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Posted on Oct 10, 2012 in Food | 13 comments

Surprise Feast

Last night Sean and I went over to have dinner with my parents and my uncle & aunt who were in town visiting. Unbeknownst to us, my mom and Aunt Dorothy really pulled out ALL the stops for this dinner. Earlier in the day, I’d asked my mom what we were having. Her answer was simply, “Western food”. I guess that’s technically true, though I have a feeling a meal like this deserved a little more buildup.

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Well, surprise! We ended up with a feast in every sense of the word. It ws the kind of meal that made me tres, tres desole that I forgot my real camera at home. iPhone pics do NOT do it justice!

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There was a dijon glazed pork roast, spanish rice, a cranberry-apple-pear compote, roasted vegetables, and a delicious little caprese salad on the side. Whoo-ee! If I had known that it was going to be such a feast, I would have prepared myself! As it was, however, I’d had a late lunch so I wasn’t able to demolish my plate like it deserved. Sad panda.

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Of course… that didn’t mean I still didn’t have room for dessert. You can’t really see it too well in this picture (fail), but my mom made pears poached in red wine and served it alongside a dollop of vanilla bean ice cream and a li’l slice of apple pie. Random? Maybe. But delicious? Hells yes.

You know, it’s funny, I never really used to consider myself as someone with much of a sweet tooth. I would always prefer an appetizer over dessert, salty snacks over chocolate and candy. But over the past year or so, my appreciation for the sweeter side of life has REALLY increased! I find myself legitimately craving baked goods now, whereas I never used to give them a second thought. Which, of course, is probably a bad thing for my weight loss. But it’s a good thing for my general sense of happiness and wellbeing, hehe.

Do you find that your food tastes change/have changed? This could be a general thing, like my shift in starting to prefer sweets to savories, or something more specific, like my unadulterated love for brussels sprouts now even though I used to fake-gag every time I saw them.

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Posted on Sep 5, 2012 in Food | 9 comments

Eating Out, In

You guys know that one of my biggest struggles in terms of my weight loss is how much I love to eat out. I do love to cook, but I also love restaurants. Trying new ones, revisiting my favorites, being social with my friends and family… I just really like to go out to eat. Of course, as I’ve mentioned (and as we all know anyway), going out to eat with such frequency is not good for my wallet OR my waistline.

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There are just too many variables when someone else is preparing your food for you. Even nowadays, when more and more restaurants are offering nutritional information up front, you can never be 100% sure of what you’re getting. Plus, even if you KNOW what the calories are, it doesn’t mean you’re getting the most bang for your figurative buck (we KNOW you’re not getting the biggest bang for your literal buck, since eating out is expensive, hahahaha).

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So part of my Act II weight loss game plan is to cook at home as much as possible. Of course, given all the restaurant-eating that went on this past weekend, I’m kind of already failing, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

Sometimes curbing the urge to splurge (can I get that on a t-shirt) is as simple as upping the ante in your own kitchen. Last night I fixed myself a gourmet meal that I feel any fine dining establishment would have been proud of! And for half the cost AND half the calories. Win-win-win.

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I picked up the most gorgeous tomato at the farmer’s market on Saturday (probably one of my last farmer’s market tomatoes of the season! Cry!) and a GIANT thing of basil to accompany it. Then I zipped over to the regular supermarket to pick up a ball of fresh mozzarella and decided to make myself a super schmancy caprese salad.

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I mean, seriously. Do you SEE how huge these basil leaves are!?

I chiffonaded (can “chiffonade” be used as a verb? Ahaha) the basil to make it look nice. For those of you who don’t have a tried-and-true method of doing so (chiffonade = slicing herbs into long, thin strips), this is just how I get ‘r done:

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After you’ve stacked the leaves on top of one another like in the first pic, roll them up lengthwise into a little bundle. Don’t wrap it TOO tightly or you’ll bruise the herbs, but hold it tight enough so that they won’t slip out from under you.

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Then using a SHARP knife, just slice through the bundle using quick, thin slices. You don’t want to “saw” through or press down with the knife, because again, you can bruise the herbs and that’s what makes them look wilted and unappealing.

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Ta-da! Easy peasy.

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While I was doing that, I was also letting some balsamic vinegar reduce on the stove (with the flippin’ sweet guitar spatula that I got my brother Ben for Christmas).

