Tag Archives: recipes

Food Prep 1/1/18, this week’s menu, and how to make juicy chicken breasts

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This week’s options in the fridge.

Tomorrow I’m supposed to hit the ground running because Rogue Festival is literally eight short weeks away and January is when my schedule becomes overwhelmingly busy.

But in terms of the diet and exercise, I’ve been in maintenance mode since Thanksgiving. The Win: I’ve actually lost 3 lbs since Thanksgiving. That’s about .5 lbs per week, which is .5 lbs a week more than I anticipated.

I didn’t do things even close to perfectly during the holidays. But I did make a concerted effort to not go overboard. I upped my calorie and limits and allowed myself more sugar treats like cake and cookies. But there were also two or three weeks in there where I did a solid food prep to eat well during the workweek and that helped keep things in check. I think that shows (anecdotally, at least) that even doing things well in a hit or miss fashion is better than not doing them at all.

And this last week, I’ve slowly gotten back into the habit of walking at least every other day. This is a big deal because when I’m stressed I really want to sleep, but I need to work on switching that habit over to going for a walk. Hopefully, the consistent diet and regular exercise will keep me energized enough to power through the next two and a half months!

WEEK’S MENU AND FOOD PREP

Anyway. . . the food prep this week was pretty simple and basic. The post holiday budget is pretty tight, so we’re looking at simple, inexpensive foods or foods that can stretch to two or more meals (three chicken breasts will stretch to two lunches for me and two dinners for both me and Jag on this plan). On the menu:

Breakfasts: My usual oats, greek yogurt with fruit, cottage cheese, bananas, sometimes a hard boiled egg or nuts. I mix and match depending upon the day.

For lunches (we typically go home for lunch during the workweek): Again, the usual staples – Farmer’s Sandwich, Chicken breast and brown rice (half a cup), or leftovers like spaghetti marinara or a quick black bean chili, which we had this weekend.

For dinners:  Baked Drumsticks with mashed cauliflower, Taco Bowls (crockpot) with brown rice, Baked Pork Chops with sweet potatoes. Leftovers at will.

Snacks: Celery with peanut butter, handful of almonds and apple slices, orange slices with dark chocolate (brilliant for a little dessert when called for).

Food Prep (45 minutes, including the washing up)

  1. Cooked one large (10oz) chicken breast to divide for lunches. (See below for my method of cooking a chicken breast so it stays moist in the fridge during the week).
  2. Assemble Taco Bowl recipe in Crock Pot crock. Set into fridge (set up to cook tomorrow morning).
  3. Slice 1.5 apples for Farmer Sandwich fixins and snacks.
  4. Clean out expired or generally gross stuff from fridge. Reorganize.
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Refrigerator reorganized for this week’s plan. The sheet pan on the bottom is helpful for sliding out leftovers and pre-prepped food instead of having stuff sit in the back, lonely and forgotten.

Everything else is pretty much a quick-prep food that is easy to deal with. The brown rice is the Trader Joe’s frozen kind and the mashed cauliflower also from Trader Joe’s. I had intended to make my own mashed cauliflower, but TJ’s didn’t have any cauliflower in stock at the moment. So I was forced to take the lazy way. Alas!

MAKING MOIST CHICKEN BREASTS

Okay, so. . . when I discovered this method of cooking chicken breasts a few years back, my world shifted. Seriously. I was never any good at making a basic chicken breast on the stove top. They were always dry and a rather tough. I’m sure there is some technique that would have prevented this, but I don’t care what it is anymore. Because this is how I make them now. It takes more time to cook, but is actually easier on me in the long-run.

The great thing about this way of doing it, though, is that if you eat them right after you make them, they are SUPER MOIST and always thoroughly cooked. But if you put them in the fridge to keep, they are still moist and tender upon reheating for about three days. I think that’s because they are basically steamed.

The prep time takes about 6 minutes and is super-easy. The cook time, about 25-30 minutes (during which time you can prep the rest of the meal or go and read a book or something for a bit. No need to check the chicken.)

*First, you’ll need a skillet with a cover that fits. And a glass of water with about 1/2 a cup of water in it. Doesn’t need to be exact. Set these aside for a bit where you can reach them.

  1. Heat up a tablespoon of oil of your preference in the pan over high heat and swirl in the pan.
  2. Place the chicken breasts in the pan to sear. Sear for 3 minutes per side.
  3. While searing the second side, add any seasoning you like to the chicken. (I use Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute, but use what you like or nothing at all.)
  4. After both sides have seared for 3 minutes each, grab the cover to the skillet in one hand and the glass of water in the other.  Keep the heat on high for just a bit.
  5. Pour the water into the pan and then cover immediately. The water will immediately boil and steam up and the cover will trap that initial steam.
  6. Lower the heat to the lowest setting.  Let it continue to simmer and steam on low heat for 25 minutes. (25 minutes is plenty of time for most chicken breasts, but if you have some particularly large cuts, you can let it go 30 minutes and it will be fine.)  SET THE TIMER!
  7. After the time is up, turn off the heat and open the cover. It can sit in its steam-juices for a few minutes to rest while you prepare the rest of your meal or set the table. It’s ready.
  8. Eat and enjoy!

***

Already need to edit:  I just went back and looked through my previous updates and realized that I weighted 240 on 10/18.  This week, I weighed 240 in late October. Yesterday, I weighed 232 lbs. That’s 8 lbs in 10 weeks ( .8 lbs per week on average) over the holidays and after a plateau. That isn’t so bad when looked at in the grand scheme of things. I’ll take it!

