If you are not redirected automatically, follow the link to Gretchen, In-Between healthy | Honey, I Shrunk the Gretchen!
Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted on Jan 28, 2014 in Food, Recipes, Reviews | 68 comments

Butternut Squash and Beer Mac & Cheese (Giveaway!)

*The winners for this giveaway have been announced! Please check this post to see if you won!*

‘Ello gov’nah! This morning I have a very, very special post for you, complete with giveaway! As some of you may already know, the illustrious, fantabulous Cassie from Back to Her Roots recently had her first (of many, I hope!) cookbook published: Cooking with Greek Yogurt.

Cooking with Greek Yogurt by Cassie Johnston

Not only is it impressive to get a cookbook published in the first place, but Cassie did almost EVERYTHING when it came to this book: the writing, the recipe creation, the photography, AND the design/layout/font selections/you name it. And as anyone who has visited her blog or has seen her design work in the past (including the cover of my own book!) knows, she has an amazing aesthetic and her personality shines through every page of this cookbook. The colors are vibrant, the photos are gorgeous, the tone of the writing is playful but easy to understand, and the recipes are pure gold. This is one damn beautiful cookbook, ladies and gents.

332A9590.jpg

I was fortunate enough to receive an advanced copy of the book, and spent days poring over each recipe, trying to figure out where the heck I was supposed to start. Ultimately, I gave a few of her smoothie recipes and sauce combos (Sriracha spiced greek yogurt?! Why didn’t I think of that!) a spin before making the following recipe and knowing THIS was the one I had to share with all of you.

332A9591.jpg

Lo and behold, Beer & Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese. Right? RIGHT?! It was tastes just as awesome as it sounds, and with the amazing addition of hidden veggies AND the protein-packed Greek yog, it’s just about the healthiest mac and cheese I’ve ever had!

332A9597.jpg

I paired it with some chicken meatballs and it was soooo good. Creamy and cheesy without being heavy, and just a little bit tangy… mmm. Even Sean loved it, and I’ve never known him to willingly eat butternut squash anything in the entire time we’ve been dating! It complements the dish that well. So, without further adieu:

beer & butternut squash mac and cheese
From Cooking with Greek Yogurt by Cassie Johnston (reprinted with permission)

The inspiration for this fun twist on mac and cheese comes from my love of local beer. The cheese sauce combines Greek yogurt with wheat beer, butternut squash, and a mixture of two cheeses to get an incredibly unique dish.

INGREDIENTS:
1 (12 ounce) package whole wheat elbow macaroni
1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound), peeled, seeded, and cubed
3/4 cup wheat beer
1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
3/4 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
1/2 cup shredded Romano cheese
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 375°. Prepare a 9 x 9-inch baking dish by spraying it liberally with cooking spray. Cook
elbow macaroni according to package directions, omitting fat and salt. Drain and set aside. In a large
saucepan, combine squash, beer, garlic, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and
simmer until squash is very tender, about 25 minutes. The mixture may begin to separate; this is fine.
Remove from heat and discard bay leaf. Using an immersion blender, or a standard blender with the
steam vent removed, blend squash mixture together until very smooth and creamy. Pour mixture into a
large mixing bowl and stir in yogurt, Gruyère, Romano, and butter until cheeses are melted. Add in elbow
macaroni and stir until well coated. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle bread crumbs
evenly over top. Bake for 30 minutes, or until top is browned and crunchy, and sauce is thickened.

Nutritional info per 1/8th serving: 245 calories, 13g fat, 17g carbs, 15g protein.

332A9594.jpg

I ended up making just a few adjustments based on what was available in my pantry (and because I have a REALLY hard time following recipes to the tee… I guess I’m just a kitchen rebel like that), but they were really small. I used two cloves of garlic instead of one (love my garlic!), didn’t have skim milk and didn’t think that vanilla almond milk would go very well haha, so I used 1/2 a cup of heavy cream + 1/2 a cup of water, and I ended up realizing after the fact that the box of pasta I used was larger than a normal 12 oz. package of macaroni elbows (’cause I got it from Costco). So there just wasn’t quite as much sauce per bite as there normally would have been, but really that worked out in the end because MOAR LEFTOVERS FOR ME BWAHAHA.

