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Battle Zucchini Bread!

7 Mar

It all began with a simple craving: Zucchini Bread.

Using all of my Google-fu, I searched the vast depths of the Internet looking for a whole wheat zucchini bread recipe. I found thousands, but the vast majority had this in common:

1 cup of sugar, raw honey, brown sugar, or other sweetener
1/2 cup of oil

Not okay. I just don’t think that a full cup of sweetener is necessary for one loaf of zucchini bread. At that point, aren’t you just masking the taste of the zucchini rather than accentuating it’s natural sweetness?

The 1/2 cup of oil seemed excessive too. Some recipes replaced part of that with applesauce, but I was out.

Still, I understood the need for a good deal of moisture, especially in a whole-grain bread. I had a small, sweet honeycrisp apple in the fridge and suddenly….it all just came together. Recipe out of nowhere.


Sweet, sweet victory. Moist, fluffy, sweet (but not cloying) and perfect with a dollop of plain yogurt on top. Even if you don’t like zucchini, try this recipe. It’s one of my favorites to date.

Whole Grain Zucchini-Apple Bread

Ingredients

1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup spelt flour
1/2 tbsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

1 apple, grated
1 zucchini, grated
1/2 cup plain non fat greek yogurt
1/4 cup honey
1 egg

Method

-Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F and grease an 8×4 or 9×5 loaf pan.

-In a large bowl whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

-In a separate bowl whisk together the grated apple, grated zucchini, egg, yogurt, and honey.

-Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold until just combined.

-Spread the batter in the prepared loaf pan and bake until golden brown, 40-45 minutes.

-Yield: 10 slices

Nutritional Information per slice:
112.7 calories
0.8 grams of fat
23 grams of carbohydrates
2.8 grams of fiber
3.7 grams of protein

Mangia!

Cheers,
Neen

Where did Neen and her notes go? (And Mystery Food Week 6!)

16 Jul

Yes, it’s true, I disappeared there for a week. But life happens, right? In short, I had a very important presentation for school, compounded by a Perl assignment I couldn’t seem to get a handle on and then wound up with the stomach flu. It was a rough week. I picked up my CSA share (a delicious basket of potatoes, squash, basil, cabbage, purslane, kohlrabi, and a few other items), but froze most of it because I wasn’t up for eating much or taking a picture. But this week’s is beautiful and is further down in this post…yum!

Fortunately, as of Saturday afternoon things started getting a lot better.

My birthday was Saturday, and it started off with a trip to the farmer’s market and then a group presentation on Elluminate. It was the first time I’d done an online presentation and it went really well. I must attribute some of the success to having a wonderful group to work with and a class that seemed genuinely interested in the topic (biographical reference sources). Want to see our presentation? Go to: http://stuckinthestacks.blogspot.com to view it in its entirety.

After that was done, it was off for a quick run, which was VERY refreshing after being sick all week. (I tried to run on Friday and barely made it down the block).

And then…the culmination of four months of waiting: Billy Joel and Elton John Face to Face!

Pre-concert:

At Nationals Park:

Yes, it was amazing (as always), but even more special that it was the first concert at Nationals Park AND on my birthday. Sometimes the stars really do align. The sustain pedal on Elton’s piano got stuck during the opening set, but it didn’t cause a major problem. Billy’s band came on and he did his set while they took Elton’s piano off for fixing. (It didn’t seem to phase him much—Elton opened his set with Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding and it brought down the house).

Billy Joel was walking on top of pianos, running around throwing microphones, and even dived under Elton’s piano during the technical problem to try and fix it. Very spry and excitable for a man that just turned 60 and is going through divorce #3.

I was really impressed that they went on for 3 and a half hours in the 90 degree heat and very sticky humidity, considering both men were wearing full, dark colored suits. Their bands sounded incredible too. Mark Rivera was dynamite on sax and Crystal Talifiero was her usual “jack-of-all-trades” self, playing everything from bongos to horns.

So, THANK YOU JOE for a wonderful birthday concert experience.

This week has been kinder so far. I finished the impossible Perl assignment and feel like I’m finally starting to get the hang of the language and its syntax. Looking at the CGI book really helped considering I’m a lot more familiar with programming for the web than I am with command-line programming. Oh, but you didn’t come here to listen to me go on about Perl, you came for Mystery Food!

That is a delicious bunch of goodies including zucchini, cucumber, tomatillos, potatoes, garlic, basil, Lodi apples, and (my favorite) peaches. The peaches are like candy. (For breakfast this morning, I had something really delicious: Dice one peach and mix it with 5 oz. of plain greek yogurt, a teaspoon of raw honey, sprinkle of cinnamon, and a 1/2 oz. of chopped mixed nuts. Happy in a bowl. It’s also perfect post-workout recovery food. Vanilla or almond extract might be a nice touch, too.)

