Monday, January 20, 2014

2 Pepper Mushroom Ragu with Kale


Well, another week in the weight loss program and I lost another pound.  Okay, not monumental by any means, but in this case, I truly believe that slow and steady wins the race.  I didn't gain it overnight.  Enough said.

I have been exercising religiously five days a week.  On the weekends, we are so busy between shopping  and chores, I hardly get to sit down until dinner time.  But during the week, I am doing HIIT (High Impact Interval Training  - 20 -30 minutes) with resistance training on those days.

On alternating days I am doing Jillian Michael's "Yoga Meltdown," which I just love.   I am using her "Fast Fix Kickboxing," too as 3 of the HIIT routines.  That DVD is great.  Since I have previous knee injuries, I find kickboxing works for me.  You have to find a routine that works for you.

On the WW program, one of the things that I am learning is how much I deluded myself into thinking my recipes were  "healthy."  Now I think I was headed down the right street.   I never used a lot of salt.   I tried to load my dishes up with fiber, and I do love my veggies.  But there is always room for improvement.  Such is the case with my Mushroom Ragu. 

This is a mushroom ragu "redoux" - kinda.  The recipe is updated and it's healthier than my old version(s) too, which you can find under "vegetarian" meals.  A couple of people asked me to add the labels back in as it's easier to find favorite recipes.  So I did.

 This recipe comes in at  8 points per serving if you are following Weight Watchers (according to their online calculator).  But this is your entire dinner.  The veggies are in there!  It's great for busy days or days when you want or had a splurge and you need to go a little lighter, yet you want something that will "fill you up." 

If you are following the "Simply Filling" program like I am - you will find that certain brands of pasta are considered to be "Power Foods."  That means you do not have to count them in your weekly indulgences.

I will explain to you in another post why I am opting for "Simply Filling" over counting points.

Grated cheese is optional.  But remember to watch what kind of cheese you add as that can make a difference if you are counting points. 

And remember, the pasta is optional, too.  You could serve this over Polenta or even barley.

Note:  This is almost vegetarian as it does include anchovy paste.  You can swap that out for salt or another seasoning if you don't want it in there. 

As a bonus, it's a one dish recipe; perfect for week nights.   Substituting fresh garlic is perfectly okay.  I love fresh garlic, but I had this on hand tonight.  I like the way the garlic paste "melts" in with the anchovy paste. 

Okay - enough chit chat -

Serves 4.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Lentil and Barley Soup

Looks good, huh? 

I don't know if I lost any weight; I will find out at my weigh-in on Saturday, but eating all of these "Power Foods," I feel amazing. 

Something came to mind yesterday:  When I was a "Skinny Mini Me" about 15 years ago, I used to eat like this often.  I guess with all the cooking contests and my interest in food, I've gotten away from it.  But I'm learning that one can still be a "foodie" and eat incredibly healthy. 

If you are doing Weight Watchers ®, according to the calculations I ran on their site's online e-tools, this recipe has a points value of only 3 for approximately a 1 1/4 cup serving.* 

Even if you are not watching your weight, it's a healthy "Power Food" option as a side dish for lunch or even a main dish with a nice side salad for dinner. 

If you want to decrease the points value even more, you can leave out the barley.  However, Google the health benefits of barley, and you'll see why you might want to include it.

Here you go:


1/2 tbs. canola oil
1 cup sliced carrot (plus carrot greens, optional)
1/4 chopped celery
2 medium scallions, chopped, (white and light green parts only)
1 tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
1/8 tsp. cracked black pepper
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups chopped uncooked kale
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
24 ounces cold water
1 1/2 cups dry green lentils
1 tsp. garlic powder
15 ounces whole peeled canned tomatoes with juice from can
1 tsp. course sea salt
1 tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
32 ounces 50% reduced sodium vegetable broth
1/8 cup pearled barley (cooked by package directions)


Add oil to soup pot.  Toss in the carrot, celery and scallions.  Cook for about three minutes until the vegetables soften. 

Add the carrot greens, if using.  Reverse a few for a garnish.  Mix well and cook for about a minute.

Add the rosemary, black pepper and crushed red pepper.  Continue to cook for about a minute until the fragrance of the rosemary and the red pepper release.

Add in the kale in batches, until it wilts.

Sprinkle in the nutmeg and toss with the kale. 

Add the water, the lentils and the garlic powder. 

Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with the back of a wooden spoon.  Mix well to combine ingredients. 

Add the sea salt, the cheese and the vegetable broth.  Stir. 

