Final Weigh-In for New Year, New You Contest!

Great news! According to the final weigh-in at the gym, I am down 16 lbs since I started the healthy lifestyle contest. Even better, my work clothes fit so much better. Instead of feeling uncomfortably tight, they are now comfortably loose. I think I have made permanent/long term change to my eating strategy. I just need to continue to eat more veggies and lean meat and lift weights more.

Here are some other things I noticed: My hair seems to be growing faster; I’m in a better mood overall; I am less sleepy than old Beth; and I’m loving to cook the new recipes. Very exciting and exhilarating tweaking a recipe, esp. when it’s for company and it’s brand new.

I’m so excited to be on a new, healthy food track!

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Progress!

Since I started my low-glycemic diet with The Energy Club 2.5 weeks ago, I can tell that I’m losing weight and inches. My work pants fit just a bit looser. Just last Friday I fit into the jeans I bought last summer but couldn’t reasonably fit into after Christmas. As of last Wednesday, I’ve even lost five lbs according to the “official” gym weigh-ins. That’s a really good feeling.

The low-glycemic diet is working better for me than I ever would have thought. I really don’t get the same types of hunger pangs or blood sugar lows that make me feel like I’m about to scream. I haven’t experienced my typical morning and afternoon low points that I had attributed to Circadian Rhythms. I’ve been waking up more refreshed and ready to accomplish something during the day.

I’ve started to figure out what kind of schedule I need to have to eat healthy, yummy food all week.

Sunday I need to do my wholesale club shopping to buy my fruits and veggies for the week. Sunday night and Monday night I make my healthy high protein, high veggie content entrée for the week. So far it’s been the Turkey Bean Chili and then another soup last week, Black Bean, Sweet Potato, & Italian Turkey Sausage. I made the “Italian Turkey Sausage” on Sunday night and the soup that used it on Monday night after the gym. Unfortunately, the soup this week wasn’t as stellar as the chili experiment, though I know how I’d tweak it if I made it again. I’d ditch the Italian sausage and replace it with either a chorizo style sausage (preferably turkey based for lower fat content) or more beans, like kidney beans. The Italian seasonings in the turkey completely conflicted with the other spices and the sweet potatoes.

I make hummus once or twice a week and that helps with the protein and veggie categories because I eat hummus with veggies. Keeping my food processor clean is essential!

Next up on my “must-have list” is nonfat plain Greek yogurt from BJs. I’m loving it with Penzeys Baking Spice, a pinch of sea salt, Splenda, a sprinkle of flax-seed meal, and fresh fruit for breakfast or a snack anytime of the day. The Greek yogurt is super-high in protein, has no fat, and minimal sugars that are naturally occurring in milk products.

Each night I roast two ounces of almonds for the next day with whatever type of seasoning I’m in the mood for. This past week I tried Vietnamese Cinnamon, Mace, Cayenne, and kosher salt because I was craving the sweet spice smell of the cinnamon. A bonus: the house smells like I just baked! I snack on the almonds mainly in the afternoon and just before I head to the gym but occasionally I add a few to my yogurt and fruit for some crunch.

And I pack most of my lunch into sandwich bags the night before ready to throw in my huge Trader Joe’s insulated grocery bag. I pack the almonds in the morning so they don’t melt the baggie—yes, I learned the hard way!

And my new love as of last week? Red and Ruby Red Grapefruit! It’s part of my new breakfast routine on days I don’t feel like making or eating an omelet. I cut it in half and eat it at my desk at work topped with a little Splenda and flaxseed meal to add texture and healthy Omega-3s and to soak up the spraying juices so I can keep my work clothes clean. This is so simple it barely warrants a recipe, but it’s so delicious and healthy that I want to share it anyway!

Grapefruit for Breakfast


Special equipment to eat at work: Butter knife, grapefruit spoon, plate or bowl, plenty of napkins/paper towels
Prep time: 2 minutes Eat time: easily 10-15 minutes

Ingredients
1 red or ruby red grapefruit
1 packet Splenda
2 Tbsp. flaxseed meal (optional)

1. Using a knife, slice the grapefruit in half on a plate, making sure you have paper towels in your lap if at work. If using the butter knife at work, the slice will be messy. Use a Chef’s knife at home if you want it to look picture perfect.

2. Sprinkle half a packet of Splenda on each side of the grapefruit. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp. flaxseed meal on each side.

3. Using the grapefruit spoon, press the flaxseed meal into the grapefruit to absorb juices to flavor the flaxseed meal and to minimize spray.

