Let’s Get Real!

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As we all know, the Fourth of July is a time of food and freedom. Many magazines and blogs have the “Do’s and Don”ts” of celebrating. The lists include replacing menu items with conversations. Many Americans can do both at the same time, as our busy schedules have demanded crazy multi-tasking skills. When you exclude favorites in favor of conversation to save calories you feel deprived. The entire time you are talking you can only think of the things you “can’t” have. Everyone is at a different stage of change and since there is no way to know, general guidelines can be helpful. Recommendations for truly tasty replacements can be nice as well. Instead of eliminating something, let’s look at how to make it healthier. Holidays are meant to celebrate. You do not have to gorge yourself in order to do so. Make the bites you have worth while and lighten it up so that you feel well enough to mingle and sit pool-side. Here are a few of my suggestions.

Tasteful hamburgers. You can select a few options here. If you already enjoy lighter protein fare, stick with that. If you have not gotten there yet or simply prefer beef, here are a few options:
1. Go light on the sauce. Use half of what you normally use on the bun.
2. Use a leaner meat or combine beef with ground turkey. If you go this route be sure to use extra beefy seasonings like marjoram and black pepper.
3. Load up on the veggies to help you feel satisfied. It gives crisp crunch to your beefwich with nutrients to satisfy your body’s needs.
4. Use whole wheat buns/bread or at least a regular wheat version. The fiber content will be higher and you’ll be less likely to crash a half hour later.
5. If all you need is a taste, try going for slider options using various seasonings in your meat. Let the flavor of the patty be the star. Load up on lighter sides so your plate doesn’t look lonely and sad.

Simply amazing sides. When the quality goes up you can savor the bite and limit your portion. Your body says “I have had something amazing and I feel just right.” What sides can bring such satisfaction at a cookout? Here are some ideas:
1. Southwestern Corn (Recipe Below)
2. Garlic Mac n’ Cheese (Recipe Below)
3. Roasted Veggies go nicely with lemon garlic seasoning and can be done quickly.
4. Fresh Cucumber Tomato Salad( http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/tomato-onion-and-cucumber-salad-recipe.html )
5. Watermelon-feta skewers ( http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/aarti-sequeira/watermelon-feta-and-mint-skewers-with-sumac-recipe.html )
6. A small portion of your favorite baked fiber-ful beans.

Must-Have-Dessert. Indulge smartly. If you splurged on other parts of the meal, now might be the time to go light. Angel Food cake with berries and whipped cream tend to be a smarter option. If you were smart (bias opinion here) and saved some indulging for dessert, you may now enjoy that slice of heaven you have been eyeing. Here are a few tips to enjoying that slice:

1. Refuse to eat it until the kids are not hanging on you. You cannot enjoy the bites if you are distracted. You then will feel the need for a slice or two more. When eating enjoy it.
2. Take a bite as you listen to someone else. If you are talking with the creator of the dessert, he/she may enjoy watching you approve of his/her creation. You may even get a recipe for it.If they do all the talking, you can do all of the eating.
3. If you find a moment does not come for you to sit and savor, simply have a little bit now to be polite and take the rest home to savor in your jammies.
4. Use Low-fat Frozen yogurt instead of ice cream if you want a lighter option. Frozen yogurt has come a long way.

Other general tips?
1. Drink water in between baked beans and mac n cheese (or whatever dish you are enjoying). It will help you better gauge fullness.
2. Eat smaller portions so that you can get a taste of everything you wanted to try. You eat what you like and don’t feel like you lost out.
3. Get people talking during eating time so that you can balance bites with conversation.
4. Don’t over think it. Mostly be smart and make your choices. Armed with these tips and your common-sense you should do just fine. 🙂

Here are the recipes:

Southwestern Corn:
Ingredients:
3-4 ears of Sweet Corn -1 Red Bell Pepper (diced) -1 Green Bell Pepper (diced) – 1/2 Tsp Smoked Paprika -1/4Tsp Red Pepper Flakes -Pinch of Cayenne (or Chipotle) -1 Tsp Butter (for flavor) -1 1/2 Tbs Olive/Canola Oil -1/4 cup Yellow Onion (diced) -1/4 cup Red Onion (diced) -3 Tbs Reduced-Fat Sour Cream (optional) -1-2 Cloves Garlic (minced) -Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste.

