Meal planning follow through

You know how I talked about my love of meal planning? Well, it’s true. I LOVE it. Unfortunately, I often get a little too ambitious/excited about all the delicious things I could be making, so I make a crazy long list and then don’t really follow through. I often get tired after a day of work or upset about something, and end up eating random stuff instead of following through with the plan.

This week, however, I was on a mission to finally make things that have been on my to-make list for AGES. I bought the ingredients weeks ago and this week was the week!!! Wanna see what I’ve been up to in my kitchen? Come, come!!

Jen posted about these salmon burgers last August during her burger week and raved about them. I love smoked salmon and thought it was such a fun addition to the mix.

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Unfortunately wild salmon is very lean and I overcooked these. They tasted like dry smoked salmon patties – the sauce was the only saving grace. I mixed greek yogurt with sriracha and diced grape tomatoes. They added some spice and freshness. :)

The next night I wanted to make something with goat cheese. I cooked some ww pasta, sauteed mushrooms and spinach, threw in some leftover lamb sausage and then topped it all with creamy sundried tomato and goat cheese sauce.

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I was a bit disappointed with how thin the sauce turned out… but it ended up thickening significantly as it cooled.

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Adam actually said this was one of the best things I’ve made in a while! After a few bites I was hooked too – creamy and slightly tangy, with a pronounced sun-dried tomato flavor and just a hint of nuttiness from walnuts.

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Btw, I only used 2-3T of sun-dried tomato olive oil (from the jar the tomatoes were in) instead of 7. This was plenty rich as is!

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Next up, a craving hit. I NEEDED cheesecake asap. Although I live across the street from the Cheesecake Factory, I stay away from their 1,000+ calorie slices.

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Instead, I went with an old (healthier!) favorite – honey yogurt cheesecake bars (ick, my photos have improved over the years, huh?).

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I did have some meyer lemons so meyer lemon cheesecake bars were born (I added a bunch of juice and zest and subbed agave nectar for honey to let the lemon flavor stand out).

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Can you see how light these are? They taste decadent but also very airy unlike the more traditional dense cheesecakes. I really love this recipe!

Agave isn’t as sweet as honey so these weren’t sweet enough for my liking (and the meyer lemon flavor was still lost) so I drizzled some maple syrup over the bars once cooled. I guess they ended up being maple syrup cheesecake bars! :D

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Whatever you call them, these were delicious! How would you make the lemon flavor be more pronounced? I was afraid about too much liquid if I continued to add lemon juice….

Last recipe! I told you I was busy in the kitchen this week!!! GRANOLA.

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While most of you (from what I read ;) ) seem to be obsessed with cereal and granola and need a lock on your cupboards, I’m much more of a trailmix/nut/cookie girl. Cereal, as delicious as it is, isn’t a “trigger” food for me.

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That was apparently because I’ve never made homemade granola – totally different ball game! I made Flour Bakery‘s granola last month and was amazed at how much I loved it. In fact, I ate a whole container-worth in just a matter of a few days… and it was supposed to be “for Adam.”

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So this week I tried again. I followed NY Times’ recipe for olive oil granola (found through Tri to Cook).

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I thought you could just throw everything in and bake, but I learned a lesson here. Yeah, someone didn’t read the instructions well! :shock: Add the dried fruit at the end - my beautifully sweet dried apricots turned into rocks!!! No worries, I picked them out and carried on with my newly established granola obsession.

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Adam said it was the best granola he’s ever had!! I actually can’t choose between this one and Flour’s – both are fantastic. A little salty, crunchy, nutty. Yeah, I’m going to be honest – this granola has been enjoyed more often than not, straight out of the jar. And I’m ok with it :D

If you meal plan, how often do you deviate from the plan? I was so proud for following through because there is not much better than a delicious homemade meal. :mrgreen:

On next week’s agenda – take ice cream and granola bars off the list. I hope to report back next week with some pictures for evidence ;)

Comfort foods–healthified

I haven’t cooked at all last week since I was traveling during the first part of the week and then came home to a fridge bare of fresh produce. We finally made it to the grocery store on Saturday but looking through these pictures of what I made over the weekend, it seems like I could have waited a few more days!