Tonight for dinner, we’re having lots of local treats…

Last night, I seasoned, herb rubbed, and seared a bison chuck roast and sautéed onions, garlic, tomatillos, and some heirloom tomatoes. I put everything in the crock pot in the fridge overnight. This morning I added some chopped potatoes, kohlrabi, a cheese rind, and about a 1/2 cup total of broth/red wine to the pot. The crock pot is now making me dinner while I’m at work. Total time/effort? About 10 minutes of chopping and sautéing. (You could do everything the night before, but potatoes can get kind of gray and mealy on you if you cut them too far ahead of cooking.)

I hope that everyone out there is having a great week. I’m really looking forward to getting this summer semester finished so that I can focus on other things (like blogging, my brother’s wedding, Slow Food stuff…etc.) for a little while. It’ll be nice to have a month where I have no required reading. I’ll be getting very friendly with the Kindle!

Oh, and no, I did not indulge in a birthday cake this year, but there was a birthday frittata instead!

Weird, yes. Delicious, definitely.

Ciao for now—stay local, folks!
-Neen

Clean BBQ? It’s True…

28 May

When Joe and I decided to have folks over for Memorial Day this year, I decided that I wasn’t going to prepare a bunch of food that I couldn’t eat. For one thing, I knew that there would be leftovers and I wasn’t tossing away my grocery money on food that wasn’t in my plan. Furthermore, I thought my guests deserved food and not “food-like products.”

Here I am hanging out with Mr. Stripey ready to grill, so what was on the (mostly) clean menu?

Clean Eating Magazine’s Caramelized Onion, Spinach, and Artichoke Dip served with Trader Joe’s natural corn tortilla chips, chopped carrots, toasted whole grain bread, and sugar snap peas (from Westmoreland Berry Farm—so delicious!).

Dry rubbed chicken legs grilled to perfection and then glazed with a natural BBQ sauce.

Grilled portabella mushrooms, green peppers, and tomatoes tossed with olive oil, red wine vinegar, kosher salt, lemon-thyme, pepper, and garlic.

Not pictured: Dry rubbed smoked spare ribs that I had hanging out in our freezer for awhile. I was saving them for a special occasion. I warmed them over low heat in the crock pot for a few hours with a bit of cider vinegar and sucanat in the bottom. It made its own sauce and tasted absolutely fantastic!

Chocolate sour cream cupcakes, modified from Clean Eating’s recipe. I replaced the skim milk with unsweetened chocolate almond milk the second time I made these and never looked back. Best chocolate dessert ever.

I also made classic and in no way clean vanilla ice cream using the base for Cliff’s ice cream recipe from the Top Chef cookbook. It was some really great stuff. I used heavy cream and milk that was practically fresh from the dairy and the rest of the eggs that I gathered from the farm. Joe is still savoring the final container of it.

Sunday evening I realized that my berries from Westmoreland were on the verge of over ripening. Not wanting to let them go to waste and having cold/sweet stuff on the brain, I made some frozen yogurt. That vanilla ice cream might be decadent, but this stuff is sweet, tangy, cool, and 94 calories a serving.

Fresh Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

2 cups good quality low-fat plain yogurt (I buy mine from Blue Ridge Dairy Co.)

1 cup pureed fresh strawberries

1/3 cup raw, natural honey

Pinch salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender and then chill in a lidded container in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. This really improves the texture and flavor quality of the final product, so don’t skip the rest period!

Churn for approximately 25 minutes in a countertop electric ice cream maker and then transfer to a lidded container and freeze for at least 3 hours before serving. On his show Good Eats, Alton Brown often says, “Your patience will be rewarded.” Listen to these wise words.

(Makes 6 servings)

I really would have taken a picture of it’s awesome pink color, but it didn’t last long enough! I guess I’ll just have to make it again soon…

Stay local!

-Neen

Two down, six to go! (Boca loaf inside)

11 Aug

What a weekend! Saturday night, we watched as Michael Phelps claimed his first gold medal in the men’s 400 IM. It was the event he said would be his toughest. Well, he blew past his own world record by 2 seconds and made it look easy. Then, last night Jason Lezak pulled of the comeback of all comebacks to bring the men victory in the 4X100 freestyle relay. It was unbelievable. Coming out of the final turn, he was still nearly a full body-length behind the Frenchman Alain Bernard. Suddenly, it just seemed like something changed inside of Lezak. Barnard hadn’t slowed down. If anything, he was exploding during the last 50 meters. Lezak just wanted it a little more, and his determination paid off when he touched the wall first.

