Monday, February 24, 2014

400-calorie dinners (v)

I had the opportunity to travel to Seattle last week for training for work -- so much fun!  I had a chance to eat at Veggie Grill three times, (it was a block away from my hotel, and well, there were so many things on the menu I wanted to try!) at Chaco Canyon with Victoria and Brent, (isn't meeting fellow bloggers you've "known" for years so much fun!), and at Chutney's Bistro with my friend Christine!  Add on the hotel breakfast daily, and a "Snowball" from Trophy Cupcakes and well, it was a tasty trip.  :)

(Victoria, what was the name of the ice cream place we went to after dinner?)

Needless to say, I wasn't counting calories while I was away.  I rarely travel, so I figured I'd give myself a vacation from that, too!  I could see how hard it would be to eat healthfully for frequent travelers, though!

Now that I'm home, I'm back at it!  Three more 400-calorie dinners for you today . . .

MORE pizza:

Half whole-wheat Artisan Bread in 5 crust, topped with olive oil, minced garlic, an entire 10-oz package of frozen spinach, dried tomatoes from last summer's garden, part-skim mozzarella, and feta.   Popeye would be jealous, vampires would run screaming.  :)  216 calories per slice!

The classic soup-n-sandwich:

Creamy Tomato-Basil Bisque, with a half grilled-cheese on the side.  332 calories as-is, (sandwich made using one slice of whole-wheat bread and an ounce of sharp cheddar, cooked in cooking spray,) or you could increase your sandwich portion to a full-size if you were looking for a larger meal.

And, my new favorite meal:

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Leeks and Sausage.  I used two links of leftover homemade kielbasa instead of the suggested Italian pork sausage; super-delicious!  I had a feeling these stuffed sweets were going to be delicious, but I had no idea they would be quite so . . . incredible.  Creamy, sweet, savory, cheesy, hearty, and filling, but still a calorie bargain at 265 calories per potato half.  Add a huge side salad for a light supper, or enjoy two potato halves for a heartier supper.


Do you try to eat healthfully when you travel, or do you indulge more?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

400-calorie dinners (iv)

Life is uncertain . . . dessert first!

I know I've read a bunch in the blogosphere over the past few years about "sugar addiction" -- what are your thoughts?  I like to believe that I have a much healthier relationship with sugar these days than in years past, but honestly, I don't see myself ever giving up sugar in its entirety.  Treats are just too special a part of my life, and I love to bake!  For example . . . 

John's Valentine's Day present, which he actually finished off before Valentine's Day.  (Whoops.  Next time, I'll know better!  Bake closer to the actual holiday.)  Husband has a weakness for chocolate and peanut butter, and I thought these cookies would be the perfect way to use up some of the Hershey's Kisses that Santa left for me in my Christmas stocking.  (Confession: I really don't much care for chocolate, especially milk chocolate!  Weird, I know.)  Natural peanut butter gave these cookies a rich, crumbly, sandy texture that was . . . incredible.  At 117 calories each, these still fit nicely into my healthy eating plan!

Since the peanut butter-chocolate kiss cookies didn't last that long, I baked another batch of cookies this weekend . . .

I'm typically not a huge fan of "light" desserts -- I feel like flavor and texture are often sacrificed, and I'd rather eat less of the "real" thing.  However, I tried swapping in a half-cup applesauce for half a cup of butter in my favorite oatmeal cookie recipe, (I did leave one stick of butter in tact,) because I believe oatmeal cookies are best when soft and slightly cakey.  HUGE success.  I also used all whole-wheat pastry flour instead of AP, which I believed also paired well with the applesauce -- whole-grain treats can get a little dry and "wheaty," in my opinion, but the extra moisture from the applesauce is a big help.  At only 86 calories apiece, they certainly don't taste "light" or lacking in anything!

And now, more 400-calorie meals we've enjoyed this past week:

Cream of Wild Rice Soup:

A Minnesota classic, which we served at our wedding just under a year ago, vegetized by doubling the mushrooms and adding a little cubed seitan instead of chicken.  (Does anyone besides me find too much seitan to be overpowering?)  The result is a nutritious, warm, comforting, and filling supper, perfect for a bitter cold evening.  (Of which we've had many this winter!  Sigh.)

Breakfast Burrito:

Fill a whole-wheat tortilla with 2 oz refried beans, 1/2 oz cheese, 4 oz shredded Yukon gold potato (hashbrowned-up using a little olive oil cooking spray in a cast-iron skillet,) one egg over-easy, home-canned salsa, and a little sour cream ... perfect for a weekend brunch or a speedy weeknight supper!

Black Bean and Cheese Enchiladas:

Ok, so, one "light" food I REALLY don't believe in is reduced-fat cheese.  I mean, c'mon . . . cheese is fat!  What the heck is reduced-fat cheese anyway?  I slightly adapted this recipe, choosing to use 6 oz full-fat Monterey Jack instead of the 8 oz reduced-fat cheese called for.  This meal is relatively quick to prepare, given you're making your own homemade enchilada sauce, and even more delicious leftover.  (Somebody at work is always curious about what I have for lunch!)

