Fun With Chia Seeds

ChiaSeedsI agree with this ABC news post that chia seeds have replaced kale as the “it food” this year. These tiny seeds, which most of us are more familiar with as giving Chia Pets their “hair” or “fur,” have gotten a lot of attention for being loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. They are also chock-full of protein and fiber, for few calories.

What’s the advantage of dumping some into your food? A nutrient boost, as well as fiber to help you feel fuller longer.

I decided to buy some on my last visit to Whole Foods, and then the experiment was on. My first stop: breakfast.

I added the chia seeds to fat-free Greek yogurt, along with honey, and I topped off this breakfast bowl with diced banana and strawberries. It was delicious, as you would expect honey and Greek yogurt to be, and the chia seeds added extra crunch. (Shout-out to ripe banana and strawberries as well.)

The interesting thing about chia seeds is that they become a bit gelatinous when exposed to moisture for a bit–which explains the paste you’ve seen slathered on Chia Pet heads in the past–so you could also consider them a thickener for whatever you ChiaYogurtwant to make. It is something to get used to, and I’d think that would be what would make this a love-it-or-hate-it superfood. I didn’t mind; my yogurt got a little thicker over the course of time, but was still enjoyable, partially because despite swelling to sport a gel-like coating, the crunch doesn’t go away from the seeds.

I purchased my bag of chia seeds on sale for about 6 bucks, but a bag can hover around the $10 mark, give or take a few bucks, from what I’ve seen from the other options at Whole Foods. (I’m still on my first bag after having made several meals with chia seeds now, though, so I think it’s worth the price when on the left side of $10.) I haven’t explored yet whether chia seeds have hit the regular grocery stores of if they’re still a specialty item to be found at health food stores, but I imagine they’ll make their way to a Pathmark, Ralph’s, or Publix near you soon. (Wheat germ is still on the shelves after making its debut in 1936, according to this New York Times article, so why not?)

Chia seeds seem like they’d be a little more shelf-stable than wheat germ and, from what I understand (without having tried them), flax seeds.

Interested in adding chia seeds to your meals? Let you know what you come up with! I’ll have more recipes to share here soon myself.

Roast Beef Chipotle Mini Pizza

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After I completed the challenge of making as many things as I could off a turkey breast last week, I got the insane idea to get a turkey breast again this week. Needless to say, we’re getting tired of turkey.

So I backed away slowly from the turkey and the carving board. And put on my thinking cap. I did some grocery shopping list night, and I knew I would need something to make that night that would be easy to put together. So I went with deli roast beef, and I went with pizza. And I went with my adventurous taste buds and came up with this idea.

1 pita of your choice, wheat or white (I went with a flavored one: garlic pita)
1 to 1.5 oz deli roast beef (with the size of my slices, this meant about 1.5 slices; be sure to weigh yours!)
2T Taco Bell chipotle sauce (found with the Mexican/Southwest foods in the international aisle)
1 oz mozzarella or Italian cheese blend

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. On an oven-safe pan or cookie sheet, assemble your pizza: top the pita with the sauce, top three sauce with the cheese, and tear/shred the roast beef and put that in to of the cheese.

Put your pizza in the oven until the cheese is melted to your liking.

Notes: if I had time and the ingredients, I would’ve added some grilled onions and peppers to this, to add another dimension of flavor.

Not in the mood for pizza? Try this as a wrap sandwich in a tortilla. Add the peppers and onions and salad greens of your choice.

Healthy and Convenient? Here, It’s a Yes

On the Friday before Super Bowl Sunday, I had jury duty. Basically I sat around for four hours, watching morning shows and reading from the Sherlock Holmes anthology. (High point: learning five ways to make nachos from Rachel Ray for guilty pleasure moments. Low point: when a couple of potential jurors spoiled some Downton Abbey plot points for me.)

When the jury pool’s “babysitter” announced that it was time for lunch, I happily left the courthouse, not just in excitement at the opportunity to stretch my legs, but also because I was excited to check out the restaurant offerings in the area.

The courthouse is nestled in a quaint, burgeoning trendy community, with lots of restaurants. I wanted to check out a Mexican place (naturally), but I ended up going to a local produce/food spot instead.

I had duck confit and a parsnip salad, both delicious. While I was savoring the food, and marveling at the fact that I would get a juror discount for it, I overheard the owner say that she was opening another location in a suburban shopping center…and that it would have a drive-through window.

It sounded like an interesting idea: fresh ingredients, local food, available for a few bucks (she was planning for a lower price point than the restaurant I was in) and a quick lean out my driver’s side window for it all? I would love to check it out.

This restaurant would be taking over an old KFC building, which explains the drive-through window. I don’t how many restaurants there are like this, but I hope to see more of them.