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And heating up some corn. As always, I like to make a lot more food than just for me because I like to be able to have the leftovers for lunch. Leftovers > sandwiches! I had already broiled up some rosemary-marinated pork chops the night before, so I just reheated one of those and added it to the plate. I drizzled some balsamic reduction on top of the caprese with just a splish of extra virgin olive oil and some salt & peppah, and there you have it!

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Ooh, pretty.

And that’s how you get one beautiful plate of deliciousness. And the total nutritional damage of my dinner was (drumroll, please!) approximately 550 – 600 calories. Not bad considering how decadent it tasted! And a whole lot less than it would have been at a restaurant. Granted, fresh mozzarella is not necessarily the best weight loss food, but hey, when the craving strikes… better to nom on a few slices of delicious cheese now than an entire box of Cheez-Its later, amirite?

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Oh, and just of note: I stored the extra tomato, mozzarella, and basil together in little individual piles so they’re easy to grab and eat. Cute, non?

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Posted on May 23, 2011 in Daily Eats, Food | 12 comments

Daily Eats – 5/23/11

Breakfast

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Slice of Ezekial Raisin Bread (80 cal) w/1 tbsp Justin’s Hazelnut butter (95 cal) – x2 (350 cal)

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Banana (90 cal)

Lunch

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Caprese Pasta Bake (~350 cal)

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Popchips (100 cal)

Snack

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1/2 banana nut muffin (~150 cal?)

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Larabar (200 cal)

Dinner

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– 2/3rds of a cheese and tomato quesadilla (~250 cal)
– 2/3rds caprese salad — I’m hooked on this flavor combo, what can I say? (~150 cal?)
– Fried egg (70 cal)

Dessert

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Peanut butter gluten balls (150 cal)

Total: 1,860 calories

So, not the greatest day calorically, but not a complete carwreck either. I should probably have gone without the banana nut muffin but they were leftover at work and I couldn’t just THROW it away, could I? 😉 Anyway, tomorrow’s another day. Lovelove until then!

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Posted on May 19, 2011 in Dear Diary, Food, Recipes, Working Out | 32 comments

Baked Caprese Pasta

If any of you were following my tweets yesterday, or saw the end of last night’s Daily Eats post, you may already know that yesterday was not exactly the best of days. Someone managed to get ahold of my credit card info and charged over a thousand dollars at a Giant in Alexandria that I’ve never been to somehow (not quite sure how they managed that though, since I still have the card! Plus, who can spend that much money at the grocery store?!). In addition to that, I popped my knee out of its socket yesterday morning (and yes, subsequently back in, but it still hurts!), and on top of the regular drama that my life normally entails, lately work has been on the, er, not so great side of the spectrum, and it’s really starting to get to me.

So, what with the credit card fraud, extreme body pain, and all the rest of the hubbub going on in my life, things were a bit dim for me. So dim, in fact, that I found myself fighting tooth and nail not to fall right back into my old habits. After the last straw on this camel’s back, I was seriously contemplating hightailing it to the nearest drive-through and shoving the equivalent of, oh, I don’t know, 5 or 6 Baconators into my cakehole. I’ll be honest, today was the lowest point I’ve had in a long time.

But! Trying to draw upon the person that I’ve become, rather than who I used to be, I stuck it out. I persevered, and I resisted the urge to crawl back into (disgusting, nasty, bad for you on soooo many levels) food for comfort. I’m so proud of myself! And after all of that emotional turmoil and temptation-resisting, I still managed to make to the gym to try to bang out my last run before the Fitbloggin‘ 5K on Friday. Unfortunately… the whole aforementioned knee-popping ordeal? Yeah, it didn’t exactly make for an easy ride.

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At first I thought it felt okay, but after about the first .75 miles it started to really twinge and running on it just didn’t seem like an option anymore. However, you should all be very proud of me, because I stayed on that damn treadmill for the entire 30 minutes I had planned on, alternating between walking and some light jogging. I only ended up at just over 2 miles, which isn’t quite what I had been hoping for, but at least I did it with a smile on my face.

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We’ll just have to wait and see if my knee has healed up enough by Friday morning to actually run the 5K. I really hope it does! But I suppose that even if it doesn’t, you’ll see me out there walking up a storm. Perseverance is the lesson of the day, after all. And I think that deserves celebrating. Celebrating in the form of indulgent food that I can feel good about running back to:

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Caprese salad. In pasta form. Inspired by this recipe. This seriously may be the best pasta dish I’ve ever made. Or eaten. Or even tasted. And at less than 400 calories per serving (recipe makes 8 servings), this is the kind of comfort food that the new and improved Gretchen can fully, 100% support.

