Monday, March 12, 2012

Recipe Makeover Challenge - Shepherd's Pie

Eating healthier ain't easy. I guess nobody said it would be, but still I expected to be sailing thru this here "lifestyle change." As it turns out, every recipe makeover is it's own little monster, but it's a monster I am learning to love! It feels GOOD to cut calories by 30-50% and keep all (or more) of the flavor and feel of the original dish. I'm hoping to develop a "Recipe Makeover Challenge" series here... and this is take ONE!

I'm starting with this recipe for 30 Minute Shepherd's Pie from Rachael Ray, which got great reviews on the Food Network website. I plugged it into my trusty calorie counter, and it came out at a whopping 713 calories for each of the recommended 4 servings!! Here are the deets:

I hereby make it my mission to healthify this recipe and keep it delicious and filling and scrumptious and still satisfy the comfort food craving!

GOAL: around (hopefully under) 450 calories and 15g of fat per serving

Changes I'll be making include:
  • Change the all potato topping to a 3:1 ratio of cauliflower to mashed potatoes
  • Double (or more) the veggie content
  • Use reduced fat cream cheese
  • Swap nonfat milk for the heavy cream
  • Reduce meat content
  • Switch from ground beef to 1/2 ground chicken and 1/2 ground pork (yeah, I know... not really a Shepherd's pie... but if it's tasty, who cares?? Also, Shepherd's pie technically has lamb, so minus 1 for Rachael, too)
  • Cut the butter in half (not subbing in evoo since we are making a roux for gravy)
  • Cut down the amount of gravy (using more veggies should help keep it moist)
Plugged in this NEW recipe to the calculator, played around with it A LOT, and came up with this! I'll be sticking with this revised version for tonight, thankyouverymuch :)

Filling before potato/cauliflower layer.

Fresh out of the oven (yes, Adrien's side has some shredded cheese on top... I didn't want to start a fight!)

Final product (1 serving pictured). VERY filling and seriously delicious!

Here's the updated recipe!! If you try it, please comment and let me know what you think!!

For the topping:
  • 1/2 pound russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 1/2 pounds cauliflower florets
  • 1 1/4 oz reduced fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 oz freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/3 cup nonfat milk
For the filling:
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 turnip, peeled and chopped
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Boil the potatoes and cauliflower in salted water. Drain and run thru a food mill using the medium blade. Combine the cream cheese, parmesan cheese, egg yolk, and nonfat milk in a bowl until smooth. Incorporate into the potato and cauliflower mixture until smooth. Season with S&P.
  2. While the other stuff cooks, add 1 t evoo and the meat to a hot skillet. S&P and brown it till tasty (spoon some of the fat off, if there is any). Add the carrots, turnip, onions, garlic, and thyme, and cook for about 7-8 more minutes, until those veggies are soft and delicious.
  3. In a separate small pan, make a 3-minute roux with the butter and flour, then whisk in the cup of chicken broth and the Worcestershire. Let it cook and thicken for a minute or so (it doesn't thicken too much), then add to the meat and veggie mixture, and cook over medium or med-low until veggies are done. Stir in the peas.
  4. Preheat the broiler to high. Put the meat mixture in a baking dish and top with the cauliflower and potato mixture. Sprinkle with paprika and place under the broiler for 8-10 mins until browned and tasty looking. Top with fresh chopped parsley and enjoy!!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Killer Tofu!!

Ahhhh eee oooooooo, KILLER TOFUUUUUUU!!!! If you never watched Doug on Nickelodeon as a child, you missed out big time. Not to worry, though, you have a chance to get on the wagon now by listening to this clip!

About 30 days ago, I joined MyFitnessPal, aka MFP (see Make Like a Tree & Branch Out!!), and it has helped me make a major turnaround in my life. I'm trying not to be all weirdo health nut psychopath, but as much as eating junkfood is super addicting, so is eating healthy! I'm loving the challenge of getting as much protein, fiber, and body-boosting goodness out of a meal as possible, while also making it delicious and not missing any of the crap that likes to stick to my no-no places. Experimenting with new veggies (red swiss chard, turnips, fennel) and grains (quinoa, farro) and different ingredients all together (almond milk, TOFU) is becoming a passion... I freakin daydream about it, I swear! There's something kind of sick about that, isn't there?