Imagine how much easier it would be to eat healthy if you could get something healthy–food as close to your own cooking as it gets, food that doesn’t have “extreme,” “super,” or “grande” in the name–quickly and with little effort. (This is me assuming that the restaurant won’t cut corners with its new endeavor.) I would love to have options besides rotisserie chicken or salad, and I would love for it to cost less than Whole Foods. (I gotta say that Trader Joe’s has economical options that come together with minimal effort, but unfortunately I don’t have one nearby.)

I’d like to think that I’m not wishful thinking. If I had a wand to wave, I’d turn food deserts into healthy food oases, and I’d have a convenient, wallet-friendly healthy eating spot next to each regular fast-food joint. It would be nice if our neighborhoods actually reflected the healthy environments that we claim to want.

In the meantime, I’ll have to track down this mythical healthy drive-through and see if the reality lives up to my imaginings of it.

Barbecue Chicken Pita Pizza

I’m not too proud to buy the reduced price items at the market. In fact, I’m a bit of a proud cheapskate. Why not take advantage of sales like that when they cross my path?

It’s a fun, exhilarating game to me, to scour the market and find amazing deals on things I actually buy. (I don’t coupon because coupons typically are not for things I’d buy. Someone call me if they ever start offering produce coupons, though!)

One thing I’ve been able to find on sale consistently is pita bread. A market that I frequent has had pita on sale the last couple of times I’ve been in the store. Four for a dollar! I bought a couple bags each time.

I had been using the pita for a vegetarian lunch, of pita, hummus, and a salad, but I’ve also made pizza with the pitas as well, like I used to when I started Weight Watchers. But recently I decided to mix things up, with a barbecue chicken pizza. Here’s how:

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Your favorite barbecue sauce, 2T

1.5-2 oz. chicken breast, diced or shredded (leftover chicken works perfectly!)

1 pita–whole wheat, plain, or garlic

1 oz. part-skim mozzarella

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Spread the barbecue sauce on the pita. Top with the cheese, and then the chicken. I then spritzed the pizza with a little cooking spray, to keep the chicken from drying out so much, but that’s optional.

Heat the pizza in the oven until the cheese is melted to your liking.

Notes: I first encountered barbecue chicken pizza at an Italian restaurant around my way, and they also put red onion on the pizza. That’s another option for you. In place of the barbecue sauce, you could go with light or fat-free ranch dressing–that’s another tomato sauce alternative I’ve seen for chicken pizza.

Between a Vegetarian and a Paleo

My eating tends to be all over the place. By that, I mean that I don’t play favorites with the kind of food that I eat–from being a South Beach Diet follower, to dabbling with vegetarian eating in my 20s, there aren’t too many modes of eating or kinds of food that I turn my nose up at. (With the exception of sardines and okra…I don’t know that there will ever be hope for me with those two things!)

Because of that, I’m not surprised that my Pinterest food board reads like a split-personality eater. I follow a lot of vegetarian and vegan pinners (here’s one of my favorites), and their mealtime picks are heavily represented among the things I like and the things I’d like to try. But on the flipside, I have posted some paleo recipes, and there’s one grill-master in particular whose ideas I’m always excited to see come up on my timeline.

As someone who has had weight loss and healthy eating on her mind for a few years now, one of the most important things that I do is to keep looking out for new foods, new recipes, and new ways of creating meals that are designed for the most nutrition in the most modest amount of calories possible. In my pursuit of new ideas, I’m don’t harbor any biases about the kinds of eaters who are supplying those ideas. I’d encourage you to look beyond the cookbooks, Web sites and pinboards that focus on the kinds of food you typically eat and look to the people who combine ingredients in a different manner to still generate tasty, nutritionally sound entrees.

Here are some things that have caught my eye on the Web lately:

  • Tofu steaks with chimichurri and baby spinach, from Stone Soup: I never knew how to fry tofu, but from the picture, this recipe seems to offer the alternative protein with a beautiful crust. Plus, the chimichurri recipe can be repurposed for a lean steak.
  • Roasted garlic sweet potato and poached egg, from Naturally Ella: Breakfast tends to be the meal that’s hardest for me to consistently come up with good ideas. I like the sound of this because it sounds filling, and the carb is coming in the form of a vegetable.
  • Roasted Dijon chicken, from Framed Cooks: I like that this recipe creates meat and a side. It helps to take the guesswork out of pairing up items on the menu!
  • Kale with oranges and mustard dressing, from MarthaStewart.com: I am a big fan of leafy greens, and I’ve heard of the kale-citrus one-two punch before. I’m curious to try it!
  • Crockpot Indian-spiced lentils, from The Diva Dish: I love Indian food, and I was excited to find a recipe to make some by setting and forgetting.
  • Red snapper Azteca, from Paleo Plan: Fish is always an excellent lean protein choice. In this recipe, it gets a flavor boost that sounds tasty.

I am glad to know that no matter what kind of food I’m looking for, there are tons of people out there with delicious ideas. Happy hunting to you!

Question of the Day: How has your diet changed since you’ve started eating healthy? What foods are you eating that you never thought in a million years would touch your plate?

