Friday, February 20, 2015

Food Friday - Smarter Eating For A Smaller Butt!

From Kris B.

Do you ever wonder how people who write blogs come up with material for their posts?  I am about to share with you the down and dirty of how Tracey and I work together to create our Food Friday topics.

Here is the conversation we had about this week’s post:

Tracey: Got any easy ideas for this week's Food Friday? Celebrating Harry's birthday Saturday, and it's likely to get a little nutso around here this week, lol.

Me: I don’t have a particular idea in mind for next week.  Since it is Harry's birthday, is there something that he likes that we could work in? Favorite kids meal?  I might be able to remember one. LOL.

Tracey: Harry unfortunately has no favorite meals, lol....I get out of making dinner tonight.  Jeremy and Harry are out running errands and offered to bring something home. I wanted KFC.  Now I better not complain about gaining weight. lol. But I am going to for sure get the treadmill cleaned off… and get back to my happy place.

Me: LOL! We really must have been cast from the same mold.  I'm not cooking tonight either because Weber suggested pizza from Papa Murphy's.  It's a take and bake. We stopped there on the way home from the grocery store where I had just bought 10 Weight Watchers meals for my lunches and dinners this week. LOL  I too need to return to my “happy place.”  Maybe what we need for Friday is our favorite low-cal meal.  Oh wait...I'm not sure that I have one.  That coulb be my problem:-). I could think about this.  Really there probably is one.  I'll let this roll around in my worn out head.

So there you have it…how we roll here and why you are getting healthy recipes from us this week!  It is comforting to have a friend who understands how I feel right now as far as not being happy with my current weight.

I am a believer in Weight Watchers.  Twice I have successfully shed a goodly number of pounds quickly and easily following the Weight Watchers plan.  The fact that I have had to repeat the process is because I returned to bad habits knowing full well what the consequences would be.  When I am overly tired, I turn to snacking for energy.  With all that has been going on in my world over the last year, I have needed a lot of extra energy.  Late night snacks as I was burning the midnight oil trying to get work done for school or record keeping done around my dad's estate and early morning snacks to keep me awake because I had been up late the night before have taken their toll.  I managed to do pretty well with all of the emotional ups and downs around my dad's illness and death, but my weight only experienced the ups and I now I need to make a concerted effort toward the downs.

Because I am so intimate with counting Weight Watcher’s points, that thinking went into my contribution for this week’s recipe.  It is a “low point” snack.  However, if I hadn't told you that, you never would have guessed that these tortilla pizzas really are a healthy snack or lunch choice.

It’s not that I don’t like or enjoy healthy foods.  I'm not a big candy eater, but I do enjoy a good cookie or four.  I do actually love fruits and veggies and if they are readily available, I will chose them before sweets or chips.  My real problem is that I also LOVE bread.  Well, I love any kind of carbohydrate actually, though not necessarily sweets.   This is why I am such a fan of pizza…lots of veggies and, when you order thick crust, lots of bread as well.  That’s what makes pizza the perfect meal in my book. Perfect except for the calories.

Enter the Texan in me…The “bread” of choice in Texas is the tortilla.  Tortillas serve as a delivery vehicle for many things - salsa, guacamole, queso, chili, just about any kind of dip that you can think of, and pizza!  I made tortilla pizzas for my girls often when they were little, and I still to this day enjoy them as a snack.  And the good news is, for those of you who are calorie or Weight Watchers point counters, they only have 6-7 points depending on your choice of ingredients.

Truthfully, there is nothing new or original that I am sharing here except perhaps how I like to cook my tortilla pizzas…in a cast iron skillet.

Let me digress for a moment.  My kids were, and still are as adults, classic nerds.  My youngest collected dictionaries and then decided in high school that the mark of success was to have the biggest graphing calculator and know exactly how to use every single button on it.  She was a great success!  My oldest worked to have more holdings in her personal book collection than did many small rural public libraries.  She believed that your place in society was determined by how many books you owned and, because in addition to reading she loved to cook, the size of your cast iron skillet said a lot about your worthiness.  So now you see why I make tortilla pizzas in a big cast iron skillet; it is a mark of my maternal success in my daughter's eyes.  And, I needed something, anything some days, while raising these two weirdos to make me feel like a competent parent!

There really is no recipe here, just a few instructions and suggestions.  The amounts given here are those that keep the these reasonably healthy.  If that’s not a concern for you, heap the goodies on!!!


Olive oil
Pizza sauce (I use store-bought)
Shredded mozzarella cheese, or cheese of your choice
Toppings of your choice (I have used Canadian bacon, pineapple, and fresh basil here.)

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Brush your cast iron skillet with just enough olive oil to coat.

Or, spray with non-stick cooking spray though the olive oil adds a nice touch of flavor.

