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?

Wasabi-Soy Chicken Kebabs

This recipe was inspired by another supermarket walkabout that I did last week. I happened on to a 99 cents sale on salad dressing/marinade from Old Cape Cod. I’ve grilled chicken thighs with teriyaki sauce, but never adapted something like this to a meat-veggie skewer combo. Seeing the wasabi soy ginger dressing caused the idea to leap into my head. (That, and the fact that I have this challenge going on and the fact that I had some baby bella mushrooms in my fridge that I needed to do something with ASAP.)

Still improving my food styling skills. Don’t judge me. : )

Recipe

  • 4 or 5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup of Old Cape Cod wasabi soy ginger marinade (or your favorite teriyaki sauce, with a little wasabi, cayenne or red pepper flakes)
  • One large onion, cut into large chunks (I cut each half into 8 chunks of multiple layers)
  • 1 package of baby bella mushrooms, stems removed, washed, dried

Add everything to a gallon-sized ziploc bag, making sure to mix the sauce through thoroughly. Marinate for a least 20 minutes. (I wouldn’t marinate more than a couple hours, unless you can vouch for me that the onions and mushrooms won’t be mushy.)

Thread onto skewers and grill until the chicken is done.

Notes: I served this with boil-in-bag brown rice, grilled scallions and a little more of the marinade. Be encouraged that it can come together fairly quickly!

Grilled scallions are served in Western Hemisphere Latin/Spanish cooking, but I know scallions appear in Asian cooking as well, so I figured why not toss some scallions from my garden with the marinade and see what happens? It turned out pretty tasty. (I only wish I had more scallions for the meal; can’t wait until the rest of them get big enough to pick.)

Even if you do buy the Old Cape Cod product, if you like spicy food you might still want to up the spiciness with some red pepper flakes. The sauce had attitude, but wasn’t really all that hot.

Crispy Baked Chicken

If you think it’s hard to look at this picture, try smelling it while it’s baking!

Let’s be real: One of the reasons we love fried chicken is for the crispy skin. I know that’s my favorite part of the experience, saving that rich, crunchy sheet for the last flavorful bite. But fried chicken is my kryptonite, so I don’t have it that often. That doesn’t mean I can’t still get that crispy mouthfeel for a fraction of the calories, though.

How? By baking the chicken with a little bit of oil. I’ve never been one to enjoy the “oven fried” fried chicken clones, and I never found a way to make a decent one myself. But a well-seasoned piece of roasted chicken that’s been cooked long enough to yield a crispy coat of skin works just fine for me.

Before Weight Watchers, I’d pour a good amount of oil, probably 1/3 to 1/2 cup of oil, into a bowl for maybe 8 pieces of chicken, add spices (a mix of salt, pepper and garlic, or just seasoned salt), and brush the mixture onto the chicken. But here’s what I did this weekend, riffing on a Latin spice recipe from SkinnyTaste.com. (My recipe is for 12 pieces, for the hungry men in my family, but feel free to adjust everything to make a smaller quantity.)

  • 12 pieces of chicken (I went with drumsticks and thighs, but wings would work, too.)
  • 3 Badia Tropical Sazon packets (Approximately 1 1/2 pack for each side of the 12 pieces of chicken. I went with Badia to avoid the MSG in Goya Sazon. The kind of Badia Sazon I got didn’t have annato in it, to give the chicken a nice red-orange color, but you might be lucky.)
  • Adobo spice powder to taste
  • Oregano to taste
  • Paprika (I added it to compensate for the color that I was missing with my annato-less Sazon, but I think I’ll pick up annato in the future, for until I run out of the Sazon packets I have.)
  • 1/2 cup vinegar (I went with apple cider, but I’d also try red wine vinegar. The original recipe recommended white vinegar, but I opted not to use it because I thought the flavor might be too harsh.)
  • 2T oil (I used canola.)

Sprinkle the spices on one side of the chicken parts, then turn the pieces over and sprinkle the other side, topping with the paprika last. Put the chicken into a plastic ziploc bag.

Mix the oil into the vinegar, and dump the mixture into the bag. Close the bag and shake everything up; place the bag in the refrigerator to marinate. (I let it go for about 30 minutes, but I’m sure you’d be fine to go for a few hours or overnight if you wanted.)

Place the chicken pieces in baking pans, and roast it at 350 degrees until it’s cooked through and the skin is crisp.

I can’t wait to try this recipe again with the soul seasoning I have in the house! (For that go-round, the soul seasoning will be the only spice I use.)

Things I Learned From a Month of Salads

My 2012 started off with me stocking up on lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, onions, red cabbage, peppers, and other kinds of raw vegetables to turn into salads. In the month of January, I embarked on a challenge to eat a salad a day.

I was sick and missed dinner on Day 7, and on Day 26, the realities of salad fatigue had set in. But after those two missed days, I ate two salads on the following days. So I eventually crossed the finish line into February, today, with 31 bowls of veggies and proteins having made their way through my body in the month before. Someone figure out how to turn a radish into a medal for me!