A Return, and a New Normal

I haven’t written regularly in a great, long while. During this time, I’ve been trying to recover from a self-imposed stressful period by enjoying family and personal time more, giving myself permission to live life, and by delving a little deeper into why I got in that stressful spot in the first place. And, of course, I’ve been monitoring myself on how everything related back to food.

What I found was a lot of fear, a lot of desire to please others, and generally too many people to try to please at that point. I knew change was needed, and tough decisions needed to be made, but I wasn’t willing to do it.

I saw that food was offering a good hiding place from the perfect storm I was waiting to hit me with a deluge of misfortune. Food was a psychic umbrella for me, if you will. In other words, it tried to resume the old place that it had in my life. Or, it’s probably more appropriate to say that I was emotionally vulnerable and let it take that place. I came to realize that, rather than trying to stop myself from emotional eating, it was more important to try to figure out why I was having the emotions. I have been untangling those issues and have been earnestly making a shift in how I perceive the world, and the amount of control I have in it, and it has felt good to know that I can live differently.

At the same time I was going through that stress, and for some time before that, I realized that I was becoming pretty accepting of how I looked. In my last entry, I talked about not knowing whether I wanted to lose a lot more weight or not. I have come to realize that I am pretty satisfied with where I am weight-wise. I’d like to get more toned and be lighter for preventative health reasons, but I don’t feel a desire to lose a substantial amount of weight just for the sake of losing weight. I’ll consider myself in a maintenance phase of continued healthy eating, with splurges factored in.

What does this mean for my blog? Not much. I will still be writing about healthy food options, weight loss and emotional eating. But I will be doing it from a place of someone who is a little more loving of herself, and a bit more clear on her goals.

One new thing that I’ve done with the blog, however, is to start a gallery of healthy food finds. These are interesting foods I’ve seen in my shopping travels. Visit that gallery here. And check my Twitter account (@dcangah) and Instagram account (dcangah) for pictures as I find them!

My Friend the Wawa Store

During this period of crazy, crazy work for me, I haven’t been cooking as much as I normally do, and that has been hard for me, in not having the same delicious options, and also in losing a creative outlet. But I had to be realistic and come to terms with the fact that I really can’t do it all. So how have I been eating for the last 3 or 4 weeks? Quite often, it was thanks to the good people at Wawa.

Wawa is a convenience store in the Midlantic region (that also has decent gas prices, if you’re ever in my neck of the woods). As far as convenience stores go (ahem, 7-11), they do have a fair amount of healthy options for breakfast and lunch. I got to know many of them very well lately.

On my way to work in the morning, there were days when I was stopping at Wawa for breakfast, lunch, and a 16-oz. jolt from kona and fat-free vanilla creamer (newly introduced there). And getting familiar with the cashiers.

What was I picking up to buy from there?

Fruit. There were some days when I was able to scrape together a reduced fat peanut butter sandwich at home, and on those days, I rounded out my breakfast at Wawa with a cup of coffee and a banana or an apple. Or, I picked up a cup of pineapple or grapes, or a fruit salad as a snack or lunch dessert.

Salad. Wawa offers a variety of salads that are packaged in bowls, with meats and cheeses separated from the lettuce until you’re ready to eat. I passed on the salad dressing and enjoyed the turkey club salad, the chef salad (sometimes ditching the egg)  and the Caesar salad (minus the croutons). I typically ate my salad with a bag of baked chips. On days when I had leftovers to zap in the microwave at work, I opted for the garden salad, tossing the chickpeas and egg.

Sandwiches. If you have time, you can build your own sandwich at Wawa and go light on (or without) the cheese and mayo, opt for whole wheat bread, or select a small roll rather than a 10-incher. If you’re short on time, their prepackaged sandwiches are decent. I typically ate the tuna sandwich or the peppered turkey and bacon sandwich, with fruit or baked chips.

Nutritionally sound carbs. There is a big selection of granola bars and meal replacement bars at Wawa. I didn’t get to really investigate the nutritional value of all of them (and I suspect some of them wouldn’t pass my protein/fiber test), but one that worked for breakfast one morning was the BelVita biscuits.

I saw them promoted in magazines and in my supermarket a couple months back, and they sounded interesting, but I paid them no further mind. But I liked what I saw for the fiber/protein content when I was looking for something different to eat at Wawa one day, and tried the Golden Oat flavor. You get four biscuits (like overgrown cookies, really) per serving, and no high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats, or artificial flavors, according to their Web site. I ate them with a light yogurt (also from Wawa)  and a piece of fruit.

A lighter breakfast sandwich. There was a day or two when I felt like having a breakfast sandwich. The winner was the turkey sausage and egg white bagel sandwich. On the Weight Watchers points scale, it’s a bit more than I typically prefer to eat for breakfast, but it sure tasted good!

Despite not cooking much, and despite stressing and stretching myself thin mentally, I have maintained my 40 lbs. lost during this time. I guess I owe Wawa a big thank-you for that.

What are your favorite healthy convenience store meals/snacks?