Either way, it turned out DELICIOUS, was incredibly easy, and VERY filling — the absolute definition of win-win-win! So I give major thanks to Cassie for giving me an awesome new recipe to add to my repertoire, and YOU are about to give major thanks to her too — because it’s GIVEAWAY TIIIIIME!

Yep, Cassie and her publisher are giving away two free copies of her cookbook! All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post answering this question:

What’s your favorite way to use Greek yogurt?

I’ll announce the winners later this week. Good luck!

Read More

Posted on Sep 23, 2011 in Food, Recipes | 17 comments

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

Yesterday was just one of those days. You know, the kind of day where nothing’s in particular is wrong, but nothing’s really right either. But then again, with sushi the day before, the bar was set pretty high.

I woke up thinking it was Friday, the weather was decidedly dreary, and I was generally in just a hum-drum mood. So after trying (and failing) to lift my spirits with far too much caffeine throughout the day, I came home and knew I had to take action. Time for some kitchen therapy!

Chop chop

Chopping soothes the soul.

Aromatics

As does mincing. And dicing. Gotta keep those knife skills “sharp”! (Badoom-ching!)

IMG_1346.jpg

I also roasted my first peppers! After only ever buying the pre-roasted kind that comes in a jar, it turns out it is pretty much the easiest thing ever: turn oven onto broil. Put peppers on baking sheet. Broil for 10 minutes, turning twice, until charred.

IMG_1350.jpg

Let cool (or, if you’re feeling masochistic, make the same mistake I did and don’t, haha), then peel off the skin. Typing out those words may make me feel creepy, but it’s oddly therapeutic!

IMG_1356.jpg

Slice, dice, and done! Meanwhile…

'Shrooms
IMG_1361.jpg
IMG_1363.jpg

Let’s make some magic. The result?

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta 2

A pasta dish that ended up being simultaneously hearty and light, and totally hit the spot! Funny how my idea of “kitchen therapy” has evolved from eating my way through an entire box of Thin Mints in one sitting, eh? I think I may be an even better emotional cooker than emotional eater, haha. The only thing I thought was missing was a touch of fresh basil… which I would have gladly added had my basil plant not been vanquished by my black thumb. Oops.

Black Thumb
R.I.P.

Regardless, it still turned out great! Just the thing to lift my melancholia (well, finally getting to watch the season premiere of Modern Family might also have been a factor.) Behold:

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta
Print this recipe!

This easy pasta is robust and creamy, tasting far guiltier than it is! I like a little zest, but you can make this as spicy as you like. Pair with shrimp or chicken, or enjoy on its own!

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

3 cups whole wheat fusilli (or pasta of your choice)
2 cups diced or sliced roasted red peppers, diced or sliced (or both!)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup sliced mushrooms (I used baby bella)
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 cup milk or cream of choice (I used unsweetened almond milk)
1 teaspoon dried basil
Sriracha, optional
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Set pasta water to boil. Broil peppers if necessary. Cook pasta to preference/according to instructions on the box.

2. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan to medium heat. Sauté garlic and onions with seasonings (basil, salt, pepper) until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for an additional 3 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft.

3. Add the roasted red peppers, stewed tomatoes, and sriracha (if using.) Add almond milk and bring sauce to a simmer. Reduce sauce until it is of desired thickness, about 5 – 7 minutes.

4. Combine with pasta, and enjoy!

Take a bite!
Bon appetit!

Have a fantastic weekend!

Read More

Posted on Jan 29, 2011 in Dear Diary | 43 comments

Me vs. Me

Today, I struggled.