I am happy to have completed my challenge with minor hiccups. I will be glad to get back to not having to limit my food options, but I think I will incorporate more salads into my life in general. I came up with a bunch of tasty ideas that I won’t let go to waste!

Besides filling up my mental recipe box with ideas, I learned a bunch of other things about salads and their place in my life. Here are 10 of those things: Continue reading

Blackened Salmon

I am a big fan of salmon. I used to bake it with celery salt and call it a day, but I take it to the next level these days with this recipe.

I’ve adapted this from a recipe in Essence magazine a few years ago. Enjoy!

  • Salmon fillet (I usually go with farm-raised salmon, but choose your favorite variety.) I typically get more than a pound, because I have a household of salmon appreciators!
  • Adobo seasoning, cumin, garlic powder, chilli powder, and cayenne pepper to taste (Omit the cayenne if you’d like to have something a little less spicy.)
  • Oil (I have made this with cooking spray, and with 1 or 2 T of oil. I would recommend using the actual oil.)

Heat the oil in a stainless steel pan on medium-high heat.

Sprinkle the spices to both sides of the fish, rub in well. (I usually start with the skin side first.)

Add the salmon to the pan, flesh side down. Cover and shake the pan periodically, so the fish doesn’t stick. When the fish is cooked through some, flip over. (This is typically after 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.) Do the same thing for the fish skin side down, shaking the pan periodically.

Check the fish for doneness. If not finished, flip over to flesh side down again, and shake the pan as needed.

Remove the fish from the pan when cooked through.

That’s it! I usually eat this with vegetables on the side–maybe broccoli and sweet potatoes or squash.

10 Things I Learned About Weight Loss From NaBloPoMo

Today is the last day of NaBloPoMo blogging for me. One month ago, I started blogging daily. It was a good experience. I developed 30 days’ worth of topics, but somehow I only use about two-thirds of them. Instead, I wrote on whatever other ideas came up that seemed interesting.

Harder than coming up with ideas was finding the time to write them out. At the beginning of the month, I was a day ahead with developing blog posts. This week, some of the posts didn’t go live until 10 our 11 at night or so. (I hope to get back to posts going live at 6:30 a.m. by next week. And rather than a 3- or 7-day schedule, I’ll be blogging five days a week–during the weekdays.)

Despite the challenges, I had fun, learned a lot about myself (all good) and my tolerance for blogging (thankfully, quite high). I also “met” a bunch of wonderful people on the BlogHer site, and I got to reconnect with some friends on the blog. Thank you, all of you, for regularly visiting the site!

Aside from what I’ve mentioned so far, here are 10 things I learned about weight loss during this period.

  1. There are still dishes to be cooked. I posted a number of recipes, but I’ve been inspired to keep experimenting. You can definitely expect more spice alchemy from me!
  2. It’s been a month with a lot of ups and downs. I’ve eaten well, and I’ve eaten poorly. I’ve been content with love, and I’ve lost loved ones. I’ve met family members, and I’ve battled isolation. The things that I’ve experienced will help me to find balance in life and in eating, even when things aren’t going smoothly.
  3. It’s been helpful to open up with talking and writing. Reaching out to others has made a difference in many ways.
  4. I’m (slowly) learning to adjust my eating better. There have been times during the past month when I’ve not tracked my eating, or when I’ve eaten more than I normally would. But, in a small slice of intuitive eating, I’ve tried to balance out these negative behaviors by adjusting my eating when possible.
  5. Physical activity isn’t so bad. I wrote on Monday about run/walking up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and I have to admit that I enjoyed it! Even though I became winded, I was proud of myself, for someone who doesn’t exercise regularly.
  6. You really can eat what you want and lose weight–with modifications. For this, I’m reminded of what I learned from Oldways’ African Heritage Pyramid Diet, that many “soul food” dishes can still be enjoyed, with a few tweaks.
  7. What I’ve learned about weight loss carries over into other areas of my life. The problem-solving I’ve used to eat better and stay on track can also help me to deal with complex emotions.
  8. Read labels! I consider myself a careful label reader, but I was aghast to learn about the filler-filled hamburgers. Those burgers will make me read labels a little more closely.
  9. The month wasn’t a failure. Despite eating with lax discipline, as of this morning, I am about 45 lbs. down.
  10. A lot of people have the same challenges that I do. Being an introverted person, I tend to think that what I’m going through is different from what others in the same position are feeling. But it’s not true. Many people struggle with weight loss or with damaging self-talk, and they all need advice as much as I do. I would like to continue with this blog to give us a chance to talk through our fears, frustrations and challenges (and to also celebrate victories).

Thank you again for visiting my blog, and thank you for venturing through the wilds of the words I’ve posted, from easy recipes to trying to refocus myself away from negative behavior. I will have to take the daily blogging challenge again someday!