April 28, 2009

Rachel Ray's Salmon with Warm Black Bean and Corn Salad

I am pretty sure my sister has made every recipe from Rachel Ray's cookbook, 365: No Repeats. In fact, she once was so dedicated that she wrote down each recipe's number that she had tried and enjoyed, and read them off to me over the phone. That piece of paper with random numbers jotted down is still stuck in the pages of this cookbook actually, and I'll continue to reference it whenever I try a Rachel Ray recipe. If it worked for my sis, it will work for me. She's a fabulous cook, and has managed to keep a healthy weight without obsessing over the calories, unlike me.

So, you can bet that recipe
#288, Lime-and-Honey-Glazed Salmon with Warm Black Bean and Corn Salad, is listed on that piece of paper, and I've now tried it myself and it is delicious! I looked for the recipe online, but I'm convinced it's not anywhere. These ladies at Four Foodies gave it a good review, and even took a great picture of it, which unfortunately... I did not. But alas, there's no recipe listed, so the least I could do is type it all out for you.

Rachel Ray's Lime-and-Honey Glazed Salmon with Warm Black Bean and Corn Salad

  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 4 6 oz. salmon fillets
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 20 oz. box frozen corn kernals, defrosted
  • 1/2 cup of chicken stock / broth
  • 1 15 oz. can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2-3 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 6 cups baby spinach
Whew... Let me just say that when I made this, Ben was in town and we were cooking together. Which actually turned into him doing all of the prep work (measuring, chopping, cleaning, rinsing - he is amazing) while I was finishing getting ready. So maybe I should say when he made this. Anyway... Directions:
  • Preheat a medium skillet over medium heat with 2 tbsp. of the olve oil (twice around the pan.) Add the onions, garlic, red pepper flakes, cumin, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring ocassionally, for 3 minutes.
  • While the onions are cooking, preheat a medium non-stick skillet over a medium-high heat wih the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. In a shallow dish, combine the juice of 1 lime, honey, chili powder, salt and pepper. Add the salmon fillets to the lime-honey mixture and toss to thoroughly. Add the seasoned salmon to the hot skillet and cook until just cooked through, about 3-4 minutes on each side.
  • To the cooked onions, add the bell peppers and corn kernals and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and continue to cook for another 2 minutes. Add the black beans and cook until the beans are just heated through. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the juice of the second lime, the cilantro, and spinach. Toss to wilt the spinach and then taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve the lime-and-honey-glazed salmon on top of the warm black bean and corn salad.
Ben and I agreed that on it's own, the salmon was overpowered with too much sweet from the honey, but when eaten with the veggie mix - which had a little kick to it - it was all delicious together.

I never calculated the points or calories for all this, but I say when you're eating a healthy piece of fish, and nothing but veggies on the side, why even worry about it? You're doing what you should by eating a healthy dinner, so just enjoy :)

April 23, 2009

An Ode to Sensible Snacking: Meeting your bad habits head on

OK, this is going to seem like a totally neurotic post... but I'm unveiling my weird snacking habits with the hope that this will be helpful to some people!

Avoiding cravings and finding out how to control bad habits is such a victory if you're dieting. And I think many would agree that only 25% of avoiding temptation is willpower. The rest is often just meeting cravings head on by knowing what your weaknesses are and coming prepared.

I have come to realize that I gain weight when a change in my routine occurs because I don't know how to anticipate when I'll want a snack. The same reason so many college students gain that "freshman 15" (and by so many I mean myself included) is what made me gain weight when I moved to D.C. Not only was I in a new city - with lots of great new restaurants to try - but it was the beginning of the 9 to 5 work schedule: an entirely different environment, with new stresses and tempting activities that would make me want to give in. So, after many years of adjustments and new situations that have made me put on a pound or 10, I feel like I'm getting the hang of understanding when I crave foods most, and learning what low calorie snacks actually satisfy my cravings so that I can stave off the need for bad food that's constantly calling my attention.

Here are some of my own observations about the way I eat, and what helps me avoid eating something I shouldn't. It may not work for other people, but it may help you learn more about how you eat!