So, thanks to Jason Lezak, Phelps’ quest for 8 gold medals continues. Here’s the list of events with their televised times (ET)

400m IM- August 9 @ 10pm- GOLD
4X100m freestyle relay- August 10 @ 11:01pm- GOLD
200m freestyle- August 11 @ 10:13pm
200m butterfly- August 12 @ 10:18pm
4X200m freestyle relay- August 12 @ 11:16pm
4X50m IM- August 14 @ 1o:45pm
100m butterfly- August 15 @ 10:07pm
4X100 medley relay- August 16 @ 10:55pm

In comparison to the feats of athletics I saw this weekend, my accomplishments were rather small. In my own way, I had some good success. Here’s another vegan loaf recipe that’s a bit more “meaty” tasting.

Cast of Characters:

½ cup almonds (ground to a coarse meal)
2 TB olive oil One onion, diced
One large garlic clove, minced
One large carrot, peeled and grated
Two celery ribs, diced
One red or green pepper, diced
One cup baby bella mushrooms, coarsely chopped
2 cups Boca Ground “meat”
1 cup cooked whole wheat cous cous
1/4 – 1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 teaspoon mixed seasonings (whatever herbs and spices you like)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp. salt

Use the same method as the lentil-veggie loaf and add only as much vegetable broth as is needed to bring the loaf together. This loaf only takes about 40 minutes to cook, although you can leave it in the oven for 5 extra minutes if you want the top to be very crispy. Divided into 8 slices, it comes out to about 116 calories and 10 grams of protein per slice. It is low in fat and carbohydrates too, but I don’t have the numbers with me right now. I’ll post them in the comments later if anyone shows interest.

Here’s me deciding that a fork won’t be necessary…

In other news, I decided on a chocolate protein powder to experiment with. It’s by BSN and it’s called Lean Dessert (in chocolate fudge pudding flavor). It made really good ice cream—yum! I really like it, but I’m still trying out more samples because as powders go, it comes in a little bit low at 20g protein per scoop. I got a sample of Jay Robb’s whey powder at Vitamin Shoppe. That comes in at 25g protein per scoop and they only use milk from cows that have not been given hormones. To me that seems like a good thing. I have enough hormones of my own, thanks.

Also, looks like it’s back to the drawing board on the iron front. Remember that I mentioned I was due for blood work in August? Well, everything came back looking great with the exception of my ferritin (1), iron (9), iron saturation (2), and hematocrit (25%). It’s really hard not to get discouraged. Pushing more red meat into my diet doesn’t exactly thrill me because of the cholesterol factor, so fixing this issue will be about making good choices and creating new ways to sneak iron into recipes.

Safeway sells giant bags of frozen shrimp and scallops. I can toss those into my stir-fries along with vegetables like broccoli and red peppers that aid in iron absorption. I also plan to buy some bran flakes and molasses to make iron muffins. Another thought that crossed my mind was finding some young, mild calves or chicken livers, chopping them finely, and adding that to one of my protein loaves. Like I said, I’m going to have to get creative. It’ll probably mean giving up my beloved protein bars as snacks in exchange for something that is high protein AND high iron, like some tuna fish or a molasses-bran muffin. At any rate, I spent most of last evening researching high-iron recipes and I will most certainly post anything successful.

Even though I’m discouraged about my iron level, I have to remember that I’ve successfully raised my vitamin D and B vitamins, have normal liver functions, and have maintained proper levels of everything else. My goal now is to keep eating healthy and to raise my hematocrit as much as I can. I’ve said it before, but I truly believe writing down a goal is all the motivation we need sometimes, and this situation is no exception. I will fine tune my eating habits to focus on protein and high iron. Since I’m not a medical expert, I’ve also consulted a hematologist to help me monitor everything.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful start to their week and that the sun is shining wherever you are. Stay motivated and stay positive!

Ciao for now, friends.

Eat Your Veggies: Lentil-Veggie Loaf

3 Aug

Comfort food is a wonderful thing, and in my opinion, there’s nothing better than a good meatloaf. It’s tasty, high in protein, and makes enough for days of leftovers. However, some RNY post-ops have difficulty digesting meat and that can make it hard for them to meet their daily protein requirement. I’m fortunate enough not to have that problem, but here’s a recipe for my meat-intolerant friends. Bonus: It’s vegan friendly, too!