Anywho, that brings us to today's topic... TOFU!! Yes, it must be in all caps. It doesn't have the same effect otherwise.

I'll admit, I really don't know much about the stuff. Ok, it's made from soy beans, and according to The Beets' song, it's curd (not sure exactly what that means). It comes in a block packed in water, has several firmness options, looks pretty weird, and MUST be approached with an open mind. Other than that, I'm pretty clueless. Enter the internet and MFP.

I've seen some posts on MFP about tofu, and that it can be used in smoothies. THAT'S GREAT NEWS... I LOVE SMOOTHIES!! That's it, this morning I went into the kitchen, whipped out the blender, and started throwing shit in there. The result is completely delicious!!! Yes, a little high in sugar, but whatever, it's a freaking smoothie and it's SO good!!

Banana Chocolate Almond Smoothie
  • 4 oz Silk Almond Milk - Dark Chocolate
  • 20 g (abt 1 heaping tbsp) Trader Joe's Creamy Almond Butter with Sea Salt
  • 1/3 c silken tofu
  • 1 medium banana
  • 1 to 1 1/2 c ice
Put it all in the blender and GOOOOO!!! It makes a meal-sized 16 oz smoothie. I prefer not to share, but to each his own.

Nutrition Facts
Banana Chocolate Almond Smoothie
1 Serving
Amount Per Serving
Total Fat
12.9 g
Saturated Fat
1.1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat
3.2 g
Monounsaturated Fat
6.8 g
0.0 mg
130.4 mg
679.5 mg
Total Carbohydrate
44.7 g
Dietary Fiber
4.9 g
27.7 g
9.7 g
Here's some nutrition info, cuz that's how I roll :)  This also gives ya 35% of your daily Vitamin C, 28% of your Vitamin E, and 30% of your Calcium!

On tonight's meal docket is some extra firm tofu I've had marinating in a Jamaican Jerk type concoction since last night. Pretty excited to see how it goes! Big TOFU day... BIG TOFU DAY!!

In case you're interested, here's the link to that super easy (and super cheap) marinade... Jamaican Jerk Tofu.  I'm planning to serve with broccoli and carrots over brown rice. Hooray!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

25 Things... A Recap

When I started this blog, one of my first entries was a list of 25 things I wanted to accomplish while 25. Some easy, some tougher, but all things new to me. Well, I'm officially one year older, one birthday more experienced, and I have the hangover to prove it. That means it's time for a recap of that old list, and to start thinking about the next list... 26 things (see what happened? I added one, cuz I'm a year older now). Ok, so I've only done 7 of the 25, but to be fair, I wrote this first list about halfway thru the year. So I mean, if you extrapolate that, I would have barely broken 50% completion! Still not great, I suppose. Most of the undone ones will make it onto the 26 things list, but that's a top secret draft at the moment ;)

1. Stay in a unique hotel room - yeah, budget wasn't having it...
2. Try a new cuisine - picked out the place tho! Ethiopean is going down asap!
3. Do 10 (consecutive) pushups - not even close... can't even do 10 on my knees :/
4. Take someone on their first vacation
5. Dye my eyelashes
6. Go to the Grand Canyon
7. Go skinny-dipping in the ocean
8. Sleep under the stars
9. Go 3 days without a phone… by choice - ... harder than I thought!
10. Make 5 free-throws in a row - yeah, haven't gotten lucky yet
11. Watch Casablanca
12. Try out for a game show
13. Take a trapeze lesson
14. Run a half marathon - yeah, didn't even try
15. Visit 3 new states - got 1, need 2 more!
16. Go to a pro sports game at a stadium I’ve never been to
17. Parasail
18. Get paid to do something I love
19. Make a lamp
20. Grow and maintain an herb garden
21. Golf 18 holes in a row
22. Go camping… like for real camping
23. Spend 50 hours volunteering - this is important and I suck for not doing it... this will stay on the list and go up
24. Take a road trip to Canada
25. Get a stranger to follow my blog - I guess I'm gonna have to get LOTS better at it first...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Make Like a Tree & Branch Out!!