These recipes were all made from pantry items and meat/bread from the freezer and they all tasted like cheat meals. My taste buds had no idea this was diet friendly food. Just the way I like it! : )

Chicken parm meatball “subs”

Almost every single savory recipe on Healthy Food for Living looks like something that Adam (and I) would love. They’re comforting; they’re “man meals” which makes for one happy husband (and hey, I like me some man-food too. What’s not to love?). These chicken meatballs were full of Italian herbs and parmesan cheese – a little sauce and cheese put them over the top.

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[1 Point Plus per meatball. This dinner was 10 points. The bun is a large hot dog bun.]

Jumbo bran muffins

On Saturday morning I woke up craving a big healthy muffin. When Adam asked where I wanted it to be from, I said “from my kitchen.” Winking smile So I got to work…

While making coffee, the Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook jumped out at me. I love that the Points Plus values are right there and I don’t have to take that extra step of calculating nutritional info (btw, I linked to the book through Amazon… if you buy it or anything else on Amazon, I’d really appreciate if you would start your shopping from Healthy and Sane (link on the right column)… I get a few percent commission from your purchase but it doesn’t cost you any extra. This money would be reinvested back into the blog. Thanks in advance!!). Anyways, sorry for the detour… back to the muffins

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The word “jumbo” was the draw here… who doesn’t want a JUMBO muffin for just 5 Points Plus. Sign me up! Smile

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The perfect way to start a morning. The strudel topping was unbelievable and I loved the sweetness of the raisins. Yum!

Chocolate gooey butter cookies

Paula Deen is who you think of when you think of healthy food, right? :lol: A few years back I had the Food Network on and she was making these cookies. They looked so incredible that even though I normally can’t stand Paula, I went straight online and printed out the recipe.

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Finally this weekend I decided to make them. I stumbled upon the old recipe printout and figured it was now or never (I plan on cleaning out my recipe binder in a few weeks and plan on only keeping things I’ve made and loved. Everything else will go. It’s time for a clean beginning!)

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These were incredibly easy to make and came out pretty well. The recipe made 36 cookies, only 3 Points Plus each! [I used reduced fat cream cheese… couldn’t help myself.]

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I brought them to the Superbowl party and people seemed to enjoy them. I thought they weren’t chocolaty enough but maybe it was just the cake mix I used.

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The slightly cakey texture (not muffin-like!) was pretty awesome.

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Yes, I ate as many cookies as the amount of pictures I took. That’s what happens when you park yourself right next to the party food table. Oh well. The rest of my week has been going really well (diet wise). More on that in the next post! Open-mouthed smile

What have you been cooking lately? I’ve definitely been a bit of a slacker lately so I was really happy to finally spend some quality time in the kitchen this weekend! Smile

The real food diet cookbook–review and giveaway

About a month ago (during my little break), I was contacted about reviewing a new healthy cookbook. I LOVE cookbooks and am slowly growing quite the collection, but I find that there aren’t too many great healthy cookbooks out there and I’m always looking for new inspiration. What arrived at my office a few days later had an intriguing name… The Real Food Diet cookbook. Diet? All right, let’s see what this is all about. I’m definitely all for real food at least.

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The book starts with an outline of Dr. Axe’s diet, defining “real food” and “fake food.” I didn’t really care for the tone of it – it seemed a little gimmicky with claims like “refined sugar is lethal when ingested by humans!” (yeah, ok!) which in my opinion actually undermined some of the good messages like avoiding hydrogenated oils and artificial sweeteners and focusing on hormone/antibiotic free, organic meats and eggs vs. their conventional counterparts. Some of the suggestions also lacked sufficient rationale. For example, the diet allows for small portions of grains but they must be unprocessed and glutten-free. I didn’t understand why glutten-free (for people that do not have glutten allergies) was recommended and further why some recipes in the cookbook portion called for glutten-free pancake mix. Is that unprocessed? Again, why is it better than whole wheat flour?

