Monday, January 31, 2011

Beautiful (cauli) Flower

Last week's asparagus experiment went well, so I figured it was a good idea to try another new veggie this week. I decided on a simple and pretty little flower. Cauliflower.

I have heard about cauliflower being a good substitute for potatoes. Even though I cringe at the thought of cauliflower, it was obvious that it couldn't be but so bad....right?

Mashed potatoes. Who doesn't love mashed potatoes? No recipe research needed this time. Cauliflower puree was a no-brainer. 

I cooked up these little florets in about 1/4 cup of chicken broth and about 2 tablespoons of butter. Then  I added a bit of garlic parsley seasoning. Here comes the fun part. I put these bad boys in the blender until they were nicely pureed. Then it was back to the stove top. I added some milk to the mixture and some additional seasonings.
Here is the end result. 

Honestly speaking, I thought the puree was fantastic as I was cooking it. However, it was a completely different when I took a large fork full of the puree during dinner. When I did, it was no bueno. 
Yup, I said it. 
No good. 
The seasoning was fantastic, but it still tasted like cauliflower. It was still cauliflower. After force feeding myself several mouthful, I gave up.
As you know from the asparagus adventure, the true test lies in my husband's opinion. His statement was, "Nice try". Yeah, he's not much of a cauliflower fan either. 
To sum it up, if you like cauliflower you simply must try this recipe.
Let's finish this up on a happy note. 

Cauliflower may not please everyone's taste buds, but is oh-so good for everybody. Check this out. 
"Cauliflower contains allicin, which can improve heart health and reduce the risk of strokes, and selenium, a chemical that works well with Vitamin C to strengthen the immune system. Cauliflower can also help to maintain a healthy cholesterol level."

Thank you . I couldn't have said it better myself!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

$16. Is it a bargain or a waste? (No, this is not a sales pitch or fundraiser)

I entered the store to do some "window shopping". The author of the book "Dining with Joy" was going to be at Calvary Chapel Melbourne, and I honestly wanted to know what it meant to "dine with joy". 
"Dining with Joy" kind of (sorta) remind me of my wedding day. *insert nausea or sigh here*. 
Some remember the day as a blazing Florida day in August where the flower girls (three to be exact) walked down the aisle to the wedding march, the best man wiped off my handsome groom's dripping face, and one of my dear bridesmaids passed out. 
However, since everyone was okay, I can remember the day as I day where our hearts were full as we were humbled by the outpouring of love from our families and friends. 
However, our stomachs were not. 
If you are married, then you know what I mean. If you aren't, I say start training for the wedding day NOW. We barely ate at our wedding, so hmmmm......can that really be dining with joy?
I have completely digressed. 
The truth is that though I had every intention to window shop for this book with a somewhat mysterious title, the real reason I was there was because I had time to burn. My husband (Go honey Go!!!) was playing his sax at another church campus and they had just finished the 2nd of 3 services. 

I never found "Dining with Joy", but what I did find blew my mind. 

I skimmed through this book with no real intention of buying it, but the more I read it the more I was challenged. It felt like God was speaking to me, scolding me for being so concerned about worthless things such as image, gluttony, laziness, and mindless spending. I spent about 20 minutes just soaking up what I was reading, and this seemed like the real deal. This wasn't a fluff message like children hear on Barney (though some parts were truly hilarious, and the "voice" was extremely conversational). It was a real message. It was about how the good news of Christ affects our life, image, relationships, and priorities.

 I looked at the price. $16. Yikes! I was going to leave it there and walk away. Then came the revelation that my priorities need help. If it were a dress or a pair of shoes that had captivated me for this period of time, I would not have hesitated at all. 
That's when I realized, that I needed to get this message in the deepest crevices of my heart. If the book is what God wanted to use, then I was going to buy it. 

With all of that being said, one question remains. Was my $16 a bargain or a waste? 
Time will tell for sure, but I am excited to learn whatever God wants to teach me. 

P.S. Check out the author's blog for yourself. Margot Starbuck

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ooey Gooey Chocolatey SPINACH???

I'll cut straight to the chase. There comes a time in a women's life, month, week, or day that chocolate becomes more than a treat. It becomes a necessity. Can I get an, "Amen?"

I'm sure that I'm not the only one.

I began to think about dessert. You must understand that I LOVE TO BAKE. Baking S'more cupcakes (complete with marshmallow filling and graham cracker crust), Margarita cupcakes (completely true to the name with sugar rims and know what), and sugar free Lemon Meringue (diabetics need some love too!) have been some of my baking success stories. The problem was that I can not bake or cook without tasting. I taste everything constantly, and when I don't things go really bad really fast. About a couple months ago, I called it quits for the sake of living a healthier lifestyle.

Yet...I miss chocolate.

