Aug 21, 2010 Recipes
I stress about odd things. I’m fine with speaking in public, walking into a room full of strangers, flying, and nearing forty. But I stress big-time when I cook for company. That’s why I’ve gotten quite good at making things that I can put together before the guests arrive and then bake while I’m enjoying myself, so if you come to my house for dinner chances are good that whatever I serve you will be in a casserole dish or roasting pan.
But tomorrow I’m having some friends over for brunch, and I didn’t know what to serve. I make really good eggs and pancakes for my family all the time, but you can’t make those ahead. In fact, if I made either of those I would basically be slaving in the kitchen until the moment everyone had food on their plates. Not my idea of a relaxing Sunday with friends.
The obvious answer, of course, is quiche. While in my adult life I’ve eaten my weight in quiche, I’ve never made one. I started searching online for recipes, and settled on a zucchini and onion quiche because I love zucchini and had all of the ingredients. Then I got to work testing out the recipe (husbands are for experimenting on, friends are to please and dazzle). The first time I made it I followed the recipe exactly, and while it was tasty, it didn’t taste like quiche. It was very bread-y, not moist, and didn’t taste like eggs. So, I adapted the recipe to what you see below, and tried again. Perfection!
Of course, now I’ve got two quiches sitting in my kitchen and will be making another one fresh for my guests tomorrow. I think some of my neighbors will be getting a quiche delivery after I shower.
(adapted from AllRecipes.com)
UPDATE: The third time I made this I played with the ingredients a tiny bit more, adding one more egg (for a total of nine) and making all of the seasonings into rounded teaspoons, and needed to cook it for about an extra five minutes. It was delicious, and a little more flavorful.
- 1 cup biscuit mix (I use Bisquick)
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 1 tsp seasoning salt
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder (or 3/4 teaspoon garlic salt, and omit the extra salt)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 3/4 cup onion, finely chopped
- 8 large eggs, beaten
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 medium zucchini, sliced into thin rounds then cut in half
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen, Momtourage, and podcasts with The Blogging Angels.
Mar 25, 2010 Recipes
Like mother, like son
Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows that my son is a picky eater. I don’t want to be too hard on him, because I was a picky eater when I was a kid too, and eventually I came around and started eating a wider variety of foods. I’m still picky compared to the other grown-ups around me, but I’m waaaay better than I used to be. Hell, it took me until my early twenties just to try avocados and blueberries. You couldn’t pay me as a kid to eat wheat bread, and now I love it. But at least I liked zucchini and salad and tomato sauce growing up. Jake puts me to shame. He would happily live his life consuming only white foods and never give it a second thought.
I used to think that the idea of sneaking healthy foods into kids’ diets was stupid. The way I saw it, that only kept them eating healthy until they were out on their own, without me around to sneak pureed veggies into mac & cheese or wheat germ into pizza. But I had completely blocked out my own food transformation. I grew up eating all of the crap I could get my hands on when it was available, but my tastes got more developed all on their own. What if, while I was in that totally crappy eating stage of my life, someone had sneaked in some nutrition? I surely would have benefited, even if I didn’t know it.
Still, I didn’t think it would matter with Jake. I didn’t think that adding pureed vegetable would fly with him. He doesn’t eat much that has more than one or two ingredients! The pasta has to be plain, with just butter and Parmesan. Rice has to be plain. Grilled cheese has to have yellow American and nothing else. He doesn’t like most recipes, where he can’t see absolutely everything in there. There’s just no opportunity for substitution or sneakiness.
White Whole Wheat
Then, on a visit to my mom’s house in Buffalo, Jake ate fluffy white sandwich bread from Wegman’s that was whole grain. I had never even heard of that before! My mom had bought it and given it to him without saying a word, and he ate it. I’ve been substituting some white whole wheat flour in some of the breads I make at home, and while The Ass has complained a bit, Jake happily eats it. Yay!
Which brings us to today. I went to a lunch hosted by Uncle Ben’s, where I got to try four of their new white whole grain rice varieties: plain, sweet tomato, taco, and broccoli & cheese. (There was also chicken flavor, but that one had chicken broth and fat in it so I couldn’t try it.) The broccoli & cheese was my favorite, with the taco flavored coming in a close second. Then we got to try out some recipes developed by Missy Chase Lapine, otherwise known as The Sneaky Chef, using the new Uncle Ben’s products. In fact, Nicole from Momtrends and I jumped at the chance to get up there and help her make some pizza rice balls, using the sweet tomato variety of whole grain white rice. They were really delicious. I would totally make them and eat them at home. But would the kids eat them?
