Archive for March 2014
My wife and I love sweet potatoes. (The kids? Not so much, but they’ll live). When I buy them, however, they invariably go bad because I rarely, if ever, have time or foresight to bake a sweet potato for dinner as a side dish. To solve that problem—because sweet potatoes are little nuggets of nutritional gold—why not eat them as the main dish?
Twice-Baked Mexican Sweet Potato Recipe
—One-Half Sweet Potato (because, duh.)
—2TBL Prepared Salsa (I use “Pain is Good” because of low-sodium/sugar content)
—1/2C Reduced-Sodium Black Beans (I use Target-brand because they’re the lowest in sodium I’ve found)
—1/4C Fat-Free Cottage Cheese
—Various Seasonings (I use paprika and Mrs. Dash Table Blend)
Kitchen Tools Needed:
—Oven (or Microwave and Oven)
—Oven Safe Dish
Step One: Wash and then cook sweet potato like normal using your desired method. I microwave using the “Baked Potato” setting and it works like a charm. Just make sure to poke a few holes in the potato using a fork or a knife, first. Go ahead and start preheating your oven to 350.
Step Two: Let the potato cool, slightly, and use that big ol’ knife to cut it in half. Wrap/reserve half for another meal.
Step Three: Scoop out the innards of your half a sweet potato into a bowl. I used my kitchen aid, but that was mostly unnecessary. Combine the rest of the ingredients, and stir until well-blended.
Step Four: Put your concoction back into the potato shell (your potato cup shall overfloweth) and place into your baking vessel. Bake at 350 for 30minutes or until your hunger sends you face-first into your oven door.
At this point, if you have some chopped green onions, tomatoes, reduced-fat sour cream or shredded cheddar/pepper jack cheese, go nuts. I’m never one to cast aspersions on another’s culinary accoutrement. Some hot sauce would be fan-freaking-tastic as well, but for me that’s just more sodium that I’m trying to cut down on. I just added some more paprika and called it a day.
Nutritional Info: As prepared—302 calories, 0 fat, 3mg cholesterol, 598mg sodium, 59g total carbohydrates, 11g dietary fiber (eat that skin!), 16g protein, 13g sugar, 1118mg potassium, 486%DV Vitamin A, 10% DV Vitamin C, 16%DV Calcium, 18% DV Iron. (via MyFitnessPal).
For those of you who follow me on Twitter or befriend me on Facebook (assuming that’s a good number of you, if you’re reading this blog post), you probably know I’ve been making some big changes to my life. Thanks to a family “Biggest Loser-style” challenge initiated by my sister, I’ve lost 16lbs in the past two weeks and have been eating better, working out and altogether living a lot healthier.
Also, if you know anything else about me, you probably know I can cook my tail off. I started young—learning to cook breakfast for the family at about five. Later, when my dad got sick, I ramped up my cooking whenever I would come home from boarding school. After high school, I once paid “rent” for a family I stayed with by cooking gourmet meals like Shepherd’s Pie and Chicken Alfredo once a week. In college, I usually used the cafeteria’s cooking station rather than eating what the “caf” had prepared. I like cooking. My wife doesn’t. So, I cook just about every night.
The other day, I was re-inspired by a blog post from a few years back by Aaron Gleeman. Gleeman, a fellow blogger like me who covers baseball, lost 150 pounds between 2011 and 2012. Although I can’t say that I’m hoping for quite that drastic an effect, I wouldn’t exactly set my sights much lower myself. In that post, in addition to receiving some chicken soup for my soul (Healthy Choice brand, I’m sure), I was reminded of his pseudo fried rice recipe that had intrigued me when I first read the post.
That said, I had two concerns about his recipe when I set out copy his Asian-inspired weight-loss plan:
- With ham, oyster sauce, soy sauce and salt, that recipe uses more sodium than I typically eat in a day. Even portioned out like Gleeman suggests, I wouldn’t be comfortable eating it, as salt (for me) is a *big* trigger for binge eating. I’ve also had moderately high blood-pressure off and on, and eliminating high quantities of sodium has fixed that.
- Gleeman admits that he “can’t cook.” And, while that recipe plus frozen lean cuisines worked for him, I knew I wouldn’t be as content.
So, as Gleeman’s recipe worked for him to the tune of some pretty amazing results, I set out to create a recipe that worked for me. If you’re trying to lose weight, I hope it works for you too!
Schottey’s Healthy Stir-Fry Lunch Recipe
—Chef’s Knife (the big one)
—Paring Knife (the smallest one)—to remove seeds and core from tomato.
