Sunday, March 16, 2014

Accidental Clams & Chard

Happy Almost-Spring!!
I like to think that spring is right around the corner, and then I look at our forecast of SNOW for tomorrow.  There are worse things in the world, but I am REALLY looking forward to St. Patty's Day.  Tomorrow (or Tuesday) I get to keep up the tradition of the Irish Jig Competition, started by my fabulous predecessor, and I am so excited to experience my first one.  Even if we have snow, it will happen on Tuesday, or it will happen with our delay, but I am so sick of this snow! I JUST WANT SPRING... this is coming from the girl who complains in July that she wants Fall & snow.. I guess this is karma?

So last night, Kyle and I decided to have a romantic dinner night - which usually means we are going to eat some fatty pasta & seafood.  And guess what? We did!  I made this fabulous, fabulous pasta from The Pioneer Woman (love her).  It included sautéing searing shrimp & scallops, then cooking diced tomatoes in the same skillet.  Meanwhile only 1/2 cooking the pasta.  Then put the pasta on top of aluminum foil in a large baking dish, dump the tomato "sauce" on top, add all the seafood, fold up the aluminum foil and BAKE.  Finish off with some warm cream & basil.  It was probably the most amazing seafood pasta recipe I've made. Normally Kyle & I die for Alfredo - but this one stole my heart last night.  I highly recommend!
Here, let me pass this through the computer.
Well, just having this pasta was simply not enough.  A few weeks ago a super-friendly Wegmans employee was helping us with seafood and started to divulge into his familys rich-Italian heritage and how they all loved cooking together.  He started talking about making clams, and how tomato sauce vs. alfredo sauce enhances the seafood flavor much more.  I tried to remember everything he said, and created my Accidental Coupe Clams!  They were delicious. I can't take full credit for this recipe - because it was you, Mr. Wegmans-Employee that truly inspired this!

What you need:
1 10 oz can diced tomatoes
Clams (we used 3/4 lb - you could do 1 lb with this recipe too)
5 'smashed' cloves of garlic
1 cup white wine
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 fresh basil leaves torn apart (fresh really makes the flavor)

How to:
Thoroughly wash and drain all claims.  I like to scrub off their shells a little bit just to eliminate any extra grit.
To a large pot melt the butter & olive oil over medium heat.  Add the 'smashed garlic and simmer for about 30 seconds.  What I mean by smashed is peel the clove & then lay your knife horizontally flat across the garlic, and smash your fist down on top of the side of the knife "smashing" the clove beneath.  I guess this is also considered "crushed" garlic.  This way you are releasing the flavor, but keeping the cloves whole.

Add white wine and let it simmer for about a minute.  Add the red pepper flakes  & diced tomatoes.  Let this simmer for a few minutes until the ingredients have married (hey! I'm getting married too!!!!).

Add the clams & let it simmer until the clams have popped open.  This should only take a few minutes.  Pour everything into a serving dish.  Sprinkle with the basil.  We ate ours with some breadsticks/rolls - that way we could soak up the juice.  I would also recommend serving this on bruschette toasts!
Accidental Clams!
(I don't have the weight watchers points for this.  It shouldn't be too high - if you are worried about points, feel free to use 'light' butter instead of regular butter!  The white wine may also drive the points up.  But hey, we all need a date night!).

Okay so next - Kyle decided to branch out and try some Swiss Chard in his 'juices' this week instead of Kale.
I looked up how to store chard and it was very different than Kale.  Chard should NOT be exposed to water pre-storing (unfortunately wegmans had been spraying them off with the misty water).  So I laid all of the chard out on a towel & patted them dry with a paper towel.  I know I could have let them air-dry, I just wanted them off my counter!
This is vibrant healthy chard! You do not want yellow'd or brown chard.

Next, when they are dry, store them in a plastic bag. (I like to date my containers so I know when it was packaged).
Then squeeze ALL the air that you can out of the bag.  Mine looked kind of vacuum-sealed!  This should keep the chard fresh for approx. 5 days.
Leo was all up in that Chard's business
The website I used said another option is to blanch the chard, then freeze it.  If this method doesn't work this week, I may try to blanch and freeze next week.  Fun!

Also - on the note of fresh herbs - just wanted to say that my Parsley has stayed healthy for about 2 weeks! Some of it did start to yellow, but I was able to go through and 'clean out', and I still have a small mason jar full of beautiful healthy parsley!
Apparently Leo had to see for himself. Go ahead, cat, BURY your face... Great idea.
Enjoy! - Jack =)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Springing Ahead!