I struggled with my former self, the old me creeping back up into my new way of living and threatening to take me back to being that person. I spent so long–most of my life, let’s be honest–with an unhealthy, toxic dependency on food:

Bored? Let’s eat.
Angry? Let’s eat!
Sad? Let’s eat…
Happy? Let’s eat!

One of the biggest turnarounds in my weight-loss journey so far has been severing that dependency and growing towards a much healthier relationship with food. I have tried very hard to change my perception on what food is for. It is for energizing and revitalizing our bodies. It is fuel, to power us through each day and allow us to do amazing things. I know this. I’ve read, I’ve researched, I’ve both heard from and talked to people about this. I know how to eat nutritiously, healthily, and how to lose weight because of it. I’ve lost 40 pounds so far utilizing that knowledge and banishing my old habits! But… sometimes, it’s a struggle. It’s still hard not to slip, because for so long that was the only way I knew how to cope.

I used to use food as a crutch for my emotional issues. In college especially, anytime I felt hurt or sad or lonely, I would hop in my car and head for the nearest drive-through. I’d toss around words and phrases like “we would like” and “for us” to make it seem to the person behind the window like the multiple peoples’ portions of food really was for multiple people. I would ask for multiple sets of plasticware or order two sodas (diet, of course), only to throw one out later. I would shove chicken nuggets in my mouth in the car on the ride home, or hide an extra burger or two in my purse so that I could hide my shame once I got home. You know, just in case any of my roommates were interested in what I had gotten. “Mmm, that looks good!” they might say, and then I’d go to my room, close the door, and it would commence.

If the guilt got bad enough, if I really ended up eating that entire pizza or that whole bag of chips I might have tried to, well, compensate one way or another. But more often than not, I wouldn’t even bother. That Triple Baconator AND Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger AND double order of chicken nuggets AND large serving of fries (dipped in ranch, of course) would sit like a ball of lead in my stomach, and I would just go about my (completely devoid of exercise) life: write a paper, watch a movie, and probably still have dessert later. I might wander down to the kitchen before primetime TV kicked in complaining “I’ve barely eaten anything today!” before making up an entire box of macaroni and cheese for myself. I had tricks, and I had denial, and for a very long time that is how I lived.

Today, I struggled again. I woke up around 11 AM and had a large, fairly healthy breakfast this morning: a small homemade healthified banana nut muffin and a Thomas’ Bagel Thin with lox and a smear of cream cheese. Then, around 3:00 I got ravenous. So I started thinking about what I wanted to eat. Nothing in the fridge seemed appetizing, so I decided I would go out and get something. I hopped in my car and made my way down to Baja Fresh, my mind set on some grilled fish tacos. Highly recommended by my Eat This! Not That! book as a lower-calorie, nutritious “faster food” option, I thought I was in good shape. And then as I was standing in line, the thoughts began. Why not get a 900 calorie Burrito Ultimo instead? I loved them. They were delicious. They filled my stomach to the point of wanting to burst with steak, rice, peppers, and came with a side of chips to boot. In fact, why not get two? I’d done it before. And it was hard to resists with those old rationalizations and justifications running through my head:

“I should just do it. It’s not like anybody will know.”
“I can just not eat anything else for the rest of the day and it will balance out.”
“I’ll just go running tomorrow to make up for it, no big deal!”

In case you were curious, I did end up ordering the fish tacos as I originally planned. I drove back home and ate them. They were very good and I was stuffed after eating them (the meal came with two.) That didn’t stop me, however, from continuing to eat the rice, beans, and complimentary chips that came with the meal too. And after all that, I helped myself to a large bowl of chocolate Cheerios as “dessert” too. Granted, the overall caloric damage wasn’t that bad, especially compared to what it could have been if I had caved to that burrito craving. But the underlying issue was still there: Why did I continue to eat even though I was full? I thought I was past all this.

I was looking over some old photos of myself on Facebook, from my senior year of college and my first year out in the “real world” (i.e. from when I was rapidly climbing to my highest weight.) There were some photos up that I remember being hilarious at the time (thus why they were not immediately de-tagged, haha), but looking at them now, they are really just sad.