Believing that there must be a way to enjoy a treat while sneaking in some nutrients, iDared myself to come up with a compromise. Before I continue, a disclaimer is in order. My goal in this experiment was NOT to make a healthy dessert. My goal was simply to add nutrients to an old time favorite. Alright...let's move on.

My challenge was simple. How can I add spinach (yes SPINACH) to brownies without altering the taste that my husband and I love.

Cook 4 cups of spinach in a frying pan using about a tablespoon of water at med-high heat. Add the spinach about a cup at a time, giving time for each cup to cook down properly. 

Add 2 Tablespoons of light brown sugar to the spinach, and allow the water to reduce down a bit in the hot pan. Be careful not to burn the liquid or caramelize the spinach. You are just reducing it down to where the spinach isn't dripping with water. 

Toss in a blender, and blend until spinach is broken down to tiny particles. 

The brownie mix (Yes, I used a boxed brownie mix. Dunkin Hines Chewy Fudge Family Style Brownies to be exact) called for 1/2 a cup of oil, so I mixed in the oil with the spinach mixture. Blend the oil and spinach until evenly mixed. The texture should look similar to baby food. 

Pour your powder mix into a bowl. Here's a baking tip. Aerate the mix. I simply take a whisk and aerate it, almost like I was beating eggs. I do this every time I bake, and it always makes for a better texture. Here is another tip. You can thank me later ;) Always put your fat in last. ALWAYS. Whether it's butter or oil, mix it in last. There's a science behind it, but honestly all I ever remember is works WONDERS!! 
Trust me.

Okay, so after you put in your eggs (I used 3 eggs for the cake style brownies) and everything else your recipe calls for. It's time for the yucky looking stuff. (Make these while you are home alone or no one may eat them with you. The spinach looks gross!  lol) Pour it in and mix it in well. This is a good time to use your electric mixer if you have one available. I opted to whisk it manually, and that was okay too. 

After tasting the batter (told you I taste everything!), I determined that there was still a bit of an after taste. More than anything I wanted to create a brownie that my husband would LOVE. I knew that I had to get rid of that after taste. This was my secret weapon. Grab one square of 54% Semi Sweet Baker's Chocolate and melt in the microwave according to the package directions. (Microwave 30 seconds and then stir. Repeat until fully melted. It took me about a minute to melt completely.) Mix the chocolate into the batter. 

Bake according to package directions. My brownies actually cooked about 3 minutes sooner than what the package directed, so keep an eye on them as they bake. I believe it may have been due to the added spinach. (Also, take a look at those bumps. Using an electric mixer could have eliminated that.) Here is the last step, and it is very, Very, VERY important. 
Let them cool! 
You WILL taste a little trace of "something funny" if you don't. 

Each box has 20 servings, so I cut them in 20 pieces. Here's the best part of it. Each brownie has half a serving of spinach in it which added about 208% DV of Vitamin K, 70% DV of Vitamin A, 6.5% DV of Iron, and 5.5% DV of Calcium to a BROWNIE! I chose to serve mine with sliced banana and a teaspoon of cream cheese frosting. In case you are counting, there are 6 WW points in each brownie including the icing. Don't get me wrong. This is still a brownie with all of the chocolate and sugar that comes with it, but it felt great to enjoy a treat with some nutritional value.  

I enjoyed mine to the last bite. Oh it was so so good! My husband liked it to. Before knowing about the added veggies, he said it was a "GOOD brownie." Let's not miss that emphasis on "GOOD". lol! He was pretty shocked when I told him about the spinach. He couldn't taste any difference in the brownie.

Mission accomplished. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Afparagus Asparagus Paragus

This is in continuation of my last post: "Asparagus. What Rhymes with Asparagus?" If you haven't read it, you may want to do that now.

Okay...moving on. Armed with the new found knowledge of the health benefits involved in eating asparagus, I decided to make some tonight.

Shirley Jones Mitchell shared with me the following asparagus recipe:
"a little evoo in the pan. snap off the bottoms of the asparagus. cut into 2 inch pieces. saute' in olive oil till bright green and crisp tender. top w/zest of one lemon and fresh lemon juice, kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. (and just a tsp of butter makes the sauce especially yummy)"

I combined her recipe with Paula Deen's Grilled Asparagus with Lemon and Garlic recipe (my #2 pick from my last post) to come up with an absolutely tasty side dish. By the way, Shirley was right about the butter. I used a couple squirts of my butter spray, and it was so so good! 

Check out these pics of my asparagus in the making. 

I have to admit that the aroma coming from the asparagus, even while it was only marinating, was spectacular. 

I used my George Foreman grill to cook these puppies to perfection. 

Then I had to decide whether or not I was going to partake in the ground turkey and bow tie pasta dish that I was making for my honey. In the end, I decided to try the meat sauce on top of the asparagus. It may sound weird, but it looked pretty good and tasted even better.  See for yourself. 

