Gnocchi and Other Adventures

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My fun new canisters from my husband. Love!

If you eat gluten-free, I suggest staying far away from me this week. I have a virtual gluten aura surrounding me this week. I’ve been spending extra time in the kitchen trying some new from-scratch recipes, including tonight’s gnocchi experiment.

In case you’re new to gnocchi, it’s basically an Italian potato dumpling. I prefer to think of them as potato pasta pillows. I, of course, found the recipe via Pinterest on The Art of Doing Stuff. It sounds intimidating, but it felt a lot like playing with Play-Doh. If you ever have extra mashed potatoes, you’ve to try it! It’s  a thousand times better than the gnocchi I tried from Aldi and probably cheaper (two cups potatoes, one cup flour, 1 egg, and a pinch of salt…that’s it!).

Did you know that you can also make a beautiful loaf of bread with mashed potatoes? Here’s the recipe. No yeast required!

 

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Potato pasta pillows!

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My yogurt cheese set-up.

I’ve also made my first cheese this week…sort of. All I did was put yogurt in some cheese cloth and let it sit in a strainer in the fridge overnight. The result was similar to the texture of cream cheese or goat cheese, and was pretty tasty with crackers.

Some people who start making more food from scratch put too much pressure on themselves. If you want to eat less processed food, I suggest picking a few items to change and then meeting your food a step earlier than usual.

If you typically get a box of cookies from the store, maybe consider refrigerated cookie dough as the next step. If you want to make homemade cookies from sprouted spelt flour that you ground yourself and honey that you harvested from your backyard beehive, go for it (and bring me some!). Just like weight loss, though, it’s okay to take it a step at a time.

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I shredded some zucchini to make meatballs and to put in the freezer for future baking projects.

 

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Xylitol, where are you?

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Sweeteners seem to come in and out of style daily. When I was planning for today’s post, I went to the store to buy some xylitol. I used to have a Biggest Loser baking cookbook that had xylitol as an ingredient in several recipes, so I thought I might try it out. When I got to the store, I saw Equal (Does anyone buy this any more?), Splenda, lots of Stevia, and a bunch of sugar alternatives like agave nectar and coconut sugar. It’s really amazing how many ways you can make things sweet.

With all of those options, there was no xylitol in sight. In general, I’ve found that things like this aren’t great. I’d rather eat a smaller portion of the real thing than using a weird concoction and pretend I’m eating sugar. I’m not sure about the benefits of agave nectar and coconut sugar, but I really like both of them.

Do you have a favorite sweetener? If so, please share in the comments!

 

I for Ice Cream

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Listen, ice cream was probably responsible for at least 20 pounds of my weight gain. My ideal ice cream is chocolate, filled and topped with delicious things (fudge, caramel, butterscotch, peanut butter, cake, nuts, cheesecake, etc.), and covered with a nice layer of milk so that is gets a beautiful crystallized texture. Some of my friends think that last part is odd, but I love it. However, I’m not picky. I don’t care if it’s a crumbling freeze-dried ice cream sandwich dropped on the floor of a car, I want it (this is a real situation that happened last week). So when the letter I comes around, you know I’m writing about it.

I’ve been wanting an ice cream maker for a while, but it hasn’t happened yet. So, I spent some time looking for some recipes that don’t require one. With me being all health conscious these days, I’d prefer recipes that are lower calorie and/or higher protein. A lot of these have mystery ingredients that I’m not sure if I could afford even if I could track them down (think Greek yogurt cream cheese, ghee, or light Tru Whip). Here are a few I found that fit my criteria that I want to try (disclaimer: at least some of these are ice cream-like desserts and not the traditional ice cream):

Whipped Milk Ice Cream posted by Crunchy Sweet Cream – This has just two ingredients: evaporated milk and powdered sugar. Maybe add some homemade chocolate hard shell for a little flavor?

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Protein Ice Cream posted by The Nutritionist Reviews – This is a frozen banana-based dessert with protein powder and powdered peanut butter.

Strawberry Banana Frozen Yogurt posted by Pumpkin n’ Spice – I love the fresh, natural ingredients in this recipe. Plus, it looks super easy.

Skinny No Churn Salted Caramel Ice Cream posted by Recipe Diaries – Two words. Salted. Caramel.

Fresh Peach Sorbet posted by Making Thyme for My Health – At just 100 calories a serving, this recipe calls for an Almond Breeze almond/coconut milk blend, but I bet you could easily substitute any old almond, coconut, or cashew milk.

Skinny Cake Batter No Churn Ice Cream posted by Call Me PMC – I love anything cake batter. This one uses the classic make a cake with a can of diet pop trick.

If you have any other good recipes, please share!

 

Turkey sausage at last!