Bring to boil and reduce to simmer, covered, about 30 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, cook the barley per package directions and keep warm.

Portion out even amounts of the barley and add to bowls of soup. 


I'll see you soon with more light and healthy recipes that foodies like me will love.

*Not an endorsement of the weight loss program, and no compensation was given to blogger. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Spaghetti Western with Lemony Veggies

Happy New Year!

As with each New Year, we create resolutions.  Even though I try to keep the recipes I post for you on the scaled-down side, when you “contest” and test recipes, even those of us who try to get healthy can pack on the pounds.  That was the case with me.  Egggh.  Plus, I didn’t work out much over the holidays.

But now I am back on track…

I decided to join Weight Watchers ®.  I attended my first meeting on Saturday morning.  I have to say, I am very impressed with the new Simple Start program.  For the first two weeks, you don’t have to count points; you simply eat “power foods.”  Any splurges are counted by points.  Then you have the option of strictly counting points, or if you prefer, you can now continue on the “power foods” path with only counting your points for non power food options, or you can do a combination.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this goes.

As I’ve been reading over the materials given to me, it made me realize that some of the dishes I thought were “healthy” maybe weren’t as healthy as they could have been.  But rather than beat myself up over the past, I decided to move forward.  I started to think about how many times in my life I’ve had to re-adjust my eating habits based on various factors (how busy I was – what else was going on in my life, health concerns, etc).  Your life is a journey and so should be your quest to find what makes you healthier and happier at all stages.  That is why you will note the new subtitle, “A Foodie's Journey to a Healthier Lifestyle.”

Will I ever reach the “Mt. Everest” of food and health enlightenment?  I don’t know.  But the journey is the fun part.  But hey, twelve years ago, I could only make a few things well and look at me now – winning and placing in cooking contests and hosting a food blog.   You just never know how much you can accomplish until you really try.

I’m not endorsing Weight Watchers.  You have to find a weight loss program that works for you.  But this year, I thought I’d not only give the blog a fresh new look, but I also decided to add WW points to some of my recipes (as I did here tonight).  I’m also going to tag some of my recipes (new and previous) with a Power Foods tag, so if you’re doing any kind of a healthy diet, you’ll be able to find the recipes you want to make.  I figured if I’m reinventing my philosophy and it’s working for me, I should pay it forward and help others. 

And, oh, yeah, the recipe:

My recipe from last night is a spaghetti dish.  I ran it through the WW recipe calculator on their e-tools site and it came in at 12 points including the side dish.  A little high if you want to have dessert, but considering it’s spaghetti with meat sauce (buffalo meat), that’s not really that bad.  You want to eat this dish; you will just likely have to skip the late night nibbles.

Over time, I will learn to scale down the recipes to keep them less than 10 points; but I think you are going to enjoy this recipe even if you’re not on a diet. 

BTW - First time I ever used buffalo meat.  It was very tasty.  You can substitute ground beef, turkey or even ground chicken for this dish.

4 servings - 12 Points (including side dish)


Butter flavored cooking spray

12 ounces lean ground buffalo

1 tsp. onion powder

1/8 tsp. cracked black pepper

1 tbs. light olive oil and canola oil blend

3 oz. diced Portobello mushroom (gills scraped away before chopping)

1 tbs. minced Jalapeño pepper

1 tbs. minced garlic

1/4 cup low sodium beef broth

15 ounces organic tomato sauce

Pinch of sea salt (optional)

8 ounces whole grain pasta (cooked by package directions)

1/8 cup fat free feta cheese

Fresh torn mint for garnish

4 ounces fresh string beans

1/8 cup mini bell pepper rings (assorted colors)

1 tbs. lemon juice

Spray cooking spray into medium skillet.  Add ground meat and onion powder and pepper.  Brown the meat to your liking, about five minutes.  Remove meat from pan and keep warm.

Add the oil, the mushroom and the Jalapeño.  Sauté about four minutes until the mushroom begins to turn golden brown.  Add in the garlic.
Deglaze the pan with the beef broth, scraping the browned bits from the bottom.

Add the tomato sauce and the salt.  Simmer for about five minutes.
Serve over cooked pasta.  Top with feta cheese and mint.

For the side dish, simply microwave the beans and peppers in two tablespoons of water, covered.  Toss in lemon juice.
I hope you’ll join me in 2014 as I lose weight, get healthier, and share new recipes with you.

I’ll see you soon!
Not an endorsement for the weight loss program mentioned in this blog.