Trying it out at home
I made the “white” rice tonight and crossed my fingers. Fiona tried it and liked it, although she wanted a little butter on it. The Ass tried it and liked it, he just wanted to add a little salt. But Jake? Oh Jakie.
Missy said something during the lunch today that describes Jake to a T: Kids eat with their eyes. Jake took one look at the rice and said “It’s wet.” I told him it wasn’t wet, it was just cooked differently than the white rice that he’s used to. He said it didn’t look like the white rice he likes from the Chinese place. He didn’t want to try it at all. I should have just let it go, but I begged him to just try a bite. Of course that was pointless because he had already decided that he didn’t like it. He took a miniscule bite and refused to eat any more.
I’ve heard many many times since becoming a mom that kids need to be exposed to a new taste up to ten times before they’ll even try it, let alone accept it or like it. I always thought they were talking about little kids, not an eight-year-old. But I think I’m just going to have to keep trying. I described the pizza rice balls to him and asked him if he would try those if I made them, and he said yes, he would try them. So that will be my next Uncle Ben’s experiment, and I’ll let you know how it goes.
In the mean time, here’s the pizza rice balls recipe. I’m also including the Shepherd’s Pie recipe, because even though I didn’t get to eat it (turkey), Stacy DeBroff from Mom Central loved that one.
Thanks to Uncle Ben’s for the fun lunch, and to Missy Chase Lapine for the great Sneaky Chef recipes! And a great tip: if you don’t have any of her orange-colored puree on hand, use baby food! Genius.
SNEAKY CHEF® PIZZA RICE BALLS
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
2 cups UNCLE BEN’S® WHOLE GRAIN WHITE RICE SWEET TOMATO, cooked
1 large egg
1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 teaspoon dried oregano and/or basil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons Orange Puree (see Make-Ahead Recipe below)
1⁄4 cup wheat germ or oat bran, divided
Marinara sauce, for serving, optional
- Prepare UNCLE BEN’S® WHOLE GRAIN WHITE RICE SWEET TOMATO according to directions on package.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees and generously spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
- Whisk together the egg, 1⁄4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the spices, tomato paste, Orange Puree, and 2 tablespoons of the oat bran or wheat germ.
- Add cooked rice and mix well.
- Pour remaining Parmesan and oat bran/wheat germ onto a plate and set aside.
- Using damp hands, pinch off about 1 tablespoonful of the rice mixture and shape into small balls. Roll each ball in the oat bran or wheat germ and Parmesan mixture, coating fully.
- Gently place the rice balls on the prepared sheet; generously spray the tops of the balls with more cooking spray, and bake for 5 minutes.
- Using a spatula to loosen, turn the rice balls over, and then return them to the oven for another 5 minutes to brown on the other side. Serve with salt and pepper.
- Serve as a handheld side dish or dipped in marinara sauce (with additional added White or Orange Puree, of course!).
SNEAKY CHEF® MAKE-AHEAD RECIPE: ORANGE PUREE
Makes about 2 cups of puree
1 medium sweet potato or yam, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 medium to large carrots, peeled and sliced into thick chunks
2 to 3 tablespoons water
1. Place the carrots and sweet potatoes in a medium-sized pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 20 minutes, until carrots are very tender. Careful – if the carrots aren’t tender enough, they may leave telltale little nuggets of vegetables in recipes, which will reveal their presence to your kids—a gigantic no-no for The Sneaky Chef.
2. Drain the carrots and sweet potatoes and put them in the food processor with two tablespoons of water. Puree on high until smooth – no pieces of vegetables showing. Stop occasionally to push the contents to the bottom. If necessary, use another tablespoon of water to smooth out the puree, but the less water, the better.
3. This recipe makes about 2 cups of puree; double it if you want to store mores. Orange Puree will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or you can freeze 1⁄4-cup portions in sealed plastic bags or small plastic containers.