Directions:

1. Clean and shuck the Sweet Corn if not done already for you. Place the Sweet Corn on its side and cut along the cob getting as much of the kernel as possible.
2. Heat the Oil and Butter in the pan over medium heat. Add Yellow Onions and Garlic and sauté until translucent. Add the Bell Peppers and Red Onion and cook for about 2 minutes. The time depends on how soft you want your peppers. I like mine crisp so less time is good for me. They will continue to cook after this so just under desired tenderness. Season them with Salt and Black Pepper to taste and stir occasionally.
3. Add in the Sweet Corn and toss everything until all the veggies are evenly distributed. Once even, toss in Paprika, Cayenne, and Red Pepper flakes. Stir until evenly coated.
4. TASTE a small bite. If it tastes too bland to you, add more Cayenne or Red Pepper flakes. If too hot, add Reduced-Fat Sour Cream. If you think it is perfect, but want to add Sour Cream, add a pinch more Cayenne or Red Pepper flakes, so it does not get lost in the creaminess.
5. Serve!

Options:
– Add reduced-fat shredded Monterrey-Jack Cheese.
–Grill Corn on Cob and Bell Peppers first.
–Add a squeeze of 1 Lime as Garnish.

Garlic Macaroni and Cheese:
– ½ package Sargento Shredded 4-State Cheddar Cheese plus ¼ cup for topping -3 Cloves of Garlic (minced) -splash of Reduced-Fat Milk -1 tbs Butter/substitute (cold and diced) -1 tbs Olive oil – 1 box Penne or Rigationi Pasta (Dreamfields is a nice option for Low-Carb/Diabetic option) / 1 lb. freshly made pasta -Pinch of Paprika -Salt and Pepper to taste.

Directions:

1. Preheat Oven to 375 Degrees Fahrenheit. Bring a pot of water to a boil with a pinch of salt. Cook Pasta according to directions at 3/4 of indicated cook time. Drain and set aside.
2. Heat Olive Oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add Pasta and stir in Cheese, Milk, Paprika, Salt and Pepper to taste, Stir until cheese starts to get a little melty. Then add the Garlic and stir again until everything is evenly distributed.
3. Turn off heat. Sprinkle reserved ¼ cup Cheese on top. Evenly distribute Butter over the top of the Pasta mixture and cover with foil. Bake for 30 Minutes.
4. Turn oven to broil and bake until crisp topping (about 2-4 minutes).
5. Let cool 5 minutes and serve.

Options:
-Make this Spicy with ½ Pepper Jack Cheese or Add ¼ tsp Red Pepper Flakes during Step 2.
– Use this as a means to Highlight (hide?) veggies. Great add-ins could include Broccoli, Cauliflower, Carrots, Asparagus, Squash, etc. You can steam the cleaned veggies over pasta water, while cooking pasta. Leave them a little crisp, so they don’t become soggy in the oven.

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Roasted Red Pepper Soup

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Great for a cold day or when you want to have something on the table in less than a half hour.

Ingredients:
1 jar of Roasted Red Peppers(drained)
2 cups of low-sodium Chicky Broth (Chicken Broth)
3 cups of low-fat Milk
2 cloves of Garlic (peeled)
2 tablespoons Butter/ Butter substitute
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 tablespoons whole wheat Flour
Salt and Pepper to taste
Optional: Fresh grated Parmesan

How to make it soup:
1. In a blender combine the jar or Roasted Red Peppers, Garlic, and Chicky Broth. Puree until smooth.
2. While Red Peppers puree, heat a medium sauce pan to medium heat. Add the Butter and Olive Oil.
3. Once butter and oil are melted together, add Flour and whisk quickly and cook until mixture is thickened. Slowly, one cup at a time, add Milk until it becomes thickened and then add the next cup. Continue whisking lightly with each added cup, scrapping the bottom.
4. Add the Red Pepper puree to the sauce pan. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir until warmed through.
5. Serve.

Tips:
-You may want to serve with a toasted Italian Cheese sammy on whole wheat bread.
– Fresh grated parmesan makes a wonderful garnish, as does a little fresh cracked pepper.
-This also makes a great foundation for a pasta sauce.
-You may want to use vegetable broth in place of chicky broth for a vegetarian dish.