightWatchers Points+ (~5 servings per 8 oz. container, ~20 servings total per batch). Enjoy!

A note to social media users: Here is a sample tweet you can use to share this recipe: 
  • Fast and frugal homemade hummus, made using delicious ingredients purchased mostly @AldiUSA: http://bit.ly/1P4Qt2f. #blog #foodpics #recipe
Additional acknowledgements: Portions of the above recipe were adapted from the Barefoot Contessa's hummus recipe on FoodNetwork.com (http://bit.ly/11hRadN)

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, May 29, 2015

Reaching For The Stars


For Casey

It was the summer of '76, and it was hot. Summers in Stockton, California, were always hot, so that wasn't anything unusual... Though it was an unusual summer, nonetheless.

In '76, an original copy of the Declaration of Independence rolled into town on twin ribbons of steel. An avid student of U.S. History, I still remember the awe I felt, standing but a pane of glass away from John Hancock's florid signature. I visited twice that summer, once with my seventh grade class and again with my paternal grandmother. She drove me in her old '57 Chevy, a green and white, 2-door sedan my dad had won for her in a gas station raffle decades before. It was hot and I stuck to the Chevy's vinyl seats, but I didn't care, as I had a second date with history.

As memorable as the historical aspects of 1976 were, though, my fondest memories of that summer are associated with another old car, an AM radio, a church parking lot, and a man with a most distinctive voice.

Throughout much of my childhood, I attended my parent's baptist church. It was the church they were married in, and it's the church they attend to this day. By the summer of '76, my mom had given up on trying to get me or my sister to attend anything more than Sunday School, and pretty much let us do whatever we wanted while she attended the main service. And what we wanted to do was to sit in the church parking lot, listening to Casey Kasem.

That was the summer that my sister and I discovered "America's Top 40". Every Sunday morning, Casey would count down the most popular songs in the land... One after another, with colorful commentary about each artist or band... In glorious, monophonic sound. Stuck to the vinyl seats of my parent's old '64 Ford in +100 degree heat, my sister and I sang along to the Captain and Tennille, Queen, Elton John, Barry Manilow... We sang along to music we couldn't afford to buy, but could listen to for free on the radio... We sang along oblivious to the stifling heat, to sweat or discomfort, lost in the music.

In another year, at the tender age of 13, I'd get fed up with the Baptist hypocrisy, with the differing treatment of the church's 'haves' and 'have nots', and would stop attending entirely. And, when that happened, when I stepped through those church doors for the last time in a great many years, it wouldn't be my Sunday School teachers or the others my age that I'd miss... It would be Casey.

The old Ford's long since rusted away, my sister and I haven't spoken in years, and Casey's now but a memory as well. Still, listening to 70s music via satellite radio on the way home from work tonight, I couldn't help remembering back to that hot summer of '76, with its vinyl seats and its rich tapestry of musical hits... The summer I learned to "Keep [my] feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars."

A note to social media users: Here is a sample tweet you can use to share this memory: 

      Labels: , , , , , , , , ,