SHH! SHEPHERD’S PIE
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon Worcester sauce
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup White Puree (see Make-Ahead Recipe below)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package UNCLE BEN’S® WHOLE GRAIN WHITE RICE BROCCOLI CHEDDAR, cooked
1 cup grated low-fat cheddar cheese
- Prepare UNCLE BEN’S® WHOLE GRAIN WHITE RICE BROCCOLI CHEDDAR according to directions on package.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray a 7 1/2 x11-inch glass baking dish with oil
- Heat the oil over medium heat in a deep skillet or earthenware pot.
- Add the ground turkey, stirring to break it up, and cook for about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the ketchup, Worcester sauce, tomato paste, White Puree, salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Mix well.
- Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Transfer turkey mixture to the prepared baking dish and spread evenly across the bottom.
- Add cooked rice on top and spread evenly.
- Top with grated cheddar cheese and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly on top.
SNEAKY CHEF® MAKE-AHEAD RECIPE: WHITE PUREE
This recipe makes about 2 cups of puree; double it if you want to store more. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or you can freeze 1⁄4-cup portions in sealed plastic bags or small plastic containers.
2 cups cauliflower florets (about 1⁄2 a small head)
2 small to medium zucchini, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 tablespoons water, if necessary
1. To prepare White Puree on the stovetop, pour about 2 inches of water into a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Put a vegetable steamer basket into the pot, add the cauliflower, and steam for about 10 minutes, until very tender. Drain.
2.To prepare in microwave, place the cauliflower in a microwave-safe bowl, cover it with water, and microwave on high for 8 to 10 minutes or until very tender. Drain.
3. Meanwhile, place the raw peeled zucchini with the lemon juice in your food processor and pulse a few times. Next add the cooked cauliflower and 1 tablespoon of water to the food processor (work in batches if necessary) and puree on high until smooth. Stop occasionally to push the contents to the bottom. If necessary, use another tablespoon of water make a smooth puree, but the less water, the better.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 2. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen, and the NYC Moms Blog.
OK, I’m being facetious. Science did no such thing. But this week, science did suggest to me that exercising may not necessarily be the best way to lose weight. I’m talking about this article from Time.com. Go ahead and read it, I’ll wait.
Don’t have time to read it? I’ll summarize it for you (through the lens of what I want it to say, I’m sure): exercising may trick you into eating more.
It’s a lot more complicated than that, but in a nutshell the article asserts that exercising not only stimulates hunger, but you’re more likely to say to yourself “Hey, I jogged today. I’m going to have that muffin.” But you’re also very likely to overestimate the number of calories you burned working out and underestimate the number of calories in your post-workout snack, so when you combine exercise with appetite stimulation with the human tendency to suck at math, you may not be doing yourself any favors in the weight loss department.
This article does NOT say that exercise is bad. In fact, it points out some of the many many benefits of exercise. But when it comes to weight loss, it suggests that you’re better off eating less and living an “active” lifestyle, without what I call “purposeful exercise” – exercise done simply for the sake of exercising. Studies in kids (linked to from that same article) show that kids who are more active in school move less at home after school, and vice-versa. I can definitely see that tendency in myself. I live in Brooklyn, where I walk a lot. Not a sweat-inducing speed walk, but walking as a way of getting somewhere. I also ride my bike two or three times a week as a mode of transportation. I live in a four-story house, so I’m on stairs a lot. But I suspect that when I exercise, I sit on my butt more for the rest of the day. I have no way to prove this, it’s just anecdotal. But it makes sense.
I happen to like the way my muscles look when I’ve been toning them with hand weights or doing pilates. I jogged quite a bit this spring, and I could see a definite difference when I ran for the subway. But was any of this getting me thinner, or just fitter? And was it encouraging me to eat more? I don’t know. But I do know that the last 25lbs I lost, I did it with virtually no exercise.
Now, if you’re thinking of writing in and saying that this theory can’t possibly be true, because you just biked your way to a size 4, that doesn’t disprove the theory. It just may mean that you have better control over your mind than the rest of us. Great for you. But if you’ve exercised your butt off and your butt is still there, you may want to let the Time article sink in.