Lentil-Veggie Loaf

Cast of Characters:

½ cup almonds (ground to a coarse meal)
2 TB olive oil
One onion, diced
One large garlic clove, minced
One large carrot, peeled and grated
Two celery ribs, diced
One cup baby bella mushrooms, coarsely chopped
**2 cups cooked lentils
1 cup uncooked oat bran
1 teaspoon mixed seasonings (whatever herbs and spices you like)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp. salt

Method:

Pre-heat an oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

**To cook the lentils, place one cup of thoroughly rinsed red lentils into a pot with two cups of water. Let it come to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes.

Begin by dicing all of the vegetables. Sauté the onions and garlic for a minute, and then add the rest of the vegetables, and sauté until they are slightly softened.


In a large bowl, combine the oat bran, flaxseed meal, almonds, herbs, and seasonings.
Add the lentils and sautéed vegetables, (don’t wash the sauté pan if you want to make gravy) and then mix/mash until the mixture is moist, soft, and can keep a shape. It should not be runny, but if it is, add a little extra oat bran to thicken it.
Thoroughly grease a loaf pan and press the mixture into it.
Bake for approximately 45 minutes to an hour (in my oven it took 50 minutes). The outside will be crisp, but the inside should remain somewhat moist. Yum!
Oh, and remember that sauté pan you left out for gravy? (I didn’t have any tonight, but I promise it’s good!) You can make a tasty pan gravy while the loaf is cooling a bit. If there’s any excess oil remaining in the sauté pan, drain it off, and then return the pan to the stove. Let it get warm over medium heat, and then remove just long enough to add ¼ cup of dry white wine before returning it to the stove. Scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan using a spatula, and then add ¾ cup of vegetable stock or broth. To thicken the gravy, bring the liquid to a boil and then add a slurry (1 tbsp. of cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp. COLD water) while stirring vigorously. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and allow the gravy took cook for 5-10 minutes. Season with herbs and spices similar to those you added to the lentil-veggie loaf. Spoon the gravy over a slice and enjoy!

Enjoy the leftovers as a sandwich filling, try topping cold slices with different sauces (mustard, ketchup, salsa, marinara sauce…etc.) or even topping them with other sautéed vegetables. A combination of sweet and hot peppers sounds great to me. Be creative!

The recipe yields 8 generous slices with 153 calories, 5 grams of fat, 18 grams of carbohydrates, and 10 grams of protein each. It might be a low calorie meal, but it certainly sticks with you (I had a slice an hour ago and still feel quite full).

Tomorrow, I hope to make some new protein bars. Joe and I went out to dinner at Moe’s Southwest Grill (home of my new favorite 200 calorie taco!) last night and there happened to be a Trader Joe’s next door. Needless to say, I returned home with a bunch of new ingredients to try out.

We have some friends coming over to watch the Redskins/Colts game tomorrow night, so I’m also pondering what healthy snacks I could serve. I got some mushroom-asiago chicken sausages at TJ’s and I’m thinking they could come in handy. We shall see.

I hope everyone is having a lovely weekend. Mine has already been full of fun and pleasant surprises, including these:

Irises! My favorite flower. What can I say? I snagged a great guy.
Ciao for now, friends!

The Planning Principle (plus bonus cake!)

24 Jul

I call him the mouse that ran up the clock. He says good morning to all!

Yesterday, as I threw the last of my apple butter bars into my work bag it occurred to me that the evening ahead would call for copious amounts of baking in order to replenish my protein meal/snack supply.

After a fruitful trip to Harris Teeter, I was armed with the necessary ingredients and a few new things to experiment with. Dinner was first on the chopping block, and because I had plans for baking later I decided to keep it simple. Let me tell you, this is the best tortilla pizza yet. I’m calling it “Summer Pizza” because I honestly believe it’s at its prime when made with herbs and tomatoes picked straight from the garden.

I began by dicing up the first roma tomato from my vine and added fresh basil, fresh parsley, one diced baby bella mushroom, a teaspoon of olive oil, pinch of kosher salt, a grind of black pepper, dash of onion powder, and about a tablespoon and a half of my homemade marinara sauce. After mixing it all together, I let it sit on the counter for about 20 minutes to let all of the flavors come together. It smelled heavenly as I spooned it onto a multi-grain tortilla which I then topped with 1/4 cup of shredded part-skim mozzarella and a few small dollops of fat free ricotta. After ten minutes in a 425 degree oven, I was treated to one very delicious 200 calorie pizza. Yum!

Close-up for texture!