One of the best and most horrible days of the year.  It's wonderful to have it be lighter out later in the day, but MAN when you lose that hour, it really feels like you lost a huge chunk of your day.

I am going to keep this quick since my mind is moving a million miles a minute.  This past week I 'stayed the same' only fluctuated by about an ounce or two. I should be happy because we had TWO MORE snow days, and we all know what happens on snow days... we pig out and keep ourselves occupied by eating.  However I am proud that I maintained.  This week it is back to meal planning and healthy eating.

One "tip" if you will, that I really swear by is eating a healthy and full breakfast.  I teach at a primary school, so I am constantly on, all day every day, so having a great breakfast and being ready to go at every second is essential.  I was making refrigerator oatmeals that I have not given up, but this week I decided to try another "Emily Bites" recipe of her Peach, Blueberry & Pecan baked oatmeal.  It's baking right now and smells loverly, so I can't wait to try it!  It is about 6 points per serving.  I'm excited about the idea of pre-portioning them out so that I can grab and go in the am since this week is going to one crazy-blurr of a week.

Another "tip" I emphasized last week, but I'll do it again. Don't be afraid to try reduced fat or fat free.  They really are surprisingly equivalent to their not-so-healthy counterparts, and they really do make a difference in how you feel when you are eating.  I have felt "lighter" just like I did last year when I started WW and using low fat/fat free options, and it's a great feeling. I don't constantly feel "stuffed" but I feel satisfied.

If you haven't already, I highly recommend checking out Emily Bites!  She has a lot of yummy WW friendly recipes.  I am having fun trying out a few of her recipes.

Some other recipes kyle and I are taking on this week are: Chicken & Biscuits casserole (Emily Bites), White Veggie Lasagna (emily bites), some spaghetti squash with marinara and a healthy take on Taco Bowls with Ground Chicken vs. Ground Beef.  I will post about the Taco Bowls sometime next weekend!  Kind of an easy DIY healthy take on tacos. YUM!

One last tip? Be a music teacher, and teach the Irish Jig to your kids. You will get your heart pumping ALL DAY.  I was ready to collapse at the end of the day Friday! Who knew? Healthy cardio while working. Woo hoo!

Love always - Jack =)
Just love him!

Monday, March 3, 2014

A successful 1st week back!

Last Sunday I found myself feeling refreshed and in-control of Weight Watchers, myself and my life. I know that sounds a bit extreme, but it's amazing what getting back into an old healthy habit will do for you!  It probably also was nice that it felt like spring last weekend - now I'm sitting staring outside my window wearing a fleece AND a sweatshirt, thick socks and slippers with little numb fingers staring at the 5 inches of snow that are laying on my grass.  Dear tulips and spring colors - take me to the warm weather.
In the first week & a half I lost approx. 4 lbs.  Now according to the weight I first put in, it says I lost about 7 lbs, but I know the 1st time I weighed myself it was mid-morning, not 1st thing in the morning AND I don't encourage promoting unhealthy weight loss. I know even 4 lbs sounds a bit extreme, but I think it's because of my drastic change in eating. Suddenly I'm eating a ton more veggies & fruits. I'm seeking out non-fat options (which normally I'd ignore, but they're actually worth it!), and our meals were much lighter. I noticed by even Friday, I was modifying what I was eating at restaurants and not stuffing my face like usual. (that's not to say I still won't do that).  So yay for healthy starts! I know I won't be losing 4 lbs a week for the weeks to come, I'm lucky & successful to even lose 1 lb, but I am in it for the long haul, so let's do this!
Stuffed Zucchini

I figured I would share a few of my successful recipes from last week. My new favorite go-to-weight-watchers-friendly-blog is EmilyBites. She's great! She makes yummy meals, and uses simple substitutions like fat free options.  Two of my favorites last week were the Stuffed Zucchini & the Zucchini casserole. Both were extremely satisfying & really delicious.
Zucchini Casserole

I also wanted to share my new go-to sweet satisfy-er.  I know a lot of people that do weight watchers swear by that veggie loaded soup. And honestly a few summers ago when I tried weight watchers, I liked the soup. Last year when I tried it? I wasn't a fan. I'm not sure what it is, but I'm just not a big fan of the veggie soup. So instead my new filling & satisfying go to snack & lunch addition is Natural Unsweetened Applesauce.  ZERO points!  I guess you have to like applesauce, but I like to consider this my little secret to success =).  

Have a great hopefully not-snowy day!! - Jack =)