In them, I am shoveling burgers into my mouth, eyeing plates of cookies hungrily and making jokes about huge balls of butter that came served with my dinner. I obviously must have thought they were funny at the time they were posted. And I supposed that objectively you might be able to see how they could be: it’s a little gross and it’s capturing a moment in a photo that most people aren’t supposed to see. If the person behaving so gluttonously didn’t normally do so, it would be especially funny. “Caught on camera,” as they say. But of course, that is also precisely the reasons why it’s so sad. Because it’s not someone else in those pictures, it’s me. And maybe I was in denial, but it’s obvious to me now that the scenes being depicted are pitiful. That’s who I used to be, and who I obviously still am to some degree, based on today. That, right there, in those pictures, that was what I was all about: food. And the loud, laughing, joking girl with that over-the-top personality behind the food? Well, she was just there to fill in between meals.

I like to think that I’ve changed. That I’m both literally and figuratively becoming a shadow of my former self. But, on days like today, it’s hard. And sometimes the support that you need doesn’t come, and sometimes that makes it worse. After all, my friends and family aren’t mind-readers, I can’t expect them to be. So, I’m here, trying to talk about it, make sense of it. Get it all out. It is, of course, difficult for me to write about all of this. It’s hard for me to put it out in the open, to make myself so vulnerable. But the truth is, I’ve been dwelling on writing a post like this for a while — today was just the tipping point.

I’m not so self-centered to think that I’m the only one who has ever struggled like this. I figure, if I went through it, someone else must be going through it now. And maybe–just maybe–one day, they’ll read this blog. And maybe–just maybe– it could help. I mean, I probably wouldn’t have the strength to click the publish button on this post if I hadn’t been reading something just as raw and exposed on Keelie’s blog earlier.

Sorry for all this dumping of emotion (though if you know me, you know that emotion is what you get, unfortunately), the overshare, the potential definite TMI (although who I am kidding? I love TMI.) I don’t blame those of you who jumped ship but I’m proud of those of you able to navigate through all 1,328 words (!!) and make it to the other side. Proud, but also a little scared. Scared of what this–really putting myself out there, that is–means. I can only hope that this will bring me on step closer to my goal, that I’ll have this day, this night, this moment to fall back on in another time of weakness. Because, let’s be honest, I’m sure there are still many more to come.

Read More

Posted on Sep 10, 2010 in Dear Diary, Working Out | 4 comments

Mental Block

Totally meant to blog it up last night, but I got a little distracted due to this amazingness:

Oh, Vampire Diaries. So beautiful. So suspenseful. So vampirey. Ian Somerholder (Boone from Lost, and the hottie on the right) is so good I just want to have his tiny vampire babies. And though I lovelovelove Nina Dobrev, the main actress (in the middle), she’s just so beautiful it makes you hate her a little, haha. The season 2 premiere was last night, and let me just tell you, it did not disappoint. <3

Anyway, I wanted to blog about my day yesterday. In an attempt to make up for the super greasy caloric fries that I had at the ballpark the day before, I tried to be extra good yesterday. But I actually think that trying to be so good brought me in waaaay below my calorie goals, which left me feeling pretty rotten by the end of the day. I don’t know if it was the fact that my body was finally processing the fries, or if it was the low-calorie foods all day, but my tummy was not a happy camper.