I am SO not a new year's resolution person. It's kind of annoying, actually, when I feel like making changes around January, but I've spent so much time in San Diego recently, and have never run out of things to do! I love the people I know, and the things there are to do. I hear that Phoenix is an active city with a lot going on, but I don't see that by sitting here in the Gilbert bubble, so out I go!

I'll go ahead and say it... Facebook is kind of boring. I think it's a great hub for everyone's basic social network, and it is great having everyone in one place to share what's going on. I've really started digging some sites that fill other social and needs, especially those sites that use the internet to help people get out and DO STUFF.

LivingSocial / Groupon
Ok, I'm sure I'm missing something because people seem to love both of these sites, but I haven't seen many great things come across in the health/fitness area, which is really the only place I'm interested in spending $$ right now. So far, I've only gotten a yoga package (5 classes for $19) for a studio in San Diego. My gym membership is officially cancelled, so I'm hoping to use LivingSocial and Groupon to find some great deals on bootcamps and other workouts in both PHX and SD. (See also - Meetup)

This place is awesome! You enter your current weight and goals, inspirations, etc., then track your food, exercise, and water consumption. You can add friends, develop a network, and updates show up on a news feed similar to Facebook (don't worry, nobody sees your actual or goal weight unless you show them... they see pounds lost, when you complete your food diary under your calorie target, when you exercise... just the good stuff!). There's also an app for pretty much any phone, and their food database is one of the more complete ones available on a free site. If you're on it, add me! User name is cryptic, so you might want to copy/paste... katyconser

I went to my first meetup in a LONG time yesterday, and it was great! I am a member of a few groups:
  • The San Diego Corgi Meetup Group
  • East Valley Italian Food & Wine
  • Young and Fun Travelers (20s & 30s)
  • Phoenix Hash House Harriers
  • Arizona Young Professionals Social Group (20s & 30s)
The Corgi meetup in SD originally got me into the site a few years back. Last night's meetup was with the Young Professionals group, and it was a really good time. About 20 of us got together at Rainforest Cafe (despite my strong dislike for this place... it's almost as strong as my hatred for Hard Rock Cafe). MAN, getting in the car and driving up to Tempe Marketplace was almost as hard as getting out of the car and walking into the restaurant! For some reason, it felt kind of like walking into an awkward blind date,* and I totally wanted to chicken out. I'm so glad I went in, though. If I hadn't, I would have missed an opportunity to meet some super cool people! I'm also super excited for the Travelers group and the Hashers!

This is my go-to site for customer ratings on pretty much everything! With traveling so much for work (and still being relatively untraveled in the Phoenix area), it's great to have one place to double check to make sure my expectations for a place aren't way off-base. I'm probably not diligent enough in writing reviews, but I'll work on that.

* Not confirmed. I've never been on a blind date

Monday, January 30, 2012

Rick Blaine Makes Pimpin' Look Easy

So, this movie is about Nazis? I had no idea. Adrien adds... "Also, it's in Africa!" Me: "Did you just Google to make sure Morocco is in Africa?" Adrien: "Yeah, I wanted to make sure"

Here's a quick breakdown of my favorite parts. Keep in mind that this is my real life experience watching Casablanca for the first time, and has very little to do with the movie itself.

5 minutes in... Me: "I don't get this shit." Adrien: "Me either... Are they speaking English??"  Me: "Not sure. Sometimes they are..."

Scanning thru the bar for the first time... Me: "Ain't that some shit? We're in Africa, and the first black guy we see is some American lookin black guy playin piano?" Adrien: "Africa?? I thought this was in Morocco... Isn't Morocco in Europe?"

Rick asks Sam to play the song, and Sam looks at him all crazy-eyed... Me: "You know what Sam was thinkin right there, right?" Adrien: "This bitch...?" Me: "No... He's thinkin... White people play different..."

When Ilsa pulls a gun on Rick then confesses her love for him... Adrien: "This bitch is seesaw!! One line is this way, then the next line is the exact opposite!" Rick: "Here's lookin at you, kid." Adrien:  *buries head in pillow*

Ilsa is still confessing her love for Rick... Rick: "I wouldn't bring up Paris if I were you, it's poor salesmanship." Adrien: *laughs* "This guy is a badass. He's the shit."