My plan for the evening was to make a batch of banana-nut protein muffins and a protein apple cake that I would cut into bars. While considering this, it reminded me of another important lesson that’s been drilled into me at this point: Plan Ahead.

When Joe and I had to stop in Breezewood for a bite to eat on our way to Pittsburgh (after being stuck in traffic all afternoon), we had a myriad of fast food options. While I don’t eat fast food very often, there is the occasional stop while traveling or night when I don’t feel like cooking or actively going out to dinner. I prepare myself by researching nutrition information on restaurant’s websites and making a list of the best options available. For instance, Wendy’s chili, or half of an oven roasted Twister wrap with no pepper-mayo from KFC. It’s surprising how well you can eat at most places if you simply plan ahead. If I’m invited to dinner somewhere that I can’t find something that fits my diet, I generally resolve to choose the healthiest option and eat only half of it. But I decide that in advance, because if I don’t then I continue eating because “it tastes good” and not because I’m hungry.

I apply the same planning principle to my everyday meals. I know how many calories I want to have during the workday and plan 2 meals and 2 snacks accordingly. My evening consists of another meal and snack with a total daily calorie count somewhere between 1,000-1,200 and a daily protein intake of 65-80 grams.

After doing some calculations, I knew that the banana-nut muffins would yield 8 decent sized muffins at 151 calories, 6 grams of fat, 12 grams of carbohydrates, and 8 grams of protein. They would be good for a filling snack. The apple cake would yield 6 bars at170 calories, 10 grams of fat, 15 grams of carbohydrates, and 10 grams of protein. Those would make a good breakfast or dessert treat with some protein ice cream.

The banana nut protein muffins were a delicious success (I just had one for a snack). You can find the original recipe at Shelly’s blog. The changes I made were to use a regular muffin tin, two tablespoons of SF caramel syrup and 1 tablespoon of SF vanilla syrup, replace one of the tablespoons of almond butter with a tablespoon of apple butter, and make a batch of 8 larger muffins (instead of 24 small ones). Because the muffins are larger, I also extended the cooking time to 18 minutes, or until the tops spring back when poked with a finger.

Then it was onto the apple cake. During my Harris Teeter excursion, I came across an apple type I hadn’t seen before, labeled as “Sweet Jazzy Apples.” Yes, yes it’s probably a marketing term for some apple I’ve already had, but I decided to give them a taste test anyway so I’d know if they’d make good applesauce for canning season in the fall. Anyway, you came here for apple cake, so here’s the recipe and method:

Neen’s Apple Cake Bars

1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup soy flour
1 scoop Nitro vanilla protein
pinch of salt
cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp spiced apple preserves (I use homemade—if you buy, try to find all fruit preserves)
1 tbsp SF caramel syrup
1/2 apple, sliced
2 tbsp almond butter
1 egg
2 tbsp no sugar added apple butter
1/2 graham cracker’s worth of crumbs

Set your oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk almond flour, half of the rolled oats, soy flour, half of the protein powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add the syrup and preserves and mix until combined. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat the almond butter with the egg until smooth.

Combine the two mixtures and then add the other half of the protein powder and the other half of the oats. The batter will be very sticky, so oil whatever you’ll be using to spread it in the pan. I just spray my hands with non-stick spray.

Line a loaf pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper. If using aluminum foil, be sure to spray it with non-stick cooking spray. Spread the batter evenly in the pan and then top with apple slices. Spread the apple butter over the apple slices, creating an even glaze.

Bake the cake for 20 minutes and then sprinkle the graham cracker crumbs over the top. Bake 5 more minutes and then remove from the oven.

After the cake cools, remove it from the pan (this is where the parchment/foil really comes in handy) and cut into 6 bars.

Wrapped in plastic, they’ll keep on the counter for 4-5 days. For longer storage, keep them in the fridge for up to two weeks.

In light of what I’ve shared about planning ahead, here is my food plan for the day:

Breakfast: 3/4 Luna Chocolate Pecan Pie protein bar (it was very good—a bit sweet for my taste)
Morning snack: Banana nut protein muffin
Lunch: Deli turkey, fresh tomato, and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese wrapped in a large lettuce leaf.
Afternoon snack: Apple protein cake bar
Dinner: Thin cut loin pork chops, lightly breaded and sautéed hot and fast in olive oil.
Evening snack: NSA fudgesicle or a protein bar

I also plan to buy my books for school and beginning my research for the fantasy football draft (I’ve been slacking big-time).

If you have a plan or goal for anything today, (work, food, school, exercise…etc.) share it in the comments section! It’s worth giving some thought to, because sometimes a plan is the only motivation needed to get things done. Ciao for now, friends!