4. Eat with the grapefruit spoon and enjoy the leisurely, instant gratification breakfast!

 

Takeout Menu for Low Glycemic Index Foods

Okay, so I know I haven’t posted much in the past week… But that’s because I’ve been working to create and refine a menu of healthy, low glycemic index foods broken down by categories: veggies, fruit, beans & grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. When Michelle, the nutritionist, first presented the multiple lists of low GI foods, it was overwhelming. She issued me a challenge: find a way to understand the information so that I could apply it.

And off I went to meet the challenge head-on. I synthesized data received directly from Michelle along with handouts from two books she used as reference. I placed the data in a “take-out menu” design so that it looked fun and it would be easy to take with me to the grocery store or out to eat.

Here’s the targets that Michelle gave us: 55% complex carbs, 27% protein, 18% fat by calories. By plate portion, shoot for 1/2 veggies, 1/6 lean protein, 1/6 fruit, 1/6 grain. As far as I can tell, it’s fine to substitute more fruits & veggies for the grain section. Also, I tend to eat a fair amount of beans and lentils, which qualify as both a lean protein and a complex carb, so I get to use 1/3 of the plate for the bean dish. 🙂 Think hummus & veggies or yogurt and berries w/ flax seed meal.

So here’s the low glycemic menu for all to enjoy! I hope you find it as helpful as I have!

Low Glycemic Takeout Menu

Click here for the .pdf file:

https://zindiva.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/low-glycemic-menu-zindiva_21feb20111.pdf

 

Delicious & Nutritious Dessert: Parfaits

So on my quest to eat low-glycemic index fruit, I purchased strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries from BJs. I also picked up non-fat, plain Greek yogurt for a lean protein, intending to use the yogurt like sour cream and mix it with Penzey’s Sunny Paris seasoning to make a veggie dip. But alas, the yogurt didn’t quite make it to veggie dip because it got diverted to… Parfaits!

This parfait recipe makes a great dessert or snack with no added sugar or fat but with plenty of flavor from the fruit and spices.

Easy Berry Parfait

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Special tools: Sundae dish or old-fashioned style glass

Ingredients
1/4 cup Blackberries
1/4 cup Blueberries
1/4 cup Strawberries
2/3 cup Non-fat, plain Greek yogurt
Penzey’s Baking Spice or Cinnamon
1 Tbsp. Flaxseed meal (optional)
1 packet Splenda (optional)

1. In the dish or glass, scoop a large spoonful of yogurt into class. Top with sprinkle of Baking Spice, 1 tsp. flaxseed meal (opt.), and 1/4 packet Splenda (opt.).
2. Add a small handful of fruit. Sprinkle with baking spice.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 two times to create a three-layer parfait.
4. Serve.

New Year, New You Resolution Challenge: Turkey Bean Chili

Okay. So I signed up for the “New Year, New You” Resolution Challenge at The Energy Club in Arlington to help me lose weight and improve my fitness. Michelle, the nutritionist with the gym, has provided suggested menus both for the “detox week” and to follow. She recommends we add 4-6 oz of lean protein per meal for the detox week that otherwise has low-glycemic index fruits and vegetables, herbal tea, and warm lemon water. Of course, the first thing out of her mouth for the protein was cooking a tray of chicken breasts for the week and then she’s good to go.

I silently balked at the thought of dry, flavorless baked chicken breasts. I knew I could come up with just as healthy but more interesting “lean protein” than that. It’s definitely winter here in DC, so chili was a good candidate with beans and chicken or turkey. So I went to BJs to see what I could find. Ground turkey caught my eye. I looked at the nutrition facts–not exactly super lean at 93% lean, 7% fat, but it’s 1/3 fewer calories than the neighboring ground beef. So I grab the ground turkey.

Now ground meat can get pretty chewy in a pressure cooker if it’s just broken apart and lightly browned, so I took a different tack. I cut the tray of ground turkey into 1-inch cubes, so that I could add flavor and retain texture by browning the meat on at least 2 sides. Then the inside of the cubes would cook in the Pressure Cooker.

The other challenge: Michelle says to sauté in only 1 tsp. of olive oil rather than the, um, generous amount of olive oil I normally use. So the recipe that follows does just that. I use 1 tsp. olive oil for each browning or sautéing iteration. The onions suffered the most, I think, with this treatment, more steaming than sautéing; but they were going in the Pressure Cooker Pot not directly on a plate so I gave in for the sake of health.

I was incredibly pleased with the result: flavorful chili with tender turkey chunks and satisfying beans throughout. And I made enough for the entire week and then some. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

Bon appétit!