Overall, I have to say that my asparagus cooking adventure was a success! I feel much more motivated to eat asparagus knowing what it's doing for me, and much more comfortable with my ability to cook this veggie after finding these recipes. (By the way, with the sprinkled fat free mozzarella cheese this dish is about 6 WW points.)

Just wait until you see the dessert that I ate after this! ;)

Asparagus. What rhymes with asparagus?

I actually googled this, just for fun. Here's what I found. Talk about a stretch! LOL! Anyhow, this post is all about asparagus.

Earlier today, I put my serious face on and did some reading up on the health benefits of asparagus. I figured that if I actually understood "what was in it for me", then maybe ...just maybe asparagus would be that much easier to enjoy. I bottled up my findings and packaged them up for you on my site. Simply click here, and go to articles. (You can come right back to the blog, by simply clicking on blog in  the menu.)

Completely sold on the benefits of asparagus, I decided to shop around for fabulous asparagus recipes.

Here are my top five picks. (I judge my picks according to how quick and easy; tasty, affordable, and healthy the recipe appears to be.)

1. So-Fancy Fish Pack (It's a 4 WW point full meal made in minutes that leaves no mess. Impressive!)
2. Grilled Asparagus with Lemon and Garlic (It's an 8 minute recipe. Can I get a Hallelujah?)
3. Asparagus Pesto (Pesto anything makes my mouth water!!)
4. Asparagus Risotto (5 WW points a serving, but you may want to leave enough points for 2 servings!)
5. Golden-Crusted Chicken-Asparagus Lasagna (Try using Fat Free Cream of Chicken or Mushroom soup instead of the heavy cream and fat free mozzarella cheese in lieu of it's heart clogging counterpart. Use minimal oil and butter too. I bet you won't miss it!)


P.S. Guess what I am cooking tonight? Pics and post of my asparagus cooking adventure are coming soon.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Playing By The Rules

Last night my husband and I had a night on the town in Orlando. We (well, I) sang along with the pianists at Pat O'briens and laughed as people attempted to sing their favorite songs on stage at Rising Star. It was fun, but that's not at all the subject of this entry. Let's fast forward to the end of the evening. Actually, it was the wee hours of this morning; about 2am to be exact.

We were hungry, and about an hour and a half away from home. Our choices were limited so we reluctantly decided on Burger King. Thankfully, Weight Watchers thinks of everything. They provide 49 additional points a week to spend on whatever you choose. (Dear WW, THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!)

Anyhow, I settled on a Whopper JR (no mayo), value size onion rings, and diet coke.
Total point value: 11 points.

Wait a minute. My healthy breakfast from my last post was only 10 points. This Burger King late night dinner was only +1 in points.

Now we are getting to the meat and potatoes of it (figuratively speaking, of course). As of this moment, I am very much inside of my points guidelines, but health is not about the rules. Yea, I said it. It's NOT about the rules. My Burger King meal was not healthy, and neither did it include a serving of fruit or veggies. (I'm so sorry fellow iDare challengers.) Healthy living is about lifestyle or like my husband once said, "It's about making the right choices consistently."

Got it? Got it. Good.

P.S. One more thought. This reminds me of having a relationship with Jesus. It's not about how "good" we are or can work to try to become. The Bible says that our righteousness (or our goodness) is actually like filthy rags at the end of the day. It's not about playing by the rules. It's about a lifestyle. It's about knowing Jesus, and receiving His goodness in our lives. Enough said. Until next time!!!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Weight Watchers versus IHOP

Well, it was about 11:40am and yes I was still in bed. Sorry but staying up until 3am can take a toll on a gal!
Anyhow, my husband says to me, "Can you be ready in 20 minutes? Charles wants to meet up at IHOP for lunch."

Up and away I went and miraculously we arrived at our destination at 12:16pm. (If you know my husband and I at all, you know just how good that was! lol)

Next was the real challenge. Hunger had begun to settle in, and we were in the land of all things breakfast. Oh and I L-O-V-E breakfast. Armed with my WW daily point value of 34, I decided that I would behave. Then the visual image of my husband (who eats everything and gains nothing) and his best friend eating tons of carb and sugar laden treats flashed through my mind. No bueno.

I decided that I wanted pancakes. Oddly enough, I rarely eat or desire to eat pancakes.

Long story short. I settled for the plate that included 2 buttermilk pancakes, scrambled eggs, and 2 slices of bacon. I added banana and whipped cream to my pancakes. Ha! How do you like me now?

It was awesome.

I should add that I had turkey bacon and egg beaters instead of their traditional counterparts. However, it was still awesome!

I was completely stuffed. The sweetest part of the deal is my meal (complete with two cups of coffee with half and half) totaled 10 points.

Yea buddy!!! have I t old you lately how much I LOVE weight watchers. Weight Watchers comes away with the win. It always works out that way! hubby and I are running late...AGAIN! Off I go.