I’m not going to stop exercising. I like lifting weights (not that I’ve done it for the past month, but I’ll start up again soon). Jogging after I drop the kids off at school worked great with my schedule, so I’ll be starting that up in about a month. But I’m not going to feel bad about not exercising any more. Because I read on the internet that exercising might not be helping me lost weight, so it must be true.
And now for a recipe: Greek Pasta
Tonight for dinner I made Greek Pasta. I love this. It involves a minimum of prep. I can go do other things while it’s cooking. And it’s really healthy. I’m going to tell you how to make two servings, adjust as you need to.
Boil some penne pasta. 2 ounces per person is a reasonable portion.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add two sliced shallots and let them cook until they start to get soft, about five minutes. Add a couple of diced plum tomatoes and some red pepper flakes to taste (be careful, you won’t know how hot it is until it cooks a little). Cook for about five minutes more.
Add a five ounce package of pre-washed baby spinach and cook until the spinach is completely wilted. Add two ounces of diced Feta cheese.
Once the penne has cooked, drain it and add it to the skillet. Toss everything together and serve. The entire recipe has about 800 calories, so my half was 400. It was incredibly delicious, and very satisfying.
BTW, the Twitter experiment was a dud
A couple weeks ago I decided to try a Twitter experiment: posting about what I wanted to eat and letting the Twitterverse influence me. It was a complete dud. I discovered rather quickly that while the occasional Tweet about food was fun and spontaneous, having to Tweet every time I wanted to eat was just stupid. And Twitter agreed: there was very very little response whenever I Tweeted that I was tempted by something or couldn’t decide.
The other problem was that it didn’t work when I wasn’t glued to my computer. I Tweet all the time when I’m out, by texting the Tweets in on my phone. But for this experiment, I had to actually read, right then, what people were saying back, which is not easy on my phone.
So, while I think Twitter could be a source of general support, and my Tweeps have come through when I’ve needed them on occasion, Tweeting about what I eat all day would probably lose me a bunch of followers, and I would bore even myself to tears. Live and learn. And enjoy the pasta!
Jul 15, 2009 Recipes
Living the good life, fat or thin
I’ve had a good life for the past 18 years, even though my weight has been up and down during that time. I met a great guy, went to college, did a great internship, traveled around South America, moved down south, got married, moved to NYC, messed around with an acting career, had two kids, started blogging. In that time my weight has varied as much as 87lbs. That’s like one entire Olsen twin.
If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that my happiness is not tied to my weight. I will admit that I seem to lose weight easier when I’m happy and organized and other parts of my life are working for me, but it doesn’t work the other way around: being thin did not make me happy. The only possible exception to that would be when I’m actually in a dressing room or packing for a trip. But that’s temporary and fades when I finally find something that fits.
I’m not sure I believe the experts who say that all weight problems are emotional problems. I don’t know why I seem to be losing weight right now when for years I didn’t. It’s not that easy to sort out. But I do know one thing for absolute sure: anything that I’m unhappy with in my life right now would not change if I magically lost 40lbs tomorrow. I would just be a thin person with problems instead of a fat person with problems. And I’d probably eat the weight back on.
So, if I’m already happy and have a great life, why do I want to lose weight? Well, like I already mentioned, it’s more fun to buy clothes and pack for trips and get dressed up for special events when I’m thin. Also, I’ve been getting my picture taken a lot lately, and some of them have just been hideous. I know from experience I’m more likely to look good in pictures from every angle when I’m thin. And I also want to get back into acting and other on-camera stuff, and Oh My God, it is just not a profession for anyone with extra weight.
So, I’ve got some vain reasons and some practical ones. But notice that not one of those reasons is “to be happy.” It doesn’t work that way. Don’t confuse the real problems in your life with a weight problem. Losing the weight will not cause you to lose your real problems. In fact, it might make them worse, when you come to the hard realization that getting thin didn’t solve them. Lose weight because you want to be healthier. Lose weight because you want to look better. Lose weight because you want to feel better about yourself. Hell, lose weight to fit into a pretty dress if that really motivates you enough. But don’t lose weight to lose your other problems.
Recipe: Zucchini Parmesan Hummus
And now, since I seem to be including a recipe with each of these posts, here you go: I made this for the first time a few days ago. It was delicious, easy, and hearty.