Place the tortillas in the coated pan.  I use either basic  flour “fajita” tortillas or whole wheat.  If you are counting calories, it is important to know that not all tortillas are created equally.  Check your labels!

Spoon the pizza sauce onto the tortilla and  spread to the edges; then add your desired toppings.  Top with cheese all the way to the edges.

Place the skillet in the oven and bake until the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned-about 10 minutes.

Here are some suggested low calorie and Weight Watchers friendly toppings:

Canadian bacon is a calorie friendly meat  so when I am feeling carnivorous it is my first choice.  It is certainly tasty on its own.  Add pineapple for a sweet and savory combo.

The classic freshly chopped basil and tomatoes is always a great choice.

I am also a fan of any kind of leafy green, particularly spinach and kale, and garlic as a topping.

Since these tortilla pizzas are meant to be a simple snack, top them with whatever ingredients you happen to have on hand.  With Weight Watchers almost all vegetables are "point free"; this includes the pizza sauce itself.  Go heavy on the vegetables and light on the cheese!  Be creative!

Here's a bonus!

I do like something sweet every now and then. Fortunately, the fewer sweets I eat, the fewer sweets I crave.  This is a good thing.  But, when I want them, I REALLY want them  The best I can do when trying to make healthier food choices is accommodate these cravings more responsibly.  To that end, here are two versions of sweet tortilla pizzas.

Cinnamon Apple:
Tortilla of choice
1-2 tsp melted butter
1 TBS brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Thinly sliced apple

Spray your skillet with non-stick spray.  Place tortilla in pan.  Brush the tortilla with butter.  Sprinkle a little of the brown sugar on the buttered tortilla.  Then layer the apple covering the entire pizza.  Sprinkle the cinnamon and remaining brown sugar on top.  Bake until bubbly and the edges of the tortilla are golden brown.

Chocolate Banana:

Tortilla of choice
I banana thinly sliced
1-2 TBS Chocolate chips (Mini chips work best.  I used regular chips for the photos because my mini chips had disappeared.)  If you take the time to place a large chip atop each slice of banana, which personally for a snack I wouldn’t do, you do end up with an attractive snack because the larger chips don't lose their shape in baking.

Prepare the skillet as for the apple cinnamon pizza.  Layer the sliced bananas covering the tortilla then sprinkle with chocolate chips and for a little more flavor, add a sprinkle of cinnamon.. Bake 10 minutes.

A little chocolate and brown sugar is not that bad.  As with most things, moderation is the key here.

From Tracey G.

I have noticed that my clothing has progressively gotten smaller. I think the fairies are coming in at night and taking in the seams without me knowing it, because it certainly can't be because I've gained weight!?! It can't be my totally lax eating habits - choosing fast and easy as a rule, because things have gotten kind of busy since the holidays and I've been moving less and less it seems? The treadmill has become a storage thing covered in boxes that were to only be stopping there "temporarily" on their way to the knee-wall storage space...and have yet to make it into the knee-wall. And the only heavy lifting I've done is with my camera. My water consumption has gone down and replaced solely with coffee it seems. I used to drink water all day long, now I find I have a cup of coffee next to me at all times (with creamer and sugar of course). 

Then there's the fact I've probably thrown my body into starvation mode with weird eating habits, so it's hanging onto all the weight that's there because, I eat like, well, um, once or twice a day max lately. Hey, that's what coffee's for! :-D And I know for a fact it certainly can't be all the potato chips I've eaten lately, once or twice as a meal in themselves, they are my true weakness. Make them barbeque flavored and I can wolf down a whole bag in no time flat. Nope, can't be any of that. Must be the fairies. Right? 

I can say that it's been a very long time since I've been this annoyed with a weight gain. It's annoying when you buy some new jeans around Christmas time and by February you can't fit into them properly?? That's depressing as well as annoying! I am person who, like Kris, loves fresh foods. I love vegetables, fruits, etc. This fast food trend I've found myself in is not like me at all. There was a time where it was something if I ate fast food once a month. I don't drink pop anymore at all (gave that up a few years ago), so that's not going to hurt giving's those potato chips I must part ways with for awhile that's going to hurt, lol. I totally get that there was a time I could eat whatever I wanted and it didn't matter, and that the older you get the slower the metabolism becomes - I think that in combination with my not being happy about not being able to comfortably wear my new jeans has been the push to do something about it again. I know I can, for some reason I don't doubt that and I never have when I've embarked on a drop-a-few-pounds quest. I know I can do it, my biggest enemy has been, well, laziness I imagine. The "I'll get to it tomorrow, I'm in a time crunch now so Burger King it is and maybe treadmill tomorrow" kind of thinking.