It still isn’t too good now, really, although that might have something to do with the black coffee I downed once I got to work. I was really struggling this morning to get up, and kind of started falling asleep at my desk. First time drinking coffee black! It is super bitter and gross, but it did the job. I didn’t intend to drink it black, but for once I actually looked at the ingredient list on the fat-free creamer stuff in the fridge that I would normally use (hazelnut, mmm…) and saw partially hydrogenated soybean oil. Sigh. So I poured it sans-creamer into my already unsettled stomach because I didn’t want to consume the trans fats that we all know comes with anything “partially hydrogenated.” (“Eat This, Not That!” taught me is that foods are allowed to say things like “No Trans Fats!” on them as long as they contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fats. THAT IS NOT NONE!!! Tricksy, tricksy food industry…)

I am also super bloaty and just generally gross feeling, and especially felt that way yesterday. Again, maybe I was just retaining water because of the salt and oil in the foods from the ballgame, but I did not feel pretty. I went to Jazzercise with my Mommy after work (my mom said that I inspired her to finally start exercising too!)

But while I’m glad I went, I just felt sluggish and heavy the whole time. And this was the Jazzercise Lite class, too! Oh well, everyone has off days, I suppose. And at least I WENT to Jazzercise, right? And I even ended up getting my sweat on:

I just have to always be able to push through and keep my spirits up, even if I’m not feeling particularly great, or into it. I think that was one of my big downfalls in all previous attempts to lose weight – giving up when the going got tough, or even just a little bit less than perfect. I mean, everybody has “thin days” vs. “fat days”, and while arguably right now all of my days are fat days, there are definitely still times when I feel better about my body than others. It’s always an internal struggle for me either way though, because when I’m having a “fat” day, I feel discouraged and want to give up because the goal seems unattainable. But when I’m having a “thin” day, I still can’t let myself be happy with how I feel about myself. Call it women’s logic (i.e. craziness) but mentally it’s like I feel like if I’m ever happy with my body, as long as I’m still fat, I won’t have the motivation to keep going. So I can’t let myself get complacent, and I can’t let myself be happy with myself overweight, but on the other hand, I’m trying to be healthy in all senses of the word. And it’s definitely not a healthy mentality if you can’t love yourself the way you are now. Dilemmas, dilemmas.

Anyway, that’s enough heavy for right now. I hope everyone is excited for the weekend! I actually have a lot going on, so there should hopefully be some exciting posts to come (as long as I can make myself actually, you know, post them!) TGIF, everyone!

Read More

Posted on Aug 26, 2010 in Food, Pup Posts, Weight Loss | 1 comment

Hot diggity dog!

Enjoyable day today! Ran super late this morning, and had a doggie health scare last night (everything is hunkydory though, don’t worry!) so didn’t think it would go too swimmingly, but it all seemed to turn out okay. My delicious and surprising discovery from the day is that the little deli/cafe in the building that I work in actually has some pretty awesome healthy snacks for sale! I bought a few bags of asian snacks – rice crackers and edamame that are super low in fat and have pretty great nutrition stats for the portion. Yay!

Food stats: Had some Kashi Go Lean with almond milk (which, PS, is AMAZING) for breakfast, and a Fiber One 90 Calorie Chewy bar as my mid-morning snack. Then had a nice bulky salad for lunch, and threw together a little stew-type dish with some lean ground beef, spinach, onion, mushrooms, peas, garlic, and potatoes for dinner. Mmm!

After dinner, Taylor and I took the pupsters for a nice, looooong walk. We were out for the better part of an hour, which left the dogs like this:

Those are some pooped puppies! I’m really trying to get into the habit of walking Daxter & Harry more regularly though – it’s good for both them and me! Plus, Harry’s getting a little chunky lately… gotta nip that in the bud. 🙂 It was great to just get out, and we walked by the new groomer that I found online earlier that turns out to be a totally walkable distance from my house! I’m really excited about this new place, it has great reviews and they even do doggie-hairstyling and hair-dyeing! So tempting… hahahaha, just kidding. Maybe.

Anyway, I feel like today was a pretty successful day. Feeling satisfied and exercised, and it’s obviously a serious step up from yesterday’s fiasco (although my dog-walking today can’t compare with the Zumba workout… as you saw. Haha!) Watching last night’s Top Chef now, and might partake in a little frozen yogurt in a bit. I still have a couple hundred calories to fill for my 1500 quota, shockingly enough!

Read More