ZinDiva’s Turkey Bean Chili


Total Time: 3 hours; Active: 2 hours; Passive: 1 hour (2-3 hr for Variation 2)
Equipment: Large sauté pan, Pressure cooker (or 5.5 quart French oven for Variation 2)

3 lbs ground turkey, cut into 1-inch cubes
6-9 Tbsp. Penzey’s Chili Con Carne seasoning, separated
1 can low sodium chicken broth
4 onions, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz can whole tomatoes, crushed between fingers, w/ juices reserved
2 16-oz cans tomato sauce
2 cans kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
1 yellow bell pepper, seeds & membranes removed, cut into 1-inch squares
1 tsp. to 1 Tbsp. Penzey’s Red Aleppo Pepper Flakes, to taste
Kosher Salt
Pepper
Olive oil
Garnishes: Green onions, cheddar cheese, sour cream/nonfat plain Greek yogurt

1. Preheat large skillet over a medium-high heat (medium for Le Creuset enameled cast iron). When pan is hot, add 1 tsp. Olive Oil to pan, spreading oil with a paper towel to evenly coat.

2. Brown the turkey cubes in batches on at least two opposite sides, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. When turkey is browned, sprinkle 2-3 Tbsp. Penzy’s Chili Con Carne seasoning over the turkey. Toss the turkey lightly in the pan to coat the turkey. Remove turkey cubes and loose browned bits to the pressure cooker vessel (hereafter referred to as the pot).

3. Deglaze the pot with ¼ cup of chicken broth, working to remove browned bits and seasonings. Allow the chicken broth to boil down slightly to concentrate flavors. Add to the pot. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until turkey is gone. After browning and removing the last batch, add the reserved tomato juice to the pan instead of chicken broth, reducing to make a bit of a sauce. Add to the pot.

5. Repeat step 1. Then sauté the onions, sprinkling with salt to taste (about ¼ to ½ tsp), until onions are translucent. Add to pressure cooker vessel.

7. Repeat step 1. Sauté the garlic for about 1 minute until lightly fragrant but not burnt. Add to pot.

8. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, bell pepper squares, red pepper flakes, ½ tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper to the pot.

9. Stir ingredients well with large spoon.

10. Place the pot in the pressure cooker and follow the manufacturer directions. (Some Pressure Cookers require 1 Tbsp. oil floating on top so that the beans do not foam and clog the valves.) Cook on High Pressure for 20 minutes and then use natural steam release to blend the flavors. It may take 45 min to 1 hour to heat, cook, and release steam.

11. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with garnishes as desired. Makes 16 cups, about 8 main dish servings.

Variation 1: Replace 1 can of tomato sauce with 1 can broth or beer.

Variation 2: If you do not own a pressure cooker, add ingredients to 5.5 qt French oven and bring to a boil on the stove top. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 hours until turkey is cooked and tender, bell pepper is tender but not soggy, and flavors are blended. More liquid may be needed due to evaporation. Add chicken broth or beer as needed.

The Zin Diva: Sharing Passion for Food and Wine

A year ago when I started my blog, I did so primarily to share recipes that I created both for the online community and as a virtual recipe box for me. Since then, my focus has changed to sharing passion for both wine and food.

In the past year, I’ve become a Level 1 Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers and a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) through the Society of Wine Educators. I’ve had the opportunity to lead several somewhat formal wine tastings for the Norfolk Jaycees and a MeetUp group in DC and I’ve shared some of those details with you. I’ve also had many wine-themed dinner parties including The Loire Valley, A Tour of Italy, Latin Wines and Food from around the world, and moderate climate Bordeaux-style wines. I’ve been blessed to be a part of a local blind-tasting group and attend classes at Capital Wine School with a Master of Wine, Master Sommelier, and multiple Certified Wine Educators!

I’ve intentionally expanded my palate and wine expertise and had a ton of fun while doing it! Meanwhile, my friends and followers have traveled on this journey through the wine world too. In fact, one of my friends only liked sweet white wines a year ago (Riesling). I tried her on a Rosenblum Zinfandel last spring and continued to try her on new wines, red and white. Now she’s telling colleagues why she’s ordering a certain wine in a restaurant–and by the way, that wine is red! I gotta tell you that red Zinfandel is that “gateway wine” to the red wine world for the sweet white wine drinkers!

I look forward to having another year of learning and growing together at zindiva.com!

Here’s what I wrote when I started my zindiva.com blog on February 8, 2011:

I absolutely adore excellent food and wine. I love to share that food with friends and family and empower people with the skills and knowledge they need to cook better meals.

I plan to share my love of eating and cooking on this blog. I’ll be sharing recipes I’ve created or modified along with plenty of “hints” so that you can learn some of the tricks I’ve picked up.

You’ll also be following me on a journey. Right now that journey is healthy eating to help with losing weight. I can’t do the bland food thing so I needed to create some recipes. So you’ll be seeing a variety of healthy options pop up in addition to my more traditional creations.

Come join me on the journey along the path of good food and wine! Cheers!

Beth Taylor, CSW
The Zin Diva
@Zin_Diva
http://www.facebook.com/TheZinDiva