  • I have a bad history with controlling my portions. This is particularly bad since I am someone who views a snack as a mental break. Maybe all I really need is to just stop what I'm doing and walk around for a minute to take a break, but unfortunately that usually involves walking to the kitchen.... So, I know now I need to be prepared with lots of little snacks throughout the day, and that I have to come up with snack ideas that are low enough in weight watchers points that I can stay within my range.
  • For instance, I know I need a snack at around 11 in the morning. I don't know why, but it always happens, and often times I'm craving something salty (perhaps as an antidote to all the sweet coffee and breakfast in the morning?) So, I've started making it a point to have snacks around that are about 2 weight watchers points for this occasion - just a little something to get me through the rest of the morning for a light lunch later.
  • I drink water all day, and I mean all day; I probably drink about 8 glasses of water throughout the work day alone, so I've learned to keep the Nalgene at my desk constantly filled.
  • I will almost always prefer something warm and savory for lunch. Otherwise, a sandwich or cold salad can feel too much like diet food. And we all know that when you're not reall feeling what you brought for lunch, you're more likely to a) spend money going to get something else, and b) break the calorie bank by eating somehting you shouldn't. Not to mention warm food just feels more like a meal and is more filling in my opinion (haven't they shown that in a study somewhere, or did I just make that up?) Anyway, I usually make lunch a 4 point meal/snack that can be something I made at home and is easily reheated.
  • After this savory lunch, I usually want a Diet Coke or a Fresca. I now keep a 12 pack of each in the cabinet of my cubicle so that I don't waste money on vending machines during the work day.
  • I always want something sweet mid-afternoon, and it's best if I can satisfy that in only a point or 2. Sometimes fruit will satisfy this, but let's be honest, a lot of times I want this to be a chocolate flavored carb.
  • And then I start getting hungry right at the end of the work day. Another 2 point snack will usually tide me over, and helps get me through a work out session or errands until I can eat a small meal later. Otherwise I head straight home for something savory for dinner and won't go do what I need to. I've found that going ahead and eating a little something before I leave work means I'm less likely to over eat when I do eat dinner later, and it helps me be productive without rushing through work at the end of the day, or blowing off exercise and errands just so I can go eat.
  • When I do get to dinner, I generally want a real meal. It's the same thing that I encounter with lunch - I can't just eat a salad and feel satisfied. So I have to think of really filling, warm and savory meal ideas that are low in fat, but tasty enough to keep me from making a big bowl of pasta instead. Most of the dishes I post on this blog will fall into this category!
So, given some of the needs I know I have throughout the day, I make food for my main meals that is full of flavor, but low enough in fat and calories that I can afford some good snacks throughout the day. A lot of the meals I post about generally fall between 4-6 points so that I have room for some 2-3 point snacks. So, here are some of my favorite snack ideas, and I'll try to write a post that rounds up my favorite meal ideas, too!

Some good salty or savory 2-3 point snacks:
  • one hard boiled egg is 2 points
  • 5 mini cubes of light Laughing Cow cheese (1 pt), spread on approximately 7 Rosemary and Olive Oil Triscuits (2 pts.)
  • 1 serving of light soup (roughly half a can, I like Progresso's line of Weight Watcher's friendly soups.) - 1 pt.
  • about 3/4 cup of this roasted edamame salad, or just a good serving of steamed edamame by itself (about 2-3 points)
  • about 1/2 cup of this lentil salad for 2 points, or double the serving for a small meal.
  • 1 chunk of cheese (usually 2-3 points if you don't go overboard)
Some good sweet 1-3 point snacks (perfect for that late afternoon craving):
  • Chocolate Vita Top (1 point and they are GOOD! 18 seconds in the microwave, and then toasted a little)
  • 1.5 cup of mixed fruit salad (blackberries, strawberries and diced pear, OR honey dew and cantaloupe mix have been my favorites lately. 1 cup of strawberries is 1 point, for instance.)
  • 1 slice of low-calorie bread, 1 Tbsp Nutella is around 3 points. Just be careful that your spoon doesn't keep going in the jar for more... you'll rack of calories fast that way. I generally can't be trusted with Nutella around.)
  • A small bunch of grapes, and 5 cubes of that light Laughing Cow cheese.
  • And finally, my favorite 3 pt. dessert: Strawberries over angel food cake (slice strawberries, add splenda, and mash it all so that it turns into a juicy sauce. pour about 1/2 cup of this mixture over 2 thin slices of angle food cake (I get pre-sliced from a grocery store bakery section so its easier for portions and so I can read the nutrition facts).
    Add a dollop of fat-free Cool Whip for a delicious strawberry shortcake taste. You should double check the nutrition facts of the cake, and recalculate on your own to make sure you're not going overboard, but I account for 2 points from the angel food cake I use, and about 1 point for the strawberries and tbsp. of Cool Whip if it's fat free. IT IS DELICIOUS, and leaves you feeling like you had a real dessert instead of just a bite. I probably should write a whole post on this one!

