May 16, 2011

Just to show what is possible! Befores and Afters...

Back - Before

Back - 15 Months

Side - Before

Side - 15 months

Front - Before

Front - 15 Months

May 15, 2011

Quinoa and Roasted Asparagus Salad with Walnuts

We had friends over for barbequed hamburgers last night. Nothing reminds you that you live in the Northwest as much as standing in the rain in the middle of May whilst flipping burgers, while the rest of the family and your guests sit in a nice warm house!

Although hamburgers, if you eat the bun, are a bit of an indulgence, I wanted the rest of the meal to be pretty much within my eating plan. I only ate a bit or two of the bun anyway, but for me it is best to not have the temptation of potato salad in front of me!

My menu:

Raw vegetables (carrots, snow peas, bell pepper strips) and tortilla chips with a trio of dips (the dips were guacamole (homemade), artichoke and asiago (store-bought) and ranch (made with Greek yogurt and a packet of ranch dressing mix).

Kale Chips (Surprisingly tasty!)

Tear a head of kale into chip-sized pieces, drizzle with olive oil and rub the oil into the leaves

Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet, and sprinkle with sea salt

Roast at 450 degrees until crisp and starting to brown a bit - you want them pretty crispy

These were addictive - they definitely don't replace potatoes, but are good in their own right. The roasting brings out the sweetness of the vegetable, the saltiness is also addictive. I found that these were actually a bit filling - perhaps because they have a lot of fibre.

Quinoa and Roasted Asparagus Salad with Walnuts

1 cup quinoa, rinsed well, then brought to a boil and simmered until tender
1/2 bunch of fresh asparagus, tough ends snapped off, tossed in olive oil and roasted at 450 degrees until tender
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted at 450 degrees until lightly browned

1 shallot, finely minced
1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup fig vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup walnut oil, or substitute olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
(Optional: zest of 1/2 lemon or drizzle of lemon infused olive oil)

Once the quinoa is cooked, rinse in cold water and drain thoroughly
Roast the asparagus, then let cool slightly and chop into about 1 inch pieces
Set the walnuts aside to cool

Make the dressing, whisk the shallots, vinegar and mustard together until combined, then gradually add the oil, while whisking, to make a smooth dressing. Add the lemon peel too, if you are using some.

Once the dressing is made, dump the rest of the ingredients into the bowl on top of the dressing, mix gently but thoroughly and taste - adding salt and freshly ground pepper. I topped this with a drizzled of lemon infused olive oil, but probably would have used lemon peel if I had remembered to buy lemons!

This was delicious and enjoyed by our non-WLS friends too!

Rinse the quinoa well - the seeds have a bitter coating that will come off when they are rinsed

Here is what quinoa looks like after it is cooked - see the little white "O" shaped bits - it should be a bit al dente, but not crunchy

Fig vinegar, shallots and mustard for the base of the dressing:

Add the quinoa, asparagus and walnuts...

The finished salad - delicious!

We also had a green salad, and hamburgers with sauteed onions, mushrooms, bacon and Swiss cheese on whole grain buns.

Desserts was fresh strawberries and a couple bars of broken-up dark chocolate, served on one big platter for everyone to share (easy-peasy!)

What I have been eating for breakfast

I found a handy little microwave egg poacher at the grocery store and often use it in the morning:

 Leftover Creamed spinach (about 2 Tbs) in the bottom of the dish

An organic, free-range egg cracked on top of the spinach
 One wedge of herb-flavoured Laughing Cow cheese, crumbled on top

One minute on high in the microwave and breakfast is served!

This is yummy and filling - no idea about calorie counts etc - but it seems to be working for me!

15 Month Update

This month my weight loss has picked up a surprising amount. 6 pounds down this month and I hit a major milestone: My surgeon's goal for me was reached! (165 lbs). My personal goal was 160, so I am going to keep on doing what I have been doing all along, and see where my body naturally settles. I really am thrilled though at having achieved all of my major goals - the only thing outstanding is that last 5 pounds, and I suspect they'll come off sooner or later.

To recap - here are some of the things I hoped for when planning and waiting for this surgery (this list is from a post in August, 2010, six months before my surgery:

Normal blood pressure: Check
Normal cholesterol: Check
Controlled blood sugar: Check
Reduce/eliminate joint pain (have ALREADY had a knee replacement following an injury): Check - pain is GONE
Size 14 or below: Check - now in size 10 mostly, some 8s and some 12s too
180 pounds or less: Check
Able to polish toenails without straining: No problem!
No more huffing and puffing up the hill: Check - and it still is a surprise to me every time that walking uphill is not difficult at all anymore
Can reach behind my back to fasten my bra: Yup!
Exercise is more fun than it is torture: Yes - although I still lack motivation to get started quite a lot of the time
Increased energy: Absolutely!
Can buy clothing at regular shops: Yes - although I still feel like a trespasser sometimes!
No more worrying before sitting on fragile looking furniture:  Check
No more worrying about whether the seat belt on the airline will fit: Check
More space in my airline seat!: Lots more space
Easy to fit in all of the amusement park rides - and the energy to do a day at Disneyland!: Yup, and had a great day a year ago at Disney!
Able to schedule a dude ranch vacation without worrying that I am too heavy to ride the poor horses: Haven't done this yet - but it is in my future!
Learn to kayak: Not yet
Learn to scuba dive: Not yet
High heels don’t hurt (as much, let's be realistic!): Check (but yeah, they still hurt sometimes!)
Cute undies!: Not so much - Spanx are my friend!
Able to fit my behind in the bath - and able to hoist myself out of it!: Check
Bike riding is fun and not a form of torture: Haven't tried this yet
A hike is no longer the equivalent of a forced march: Absolutely - I am even the speedy one sometimes!
Attend a reunion in July 2010 looking FINE!: Reunion was cancelled - but I am ready to rock a little black dress ANYTIME - bring it on!