My friend Jenny Jennie posted this recipe for Zucchini Parmesan Hummus on her fantastic blog, and since I just happened to have all of the ingredients in my kitchen, I made it (don’t tell her I used lemon juice from one of those plastic lemons, though). Having neither a food processor nor a blender right now, I tried to do it with a hand mixer. Not only did this method not mix the ingredients together, it actually proved to be a handy way of shooting chick peas in all directions at a high rate of speed. So I went at the mixture with a potato masher, and when I could do no more, I switched back to the hand mixer. It worked pretty well. There were still some chunks of chick pea, and the zucchini’s skins did not mush up at all, but the flavors blended very nicely.
I decided to use only 1 tablespoon of olive oil instead of 3, but it was a really pungent oil and the taste came through beautifully. I’m sure it would be all that much better with three times the oil (what wouldn’t?) but it just wasn’t necessary considering I’m trying to eat fewer calories. I toasted up some whole wheat pita and had about half of the hummus recipe for lunch. The entire recipe was about 540 calories, but half of it eaten with the pita was a good meal – I was full!
Thanks very much to Jenny for coming up with a recipe that brings some of my most favorite ingredients together in one dish!
Jun 10, 2009 Recipes
I actually do cook, despite what my sisters say
I got a few comments and even more emails about the spinach pizza I made for dinner last night. Not only was it yummy, but 1/4 of the whole pizza was only 236 calories. I had one piece last night and two today. I still have one left for lunch tomorrow (if The Ass doesn’t eat it tonight). It’s actually not my favorite kind of spinach pizza – that honor goes to my Spinach Pesto Pizza – but I like to shake things up a bit every now and then.
Both pizzas use a Betty Crocker Pizza Crust pouch mix. It’s really quick and easy, you just add hot water and let it sit for five minutes, then press it out onto a pan. The whole crust has 640 calories. I also really like the Pillsbury Pizza Crust that comes in a tube, but it has 960 calories in the whole crust. Now, you get more crust, but I’d rather have a thinner crust and less calories – with all of the toppings, it’s really hard to tell the difference. If I ever find the box with my big cookie sheets, maybe I’ll switch back to the refrigerated crust. But during my last Amazon Grocery spree I bought a case of the pouch mixes, so I’ll be using those for a while. Good thing I eat a lot of pizza.
Spinach Pizza Recipe
For last night’s pizza, I started with 1 teaspoon of olive oil, and sauteed about half of a white onion (6 ounces), 3 cloves of garlic (3/4 ounce; honestly it could have used more), a couple of plum tomatoes (diced), and 10 ounces of fresh spinach (frozen will work too, just make sure you squeeze out as much moisture as you can – I use a potato ricer for this, works amazingly well!). Once it’s all cooked, turn up the heat to high, keep things moving constantly, and cook off the last bit of moisture – you don’t want a soggy pizza. I put it all onto the unbaked crust, sprinkled 1 1/2 ounces of Kraft Three Cheese Italian Blend on top, and baked it for about 12 minutes at 450.
The pizza I make much more often is even easier than that first one and tastes even better. I defrost a package of frozen chopped spinach in the microwave and squeeze out as much moisture as I can using a potato ricer. (I swear to you, this recipe does not taste better with fresh spinach. Trust me.) To the spinach I add a can (drained well) of petite diced tomatoes. Yes, it has to be petite diced. They just taste better. Get the plain ones, not the ones with olive oil added (you won’t be able to taste it so it just adds calories). (And again, fresh tomatoes will not add anything to this recipe. It all gets mixed into a mush and baked and you can’t tell.) Then mix in between two and four tablespoons of pesto, depending on just how lo cal you want to make this. I use Classico jarred pesto. Finally, mix in between two and four ounces of crumbled Feta cheese. Put it all on the unbaked crust and bake.
I could eat this every night, seriously. And it tastes fabulous cold out of the fridge. My carnivorous husband LOVES this pizza. So did my spinach-hating cousin. If I make it with the smaller amounts of pesto and Feta, the whole pizza has about 1,070 calories. With the bigger amounts of both, it comes out to 1,350, which is still not bad, considering how satisfying this pizza is.
So there you have it. Two simple recipes that are packed with vitamins and let you have a nice big slice for not a lot of calories. If I liked such things, I would probably add mushrooms to the first one, and black olives to the second one. Enjoy!