Does anyone have any other good snack ideas?

Italian Tomato Tart

This recipe is divine. I just got done eating a piece of this for dinner, and it was so mouth-watering to me that I had to start writing this post just to keep myself from going back for seconds... or thirds.... Clearly I'm excited about this, and if you love quiche or a good Tortilla EspaƱola, you'll love this Italian Tomato Tart from the April 2009 issue of Cooking Light

What makes this recipe both incredibly healthy - and tasty - is the crust. Unlike a normal buttery crust in a traditional quiche, the brilliant folks at Cooking Light suggest a crust using a mixture of brown rice (that's right), pesto, parmesan, and egg. The pesto in the crust adds an incredible amount of f lavor, too.

What I appreciate the most about this recipe is that a serving is ONE FOURTH of the pie plate. That is so refreshing... Afterall, if it's going to be my dinner, I'd like more than 3 bites, right? And this generous portion is 6 Weight Watchers points (279 calories / 13.9 g. fat / 1.8 g. fiber).

The issue of Cooking Light that I got this from had a lot of great quiche-like recipes, including a potato and greens torta that I'll be posting about soon. It was another favorite that I would recommend to anyone!

Italian Tomato Tart from Cooking Light


  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen long-grain brown rice (such as Birds Eye Steamfresh - I actually couldn't find frozen broaw rice that day, and just roughly measured out 10 oz. of minute rice and prepared it according to the box.)
  • 2 tablespoons commercial pesto
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Dash of ground red pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 ounce prosciutto, cut into thin strips (about 1/4 cup - you can get it siced and pre-packaged at Trader Joe's, or really any grocery store. I found it at Harris Teater by the deli counter)
  • 3 small plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil


  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. To prepare crust, cook the brown rice according to package directions. Combine cooked rice, pesto, Parmesan cheese, and 1 egg; firmly press mixture into the bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes. Remove dish from oven.
  3. Increase oven temperature to 400°.
  4. To prepare filling, combine milk and next 5 ingredients (through 1 egg) in a bowl; stir with a whisk.
  5. Sprinkle half of mozzarella and half of prosciutto into bottom of prepared crust. Top with half of tomato slices. Repeat procedure with remaining mozzarella, prosciutto, and tomatoes. Pour milk mixture over tomatoes; bake at 400° for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325° (do not remove tart from oven); bake an additional 35 minutes or until set. Cool 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with basil. Cut into wedges.
The finished product...

April 22, 2009

Time to catch up on all of my cooking...

Ok, so I have a lot to post, and I've done a terrible job of updating. BUT... here is my defense:

Boyfriend was in town for a week, my aunt passed away, business trip, and lastly, the boyfriend came back into town for my birthday: an event that was the culmination of a series of bad eating habits that left me uninspired for "healthie" posts. Including a friend's birthday, which FORCED me to be a not-so-healthie-foodie by making three different kinds of cupcakes with 5 different kinds of buttercream frosting. Alright, well no one really twisted my arm, but they were delicious. Let's all take a moment to reflect on those:

Yellow cake with chocolate frosting, chocolate cake with coconut cream, yellow cake with mint chocolate frosting.... yum. And not Weight Watchers friendly in the least! (I got these buttercream recipes out of the March 2009 Southern Living: start with the vanilla buttercream and add variations from there!)