I'm also of the mentality of everything in moderation - there's not really any "bad" foods, it's our use of them that's "bad", lol. A little bit of ice cream is ok, sitting down to eat the whole pint (or quart, lol) is not ok. I've also always been of the mindset that it's not forever. I must change things for awhile now, and eventually I can add things back in again. That mentality makes it much easier for me to part ways with my favorite guilty pleasures without that feeling of since it's off limits now, never to be had again, it's all I want. If I view it as a temporary thing, it's much easier to do, for me anyway. ;-)

Kris mentioned she's enlisting her Weight Watchers knowledge to help her get back to her regular eating habits - I'm doing something similar. It cracked me up when we were chatting about what to do for this week's recipe, that we found we were in the same "place" per say on wanting to get back the control. I have to get back to my happy weight and then I can maintain easily. It's once it gets out of control that it stays out of control. So, I need a jump-start to get me back on track and one that I have no excuses for not using, so I decided to try Nutrisystem's 5 Day Weight Loss kit from Walmart. I bought 2 of them, for a total of 10 days. I've never ever done anything like this, I usually just do my own foods etc. I've never tried the pre-packaged pre-portioned kind of thing, although you do supplement it with fresh fruit and whatnot from what I've read. As I said, I've done my own thing usually, plus I've bought Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine and some Weight Watcher frozen meals to add in. But, for some reason I think this time it's a good idea to make the beginning of this endeavor as no-brainer as much as possible. 

So, I decided to start getting back to my tried-and-true snacking favorites that are good and good for me. Get back into those habits now, so that when the jump start kits are done, I've set myself back up to healthier eating habits. This granola recipe is one of them. I'd keep this stuff with me at all times it seemed, lol, it's always been helpful when I find myself in the "I need to drop a few pounds" situation. It's good and filling and has kept me from some poorer choices! ;-) Plus it's super easy to make - that's the best part. ;-)

The ingredients. Very simple and readily available. I usually have all the items in my pantry at all times anyway. Walnuts (or whatever nut I have the most of on hand, this time around it was walnuts), brown sugar, oatmeal, vanilla and dried fruit. I've included the dried fruit here (it's a mix of cherries, cranberries and blueberries), but I didn't add it to my final product, as I like to add it in when I want it. Not always in the mood for it in my granola, lol. ;-)

In a large bowl, combine your oatmeal and nuts.

Next combine one cup of firmly packed brown sugar and 1/2 cup water in a 4 cup microwave safe measuring cup or bowl. It will boil over, trust me on this, lol. I've learned from experience so you want to give it plenty of room to do it's thing! LOL ;-) You then put it in the microwave and cook on high for about 5 minutes, or until sugar dissolves. After you take it out of the microwave, add in your 4 tsp vanilla and 1 tsp salt. Make sure you stir it well until the salt dissolves, I've had it happen more than once that when I add the syrup to the oat mixture the salt is still on the bottom of the measuring cup... 

Once your syrup is ready, pour it over the oat and nut mixture. Stir well to make sure it's all coated evenly.

After the mixture is good an coated, spread it on your parchment-prepared cookie sheets. I like to drop mine unevenly - keeping it lumpy so I get good clumps when it's baked. Put the cookie sheets in the oven for about 45-60 min or until golden and crunchy. At this point, when it comes out of the oven, you can add in the dried fruit if you're using it. (As I said before, I add my fruit when I eat it as desired) Once it's cooled completely store in an airtight container. 

This is one of those recipes you can make your own, add a touch of cinnamon and some dried apples and have an apple and cinnamon granola etc... Lots of ways to play with your food! :-D

I found this recipe originally in Kathleen Daeleman's cookbook "Cooking Thin with Chef Kathleen", I used to watch her show and she's awesome! 

Crunchy Granola

1 c firmly packed brown sugar *
1/2 c water
4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
8 c old-fashioned rolled oats
2 c chopped pecans, walnuts or slivered almonds
Dried fruit (optional)

1) Preheat over to 275°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2) Combine brown sugar and water in at least a 4 cup microwavable glass measuring cup or bowl. Nothing smaller or it will likely boil over. Place in microwave on high for about 5 minutes and cook until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from microwave and add vanilla and salt. Stir until salt dissolves. 
3) Place oats and nuts in a large bowl and pour the brown sugar syrup over them. Stir until thoroughly mixed and coated. Spread mixture onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake 45-60 minutes or until golden and crunchy. 
4) When mixture comes out of the oven it's still pretty pliable, if you're using dried fruit, add it in at this time. When it's cooled completely, store in airtight container. 

*If you want your granola clumpier, you can use 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar. You can use your hands to clump it together as you drop it on the cookie sheet, but I usually just drop it in clumps directly. Once it's cooked it will be clumped, just handle it carefully to keep it that way. Mine usually comes out in big pieces so I just break into the size I want.  

Happy and healthy snacking, everyone!

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