Polenta and Roasted Veggies:

I threw this together one evening last week when John was working late, and boy, did he miss out!  (He was able to enjoy leftovers for lunch the next day.)  I decided to roast the veggies instead of pan-sauteeing, which freed up my attention to whip up the polenta.  Although the blue cheese does lend the polenta an unusual, slightly grayish color, this was one heck of a flavorful, colorful, healthy meal!

Stir Fry:

I find that most of the calories in stir-fry actually come from the rice . . . bummer.  Keeping my rice portion down to a 1/2 cup left room on my plate for loads of broccoli and tofu!  I had been wanting to try this recipe for "Chipotle-Orange Broccoli & Tofu" for some time.  It was . . . just okay.  The tofu and broccoli were delicious, but the sauce was nothing special.  Bummer!  I think my biggest complaint was that the citrus flavor wasn't at all present!  You'd think that something with "orange" in the recipe title would be citrusy . . . notsomuch.

Spinach and Artichoke Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms:

Like artichoke dip?  You will LOVE these.  Seriously, make them tonight!

And, Quiche:

I typically cut my quiche into six slices; eight slices makes for more sensible portions for me these days.  (If you still want to enjoy a heartier portion while keeping an eye on your calorie intake, I'd recommend a crustless version -- pastry is kind of a calorie-bomb, unfortunately.)  This meal was a cinch to prepare, thanks to a homemade pie crust stashed away in the freezer and some pre-roasted sweet potatoes.  John loves quiche 'cause he loves eggs, and will take care of these leftovers before I can blink an eye most weeks.


Off to make a pizza!  :)

Thursday, February 06, 2014

400-calorie dinners (iii)

As I continue to clean up my diet, watch my portion sizes, and focus on getting more exercise, I find the most indispensable tool in my kitchen, hands-down, is my scale.  (I have this model.  And no, Escali, doesn't know a thing about me, and if you click on that link, I won't earn any money.  I just really like this scale!)  It's easy to use, the batteries last a relatively long time, it's easy to store, (I keep it in its original box on end in one of my cupboards,) and it comes in a wide variety of colors if you enjoy having your kitchen be all matchy-matchy.  :)  (Or you just like orange, or whatever.)  The scale weighs in both grams and ounces, which has been invaluable for this whole calorie-counting thing, as sometimes it's easier to pull out the scale and weigh out 110 grams of cottage cheese, instead of digging the 1/2-cup measuring cup out of the dishwasher and hand-washing it . . . again.  Know what I mean?

I also use my scale often when preparing recipes, (specifically, I almost always weigh grated cheese . . . the cup measurements I find given with most recipes are often WAY off,) and to weigh oils and lye when making soap.  Moral of the story?  My scale gets more than daily use lately, and when I'm not counting calories, I still pull it out several times a week.

Do you have a kitchen scale?  What brand do you have?  Love it?  Wish you had another type?  Use it?  Gathers dust?  I'm curious.

Without further ado, here are a few more 400-calorie dinners we've enjoyed this week:

Spaghetti and beanballs:

First things first . . . there are more than 400 calories pictured above.  (I had a weird day, with little time for snacking, so I had a big dinner.)  I did learn an important and valuable fact this week, however: an ounce of dry pasta weighs about 2 1/2 ounces cooked.  (You can find anything on the internet . . . !!)  My pasta serving in the above meal was about twice what I'd normally eat, topped with a portion of homemade mushroom marinara, and a few Vegan Beanballs.  Delicious!  The beanballs were a cinch to prepare, and have kept beautifully as leftovers for lunches this week.

Burgers and fries:

I made a full batch of Melody's All-American Burgers, divided the base into 16 2-ounce burgers, and froze half.  These burgers are simple to prepare, inexpensive (I didn't have to purchase a single ingredient to make these!), and have classic veggie burger flavor.  I enjoyed my burger with a homemade half whole-wheat brioche bun, (divide the given recipe into 12 equal-sized pieces,) lettuce, tomato, and 2 tsp mayo.  Side of sweet potato waffle fries, some ketchup for dipping, and a pickle!  Yum.


(I must have been craving classic comfort foods this week, because I've made a lot of traditionally "meaty" dishes' vegetarian cousins . . . but I digress!)  You, too, can enjoy a reuben while attempting to clean up your diet.  How?  Homemade rye, (I use the recipe for "Deli-Style Rye" from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,) 2 tsp thousand island dressing, half an ounce of swiss cheese, 1/4-cup of home-grown-home-cultured-home-canned sauerkraut, and two strips of seasoned tempeh.  I cooked my sandwich using a spritz of olive-oil cooking spray, which probably saved the most calories when comparing to a traditional veggie reuben.  Verdict?  Delicious, and I'm not entirely sure John even noticed I didn't cook them in butter.  Only comment I received was, "Good night for a reuben."  :)


I hope you are enjoying my 400-calorie dinner posts!  Let me know if there's a specific meal you'd like to see as part of this series -- I'm always looking for more meal ideas.