Anyway, I can honestly say I've done a lot of cooking lately and I can't wait to ell everyone about some great recipes. I think I've actually been doing so much cooking in fact, that I hadn' been taking the time to actually crank out the posts.. So, bare with me while I catch up and post about these individually, but here are a few posts you can look forward too:
  1. Rachel Ray's Honey Lime Salmon with Warm Corn and Black Bean Salad
  2. How I used the left over corn and black bean mixture as a filler for some yummy veggie quesadillas with corn tortillas and goat cheese (4 or 5 weight watchers points, but sooo delish)
  3. Butterschotch bars out of Cooking Light - 140 calories a piece, but I'll tell you why they're not worth it to me.
  4. A potato and greens torta that was delicious. If you love quiche, you'll want this all the time. (from Cooking Light, naturally.)
  5. Variations on a tangy strawberry salad with farmer's cheese from Southern Living.
  6. Prosciutto and melon salad with canteloupe vinaigrette (I actually busted out the food processor at 10:30 one night to make this. I don't know.)
  7. Some not particularly healthy pasta courtesy of Giada de Laurentis that I made for the boyfriend. It did have spinach in it though, so maybe I get some points for nutrients?
  8. My new favorite fruit salad and snack: pears, strawberries and blackberries - and it's so pretty too!
  9. Totally satisfying strawberry shortcake that's only 3 Weight Watchers points per serving. Screw the butterschotch bars...
  10. Italian Tomato Tart from Cooking Light (I read a lot of Southern Living and Cooking Light while on the road last month...) but again - this rocks if you love quiche or a good tortilla espanola.
  11. How I recreated a delicious Hoppin John that I had at Restaurant 3 last weekend in Clarendon.
  12. Some general thoughts and tips on snacking; a few pitfalls I'm learning to avoid.
  13. Oh and speaking of pitfalls, some thoughts on the day to end all diets: a terrifying confrontation with so many birthday treats in a short period of time, that I was positive I would go into a diabetic coma. Turns out I was fine, I just gained a pound or two...
So that's it - lots of good recipes to come, guys! Sorry it's taken so long to get back on the bandwagon....

April 5, 2009

Finally, a solution to portion control for almonds, and some other store-bought snacks

Who remembers my disastrous experience with the cinnamon sugar almonds I bought at Trader Joe's ?

(My friend Erin is probably the only one raising her hand right now, by the way. Mainly because:
  1. She loves those almonds too
  2. She actually checks my blog every day.)
Well, in case you didn't read that post, the disaster occurred - not because the almonds were not good - but because they were TOO good. And apparently I have no portion control when it comes to nuts.

So imagine my delight when I saw these bad boys in the grocery aisle:

I was so excited! I've known for a long time that nuts can be a healthy part of any diet, I just didn't know... errr.... how to keep them within the "healthy" restrictions when they were in my own pantry. I've always said I would love to buy a pack of nuts that were individually packaged in reasonable portions, and so now here comes Blue Diamond to the rescue with the 100 calorie pack. Not only does this make it easier for me to portion appropriately for snacks, but the pack is so easy to grab and take to work. And right at 100 calories, each pack is 2 weight watchers points - definitely workable in to any diet...

Speaking of Blue Diamond - my mom just mentioned that she had tried a new type of cracker they make, that's made from nuts and rice. They're called Nut-Thins and she told me that 16 crackers were 130 calories. By looking at their web site it looks like they have versions in plain almond, plain hazelnut and now fun flavors like cheddar cheese and cool ranch. I had made a point to look for the brand in my grocery store after my mom raved about them, but I couldn't find them. Let me know if you have tried them too and how they are!

One snack on the cracker/cookie aisle that I have tried lately was the new Special K brand of crackers - and let me just say I was pleasantly surprised! I bought the multigrain version, and they were delicious. They have a sweetness to them and kind of remind me of those "honey braided pretzels" that Snyder's makes. My sister will know what I'm talking about - we both love those pretzels... Anyway, the Special K crackers are delicious, and just like the Nut-Thins, they're incredibly sensible. Twenty-four crackers (about the size of Wheat Thins) is 120 calories, or 2 weight watchers points.

Like a lot of people, carbs are kind of the enemy for me. Not because of their nutritional content, but because they're just so addicting to me that I can't control my portions. So if you've got a good idea for a snack that's tasty and healthier than your normal alternative - please share!