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There are really no words. So instead, here are lots of pictures of the food. Beautiful, beautiful food.

Italy.
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Baked Caprese Pasta
Print this recipe!

This hearty pasta dish combines the flavors we all know and love from the classic caprese salad: juicy tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, and the punch of fresh basil. Bon Appetit!

Makes 8 servings.

Ingredients:
– 1 box whole wheat rigatoni (or pasta of your choice)
– 1 jar marinara sauce of choice
– 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
– 1 cup fresh basil
– 8 oz. fresh mozzarella (1/2 the log pictured above)
– Small amount of almond milk (optional)
– Salt & pepper, red pepper flakes (optional)
– 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Cook your pasta according to the directions on the box. While it’s boiling, cube up your cheese, slice your tomatoes (I halved some and left some whole), and shred your basil.

2. Drain your pasta. Put it back into the pot with the whole jar of marinara. Then, you can “wash out” your jar with a little almond milk and add it into the pasta for volume and to enhance creaminess. Add the mozzarella, tomatoes, and most of the basil (leave a little for garnish.)

3. Mix well, and add any additional seasonings of your choice. I added a tiny bit of salt, some pepper, and some red pepper flakes (’cause you know I like a little spice in my life!)

4. Pour the entire mixture into a baking dish or casserole pan and top with the optional shredded mozzarella. If you wanted to be especially gourmet (or didn’t care about the higher amount of calories) you could put more fresh mozzarella, cut into slices, on top instead. Mmmm.

5. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until cheese is melty and bubbly and delicious. Garnish with leftover basil.

WARNING: You will be tempted to stick your face directly into the dish when you remove it from the oven. Yes, that is how good it smells. Please refrain from doing so. I do not want to hear about any burnt faces, even if they are in the name of pure, unadulterated deliciousness.

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Scoop out your portion (this should be enough for 8 servings) and dig in! If you want to up your protein, I bet this would be great with some grilled chicken or maybe even shrimp! I made a totally rando omelette for protein in this particular instance, and it didn’t really go flavor-wise but I was trying to use up some of my huge stockpile of farm-fresh eggs.

Mmmm. So glad I didn’t waste my taste buds or stomach-space on crappy fast food, when this was just around the corner.

Any thoughts about my knee injury issue and running the 5K on Friday? Is there anything in particular I can do to ensure I’m able to run on Friday? Or is it pretty much a lost cause right now? I’ve never been injured before while actively trying to run or do any kind of exercise, hahaha. Either way, I’m just happy to say “sayonara!” to yesterday’s bad day, and to welcome today with open arms. Actually, to welcome tonight specifically, since tonight is the official kick-off of Fitbloggin‘! See you from the road!

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Posted on May 18, 2011 in Daily Eats, Food | 14 comments

Daily Eats – 5/18/11

Breakfast

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– 2 pieces Ezekial cinnamon raisin bread (160 calories)
– 2 tbsp Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter (190 calories)
– 2 strawberries (7 calories)

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– 1 apple (70 calories)
– 3 strawberries (11 calories)

Lunch

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Taco Salad
– 2 cups spinach (14 calories)
– 1/2 cup ground turkey (97 calories)
– Red onion (~11 calories)
– Grape tomatoes (~24 calories)
– 1/4 cup cherry flavored craisins (97 calories)
– 1/4 cup mexican cheese (100 calories)
– 1/4 cup 0% milkfat plain greek yogurt – unpictured (20 calories)

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All mixed up! I basically ended up eating most of the turkey, tomatoes, and craisins out of the salad though, and didn’t finish the entire thing.

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– 18 baby carrots (63 calories)

Snack

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– 1 medjool date (70 calories)

I didn’t eat both of ’em. ::shrug::

Dinner

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Caprese Pasta bake (recipe coming tomooooorrow!)
– 1/8th box whole wheat rigatoni (184 calories)
– 1 oz. high moisture mozzarella (90 calories)
– Grape tomatoes (~20 calories)
– 1/8th jar marinara sauce (~40 calories)

Eggy.

Spinach Egg Omelette
– 1/4th of 6 egg omelette (120 calories)
– Spinach (~5 calories)
– Red onion (~5 calories)
– 1 oz mexican cheese blend (99 calories)

Total: 1,497 calories!

Hooray! It may have even come in a teeny bit below that, since I didn’t eat all of my lunch. So yay! Despite it being an actually TERRIBLE day, at least I can be proud and strong about this. Details on that to come tomorrow, of course.

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