 

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Fridge Clean-Out Food Prep 12/17/17 + Maintaining during the holidays + Fruit Bake

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This week’s fridge list. 

Well, it has been a couple of months since my last update, so I thought I’d catch up tonight.

First, the past month has been a slog as far as my eating is concerned. I had a five days at a conference in San Diego with a foodie companion just before Thanksgiving and ever since then I’ve been a little loosy-goosy with my eating. As a result, my weight loss has slowed to around a half pound to a pound a week. Still progress, but yeah.

This is also due to the fact that when the weather is colder, I get hungrier. I also want more sweets and more wine. Which have to be accounted for in my intake! So those are the losses in the past month. A little hungrier, more of a sweet tooth, less motivation to be as disciplined as I have been.

The wins: I’ve still logged everything I’ve eaten in MyFitnessPal every single day. No lying. No skipping a meal. No skipping a day. I’ve been able to see why I’ve slowed to a crawl and be at peace with that. As a result, I upped my daily calorie intake by 150 calories (about a glass of wine) for the holiday season. This will keep me on maintenance mode until January.  I feel better having made that decision and it being a conscious one instead of an accidental one.

But today I felt the need to get back to a Sunday food prep. I’ve skipped strategic food prep for the past month or so because of schedule and general motivation. So, I figured the week before Christmas would be a good time to get back to it.

I didn’t do my huge food prep, though. This week I did the “refrigerator clean out” food prep. Which is basically evaluating what is already in my fridge and can be re-purposed or used as leftovers.

IN THE FRIDGE

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TJ’s frozen brown rice. I always have this on hand. One pouch is about a cup and a half of rice – good for two lunches. 3 min in microwave

 

This is what I had:

Already had 4 hardboiled eggs, a low-sugar fruit bake I made as a dessert last week, Trader Joe’s frozen brown rice, leftovers from a taco soup and a cheeseburger pie I made a few days ago, and three chicken breasts in the freezer. I also still had some celery sticks left over and more celery for a stew. We have lots of oranges on teh counter. And a small batch of fudge. There are, of course, various other staples that we always have (rolled oats, milk, yogurt, etc.)

So this is what I did. First, I made a quick chicken stew in the crock pot with two chicken breasts for our Sunday night dinner. It’s about 325 calories a serving and low in sugars, but high in dairy. It is a really filling and comforting stew that will give us mid-week leftovers for dinner, too.

FOOD PREP

Once that was in the crock pot and cooking, I …

  1. Parboiled the remaining single chicken breast to use for a couple of lunches this week. It was a 4 oz breast, so there’s two 2 oz chicken pieces with a 2/3 cup of brown rice for lunch.
  2. Sliced up an apple pear for use in a few farmer’s sandwich lunches this week.
  3. Spooned out two servings of the taco soup (I leave out the chicken in this recipe, btw) into a smaller container for a couple of lunches this week. I tossed the remaining half a serving.
  4. Cut up the remaining celery stalk (left from the stew) into 5″ pieces for snacks with peanut butter.
  5. Re-purposed the fruit bake I made (recipe below). I made this fruit bake last week when I was craving something sweet. I made it with half the amount of brown sugar called for in the recipe. It was still delicious over a bit of vanilla ice cream for dessert. And it became even sweeter sitting in its pineapply juices for a day or two. But I had a bunch left I wasn’t likely to use as dessert again. So I dropped about 2/3 of what was left into my chopping/blending device and give it a quick turn. It is now a very chunky fruit sauce that’s just perfect over quick oats or in plain yogurt for breakfast. It is so sweet, I won’t have to add any honey to the oats or yogurt with this stuff. And at 1/2 cup I’ll get a serving of fruits in.
  6. I measured and prepped three oatmeal bowls for overnight oats. 1/2 cup rolled oats and sliced almonds mix in the little bowl with some cinnamon and nutmeg. The night before I’ll put 2/3 cup of milk in the bowl. The next morning, the oats have absorbed most of the milk and I can heat it in the microwave with the chunky fruit bake on top. I’ve already tried it. It tastes like a deconstructed fruit pie for breakfast. Win!!

The food prep part only took about 40 minutes. After that I wrote out my fridge list and cleaned out the rest of the fridge and pantry. Total of 1 hour food prep and I now know what I need to shop for, what I’ve got on hand for meals for the next five days, and how to keep things at a manageable level of eating satisfaction without totally derailing my (slow) progress right before Christmas.

By the way, my meal plan DOES include a small piece each day of the Easy Fudge I made Friday. I’ll eat the fudge alongside an orange. The combo is delicious! Like I said, I’ve got a sweet tooth going on right now. But keeping the sugars under surveillance is super important, too. I can have it, but knowing how much added sugar I’m taking in during this time of year is going to be key to not losing it in January.

Low Sugar Fruit Bake

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from cottercrunch.com

I modified this recipe to use about 1/2 as much brown sugar as called for and added in more pineapples and more of the pineapple juice to compensate. I find pineapples to be incredibly sweet these days, so using it to offset the added sugar made sense to me. The recipe says the bake serves 5, but for me it made 8 servings at about 1/2 c per serving.

My workup of the recipe with the lowered sugar content:

130 calories per 1/2 cup serving
Fat: 8.2 g (4.9 saturated)
Carbs: 15.5 (most from fruit)
Protein: 0.5
Sugars: 11.4 g (2.5 g added sugars – the rest are in the fruit)

Great for over oatmeal or alongside brunch in the morning or as a sweet treat with ice cream or served with marscapone or whipped cream as a dessert.