The book and I generally didn’t get off on the right foot but I was mostly interested in the cookbook portion and that’s what I set out to review. Majority of the recipes included nice looking photos, which I always appreciate (although a few of them did not match the description entirely… a bit sloppy). I also liked the little shortcut signs for meals that are quick, pre/post workout, low on energy, kid-friendly, etc.

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Most of the recipes appeared pretty simple and straight forward and many of them sounded (and looked) delicious. Perhaps because of the intro section, for the most part I felt like this was a diet book (first) with supplemental recipes (second), rather than a cookbook with certain nutritional guidelines. The one clear miss in the cookbook section was the fact that there were no serving sizes noted. In some cases it’s obvious, but for things like shakes, for example – I had no idea whether I was going to get a whole pitcher or just one glass.

Recipe review time!

Chicken Bryan

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This called for 4 tablespoons of oil and 1/2 cup of butter for 2lbs of chicken. I’m all for not being scared of healthy fats but that confused me and I just couldn’t do it. The end result with significantly less fat, was still pretty delicious. I found the bitterness of the lemon rind a bit too strong on day 1, but it actually mellowed out in a few days in the fridge so the leftovers tasted better. Smile

Egg Tahini Salad

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A bit of a misnomer because it was actually a salad with eggs… not an egg salad. Am I too anal? Again it was a bit annoying that serving sizes were not included but I made a portion and while I had to thin the dressing out with some water, it was quite flavorful and I enjoyed it (the addition of tomatoes was my own and I thought it was brilliant! :lol: )

Next up I made the kale shake which I thought was vile. There is no picture here because after 2 sips (I forced a second one just to make sure I wasn’t crazy), the whole thing went down the drain. I usually force myself to eat whatever I make because I hate wasting food but this one was no go. The ingredients list included kale, cayenne peppers and bananas – this was either going to be genius or well, a disaster. You know what I thought of it by now Winking smile

I’m happy to say it was smooth sailing from here. The rest of the recipes I tried were super flavorful, easy and very satisfying.

I made the raw marinara sauce with ground grass-fed beef (which I pan fried before mixing with the rest of the sauce) and served it over whole wheat gnocchi. The base of the sauce is sun-dried tomatoes which packed so much flavor. Loved this!!

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The rest of the ground beef went into the making of the bison burgers. I know beef isn’t bison but I thought the spices that went into the patties were delicious – I’m sure they’d work great with bison! (Note: the roasted butternut squash and cream cheese additions were my own).

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Next up, I made the blueberry bliss snack bars. I don’t know how many the recipes was supposed to make – I shaped them into 2 and had a fun little photo shoot. Party smile

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These were sweet yet wholesome. I chopped my almonds coarsely and enjoyed their crunch. I also think that making bars into rounds makes them feel like cookies and extra special. I sure felt special eating these Smile

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The last recipe I tried was of the avocado mango salsa. It wasn’t much different from other avocado mango salsas I’ve tried but I was happy to have this sweet/sour combo again. It paired beautifully with grilled shrimp with I served over red quinoa.

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At the end of it all, I think Dr. Axe got some of my trust back. We had a rocky start (and that kale shake is seriously disgusting!) but all these eats were clean, fresh and delivered strong flavors. I bookmarked a lot of the recipes for a potential review and definitely still plan on trying them out!

Would you like to try the recipes yourself? I have one free copy to giveaway!

Here are the rules; there are 6 ways to enter.

1) Leave a comment on this post – tell me what your favorite cookbook is and why.

2+3) Follow me on Twitter (please tell me in the comments what your twitter name is so I can confirm). For an additional entry, you can also tweet about this giveaway (my twitter name must be included to qualify – that’s @elinacooks fyi)

4) Like Healthy and Sane on Facebook.

5) Add Healthy and Sane to your blogroll.

6) Link to this post on your blog, if you have one. If you don’t, let someone else know about this giveaway and tell me so in the comments section after they’ve entered the giveaway.

Please leave a separate comment for each entry. The giveaway is open to US residents only (sorry) and will end on December 11. I will randomly choose a winner using random.org and announce him/her on Sunday. Good luck! Open-mouthed smile

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