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The life cycle of a sausage is not a glamorous one, so I will spare you the gory details (believe me when I say that I mean that literally). Tonight’s dinner was three days in the making (one for grinding the meat, one for stuffing the sausage, and one for cooking the sausage…more days if you count the turkey thawing in the refrigerator). It was my first attempt at sausage, and it was a definite success. Of course, pork would have been juicier, but the turkey was free and lower in calories. I made two flavors: barbecue bacon cheddar and red chile cilantro.

I’m also keeping myself busy reading up on gardening. Other than a tomato plant or two, I’ve never had a garden in my adult life. I have no clue what I’m doing, but I’m excited for the extra physical activity and some cheap/delicious fruits and veggies (hopefully). The first step is clearing out a whole lot of debris from my not-so-well-groomed backyard. As with most things I want to do, I’ve found a good gardening podcast called A Way to Garden by Margaret Roach.

March Goals Check-In: I’ve been feeling pretty good with my new eating habits (avoiding the chocolate and coffee, mainly). Unfortunately, it hasn’t gone as well with the no scale thing. I stuck it out through my first 6 week check-in (237.2 pounds – my lowest yet) and then weighed myself every day after that for several days. I’m staying away from the scale again until May, so I’ll have to find something else to write about in April when I do the A to Z blog challenge.

 

Yogurt Cheesecake and Late-Night Cravings

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This beauty is the result of a chocolate craving I had in the middle of the night. I have quite the sweet tooth at around 4:00am. Maybe once every three or four months, I get out of bed and stumble into the kitchen to mindlessly eat dessert, usually ice cream. While I might be in control of my actions, it doesn’t feel like it. The bummer is that I’m not awake enough to really enjoy it.

The other night, I was heading straight for a Little Debbie in my zombie-like state when I woke myself up enough to make a trade. I promised myself that if I just went to bed, I would make myself cheesecake. Since Little Debbies typically taste more like plastic than food***, it was a deal.

I had seen a few yogurt based recipes and had a bunch of plain yogurt in the house, so that was my base. I also had some dark chocolate, and we all know how I feel about chocolate.

Here’s my recipe (modified from a recipe on the Half Size Me Show Facebook page):

  • Graham cracker crust
  • 2 cups plain yogurt (use Greek yogurt for a protein boost, non-fat for a calorie and fat reduction)
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar (use your choice of sweetener to cut the sugar and calories)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • A squirt of lime or lemon juice
  • 1 scoop whey protein powder (optional)
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 pinch salt
  • Caramel topping
  • Dark chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Blend the yogurt, cottage cheese, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and lime juice until smooth (I used a stick blender, but a food processor or regular blender will do). Add protein powder (if desired), cornstarch, and salt. Blend again. Pour mixture into crust. Bake for 35 minutes. Chill in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours. Top with caramel and chocolate (or other flavors, like peanut butter).

Serves 6. 364 calories, 46 grams of carbs, 14.4 grams of fat, 12.3 grams of protein, 8.7 grams of fiber.

***Note: I do still eat Little Debbies. I’m not a dessert snob. I would just rather eat cheesecake. 🙂

Something New Sunday – Homemade Chocolate Hardshell

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Okay, so I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m posting about chocolate on a weight loss blog. Well, one way I’m able to avoid going overboard with dessert is to make it a bit of a production. Putting my 1/2 cup serving of ice cream in a fancy bowl and adding some toppings is satisfying enough to keep me from eating the rest of the carton.

One of my favorite ice cream toppings is chocolate hardshell. It reminds me of my grandparents coming to visit and bringing Dilly Bars from Dairy Queen. So, when Heather over at the Half Size Me Show posted an easy homemade chocolate shell recipe on her Facebook page, I couldn’t resist.

Pay close attention here. Put 1 tablespoon of chocolate chips and 1 teaspoon of coconut oil in a bowl. Microwave them for 1 minute, and stir.

That’s It! Now, go eat some ice cream and listen to the Half Size Me Show podcast.

Something New Sunday – Baked Potato + Eggs = Magic

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Topping any food ever with an egg is all the rage in the foodie world. Add a poached or fried egg to something, and it suddenly becomes gourmet. For a while, I just thought all the cooking competition show judges were a bit gullible. “Don’t fall for the old top-it-with-an-egg trick,” I would think. However, my negative perception came crashing down when I tried Snack Girl’s egg-filled, baked avocado.

This week, we had an abundance of potatoes and eggs in the house, so I took them to work for lunch. All I did was microwave the potato for a few minutes to bake it, cut it open, crack open a couple of eggs and put them on top, and then stick them back in the microwave for a bit.

Runny yolks...yum!

While I would recommend the oven for at least the last step, the end result was amazing! The velvety yolk broke open and acted almost like a replacement for butter (but not in an “I guess I can choke it down and pretend it’s close to what I actually want to eat” sort of way). Add seasoning as desired (this one has steak seasoning on top). If you like runny yolks, you must try this!