—Wok or similar non-stick large pan
—A kitchen scale (Ridiculously helpful for weight-loss. Go buy one. They’re cheap)
—1tbl olive oil
—3 oz onion, chopped
—3 oz assorted bell peppers, chopped
—3oz white mushrooms, chopped
—2 oz tomato, seeds removed and diced
—1tsp garlic, minced
—1 generous “shake” of Mrs. Dash
—3 oz Already-cooked Protein (Chicken, Steak, Tofu*, Shrimp*, White Fish) or an Egg. Or, go vegan and use low-sodium beans only.
—1/4 Already-cooked Complex Carb (Brown Rice, Wild Rice, Black Rice, Quinoa)
—Flavor components (Explained Below)
*Tofu and shrimp don’t need to be cooked beforehand. Just make sure you use extra-firm tofu and cook shrimp until it’s turned translucent.
One of the things I love about this recipe is that it has a solid and healthy base that can be customized a number of ways. Although the initial desire was for a Chinese-style stir-fry, it can take on a number of ethic forms. As long as you’re conscious about what you’re putting in on the last step, there are countless ways to vary this dish and keep it healthy.
Chinese: 1tbl low-sodium peanut sauce (I use Annie Chun’s), 1tsp Chinese-style hot mustard (I use Kame), sesame/black sesame seeds, green onions.
Mexican: 1/4 cup low-sodium black beans or low-sodium pinto beans, 1tbl salsa (I use Pain is Good because it’s low-sodium) OR 1tbl prepared Chimichurri sauce, dash cumin, diced jalapeno or chopped avocado (or both).
Italian: 1/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes OR 1tbl pesto, basil, 1 tsp parmesan-romano cheese
Thai: 1tbl red-pepper flakes, 1/4cup crushed peanuts, basil, 1tbl unsweetened coconut flakes
Step 1: Chop, prepare and gather all the ingredients, cooking goes fast! The first time you make it, it might seem like a really long prep time, but you’ll find that kitchen skills improve and it becomes a very easy recipe to master. Total prep and cooking time for me is under 30minutes, closer to 15.
Step 2: Heat wok on your stove’s highest setting. Woks are meant to cook with high heat, so crank it up. If you’re using a traditional non-stick pan, never go over medium-high.
Step 3: Add olive oil to the pan, reduce heat slightly and add onions and peppers. Cook by stirring and pushing up the sides of the pan for about 2 minutes until peppers have softened and onions are starting to brown. Don’t need to stir constantly, but getting the ingredients moving is part of the stir-fry experience!
Step 4: Add mushrooms, garlic, tomatoes. Cook for about a minute to 90 seconds.
Step 5: Add complex carb, protein and flavorings. If using tofu, add last as you’ll want to fold rather than really stir once the tofu is in. If using uncooked shrimp, add during Step 4. Cook only until heated through, under a minute.
Admittedly, this is not a low-calorie recipe. Today, I made asian-style with 3oz of tofu and an egg. It came to about 599 calories which is my biggest meal of the day. Though, that’s OK. I want lunch to be my biggest meal of the day. It gets me through the afternoon slog and allows me to eat a lighter supper. (Usually around 300 calories).
Also, most of the calories come from the carbs and the olive oil. But, those are some pretty healthy sources of calories. Somewhere along the line, our culture got convinced that a 100-calorie pack of oreos was healthier than a tablespoon of olive oil, and I’m not sure how or why that happened. If the calorie count is above what you’re willing to budget for lunch, cut the olive oil in half and just make sure to stir the vegetables a little faster so they don’t stick. I’d avoid using egg in that scenario.
The upside, of course, is a well-rounded meal with plenty of calories, carbs and protein for both quick and slow-release energy. Depending on which customizations you use, you’re likely to get almost 200% of your days Vitamin C, over half of your Vitamin A, a bunch of iron and potassium.
It’s also ridiculously low in sodium, which is a goal for me and should be a goal for most Americans. If it’s not a goal for you, add some salt or soy sauce. Do your thing.
It’s also really easy to add other veggies in your refrigerator. I drink kale in my smoothie every morning, or there would probably be kale or spinach in this recipe. You could add it in Step 5. Sliced carrots could be added in Step 3. Zucchini could be added in step 4. Throw a cup of frozen stir-fry mix, broccoli or edamame in there. Go nuts!
Only thing you shouldn’t do is get bored while you’re trying to eat healthy. The root word of diet (Latin: diaeta) didn’t mean something a person did for a few weeks to lose a few pounds before going back to their daily Cinnabon. No, diets are supposed to just be who you are and what you eat. If you’re looking to make healthier choices in your life, choose to foster those you can see yourself making for a long time to come.