I am so grateful - this surgery may have saved my life and it has certainly saved my quality of life!

May 2, 2011

Low carb Lasagna!

Now don't freak out - I did have the crepes stashed in the freezer, but I got home from work around 4:30, yanked them out to thaw, made the sauce, and had the whole thing baked and served by 5:45 pm - so it's totally doable, even on a work/school night.

The crepes are a recipe from Eating Well Living Thin, one of my favourite websites for tasty low carb food. I made a double batch a month or so ago and froze the leftovers - so they were just waiting in the freezer to be used. This recipe, in a 9 inch square baking dish, used about 9-10 7-8 inch crepes.

Once the crepes had been yanked from the freezer and were thawing on the countertop I started the sauce. This was completely delicious and tasted like it had been simmering for hours, but took less than a half hour to make. I ate quite a few bites of it before I got around to assembling the lasagna!

Italian Sausage Sauce

Olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 pound mild or hot bulk Italian sausage (or buy links and take off the casings)
3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
6 or 8 mushrooms, chopped
1 small can tomato sauce
1 regular can crushed tomatoes
1 Tbs Italian seasoning, or to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste
A shot of red wine if you have an open bottle lying around

Coat the bottom of a dutch oven or large pot with olive oil and heat over medium high
Add the chopped onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent
Add the sausage and stir, breaking up the sausage with your spoon
Add the garlic and mushrooms and stir
Cook it all, stirring occasionally until meat is no longer pink and mushrooms and onions are tender and cooked through
If you have some wine, you could toss it in now and stir up all the good bits from the bottom of the pot
Add the tomatoes and tomato sauce
Add the Italian seasoning - stir thoroughly and bring to a slow simmer - let it cook until you are ready to do something with it.
Taste and correct seasoning, adding more Italian seasoning and/or salt and pepper, whatever seems good to you

This sauce is great plain or with a bit of ricotta and mozzarella if you are in the mood for something simple
 Now for the lasagna filling:
I keep this pretty simple - just 1 1/3 cups of ricotta mixed with one egg, a handful of chopped parsley and a handful of grated Parmesan cheese

 Then I started layering the whole thing in a small baking dish, sprayed with nonstick cooking spray or lightly greased

 Layer 1: Crepes, torn to fit, 1/2 of the ricotta mix and a sprinkle of Mozzarella or mixed shredded Italian cheese. 

 I added a ladleful of the cooked sauce on top of the Mozzarella and then added a second layer of crepes

 Followed by the rest of the ricotta, more mozzarella and then the rest of the crepes - and then finished with sauce and mozzarella

Bake the whole thing at 375 until bubbly and starting to brown on top - about 1/2 hour

Buon Gusto!

(BTW - I ate about half of this small piece of lasagna and most of the salad - but I had been nibbling at sausage sauce, so wasn't very hungry! - It was delicious though and the leftovers are waiting in the freezer for some upcoming evening when I am feeling uninspired about making dinner!)

Low Carb, Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes!

So, as promised, I have been doing a bit of experimenting this weekend with some alternatives to wheat flour. I personally have no problem with gluten, nor do any of my family members, but for what it is worth the following recipe does happen to be gluten free.

I started with the recipe on the back of the Bob's Red Mill package of quinoa flour (click on photo for close-up view)

I used the recipe as written, but substituted Splenda for the sugar and added two scoops of chocolate protein powder and a tablespoon of instant coffee. The protein powder made it a little thick, so I also added 1/4 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk.

Then, I wanted some frosting and experimented with a sugar free chocolate ganache:

Heat 1/4 cup of heavy cream to boiling on stove top or in microwave
Add 3 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate and stir until chocolate is melted
Add sweetener (I used a dropper of liquid stevia and a 1/4 cup of splenda) to taste and stir until smooth

Full disclosure: My family found the frosting to be TOO bittersweet - I on the other hand have been having some Lindt 85% cacao chocolate squares as an occasional treat, and for me it's perfect. You could add some butter and/or additional sweetener to mellow out the chocolate hit if you like. They did like the cake portion a lot - but were expecting a more typically sweet frosting.

I used to compute recipe macros and here they are (Recipe made enough batter for 13 cupcakes, although 1 cupcake's worth somehow failed to make it to the pan)

Nutrition Facts
User Entered Recipe
  13 Servings

Calories 147
Fat 9.3g
Sat Fat: 5.1g
Polyunsaturated fat: .4g
Monounsaturated fat: 2.5g
Cholesterol: 51.6mg
Sodium: 306.8mg
Potassium: 119.38mg
Carbohydrate: 12g
Fiber: 1.6g
Protein: 6.9g

For me it is a little bit higher carb than my usual food items, but well within acceptable limits for a dessert - and the little bit of protein is a bonus.

Now for the good part: Photos!

These baked up nice and high - the texture is a bit more dense than white flour cupcakes, but this is partly because I added the protein powder. They aren't gut bombs though! I found them to be moist, fairly tender and digestible, while still filling and satisfying. They also didn't trigger major sugar cravings, so I am happy to recommend them if you need to scratch a dessert-craving itch.

 This is a photo of the frosting after adding the chocolate and sweetener to the scalded cream.

VOILA! Bittersweet chocolate cupcakes!