End of movie... Adrien: "I never got to hear him say Play it again, Sam." Me: "We must have missed it..." *replays part of movie where we may have missed it... line does not occur* Google: "'Play it again, Sam' is originally a misquotation from the 1942 film Casablanca." Adrien: "Well that's a disappointment. That was the one line I was looking forward to the most!!"

Overall, pretty legit. Not sure about it being the best movie of all time, but enjoyable with some laughs. Old people are funny... I always knew it! They were even funny before they were old. Chew on that. Final count of famous lines (that Adrien and I knew) = 4.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Miso Hungry!

Last Thursday's foodventure featured 2 items I've never worked with before... MISO and QUINOA. Pretty exciting! I've had a package of quinoa in the pantry for a while and never really bit the bullet and gave it a shot (see what I did there?). The stuff is pretty awesome though! Good texture, got some good flavors going, and it seems to be a pretty versatile little grain. Miso is weird... I learned a couple of interesting facts: (1) Sprouts only offers brown miso. Bobby wanted yellow. This got complicated, but after doing a good deal of research, the difference still eludes me. I guess that isn't really learning anything... (2) Once opened, the stuff will last in the fridge for about a year once opened... kinda creepy, no?

Miso Orange Glazed Salmon (adapted from Bobby Flay's Grill It!)
  • 2 salmon fillets, about 8-oz each
  • 1 c freshly squeezed OJ (about 4 oranges), plus the zest from one
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 1/4 c miso paste (see intro)
  • 1/2 T soy sauce
  • 1/2 T rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c thinly sliced green onions 
1. Make yourself a cheese plate for snacking. Begin consumption immediately.

2. Make the glaze for the fish:  Mix up the OJ, zest, and brown sugar in a small saucepan, and boil it. Then simmer until reduced to 1/4 cup. Whisk in the miso and cook for 1 minute, then take it off the heat and whisk in the soy sauce and vinegar. Let it chill out. This is the perfect time to start the quinoa!

3. Coat the salmon with 1/2 the glaze and let it hang for 15 mins. By now you should be halfway done with your cheese plate.

4. Get the excess marinade off the salmon, season with S&P, and put it in a lightly oiled skillet... which shouldn't be too hot or you will burn it to a crispy crispness and be sad (I obviously didn't do this... as far as you know). Cook it over medium heat for, say, 4 minutes on the skin side, then a couple more on the other side, depending on how done you like it (I like medium, so like 2 more mins). Make sure to add the reserved marinade and baste the sucker as much as you can without seeming foolish.

5. Put it on a plate, put more of the miso stuff (it's good... you won't regret it), and throw on some green onions (don't skip... they are pretty AND make the flavors aweeesommee). You gotta scroll down to see the final product... I'm not gonna spoil it by showing you too early!!

Asiany Quinoa with Mushrooms (adapted from Quinoa with Asian Flavors)
  • 1 c quinoa
  • 2 c vegetable broth (use one you made, if you're awesome)
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 T fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 c green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lb crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1. Defrost your homemade broth. I know you have it.

2. Toast the quinoa in some EVOO for 3-4 minutes. Add the broth, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Set the timer for 25 minutes.

3. When the timer says 15 mins left, add the sliced mushrooms, stir, and recover. Also, start step 5 for the salmon if you want to eat this all at the same time!

4. Once all the water is absorbed, you're almost done! Stir in the green onions, season with S&P, and serve er up!! Don't forget seconds.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Board. Fell. On my HEAD.

Can you guess why both of these items were provided free of charge at last night's hh adventure?

At a popular restaurant/brewery near the San Diego office... A place I won't mention by name, but will say has a delectable ahi poke and is a spot I frequent with my friend/coworker Ono for hh... The unspeakable happened. If you read the title to this entry, you may have an idea. Actually, you may have the whole idea.

A Board. Fell. On my HEAD.

Yeah, a 1x4 happened to fall off the wall, and land smack dabby on the back of my head. I'm almost sure Ono planned this. Is there a better way to get yourself a blog mention than to be around by pure coincidence when disaster strikes? And then to tell the manager that "an apology isn't good enough. An apology doesn't make her not get hit in the head with a wooden plank" as I'm subtly escaping to the restroom to hide my 2-year-old-who-got-too-much-attention-when-something-bad-happened watery eyes. To be fair, does anything make me not get hit in the head with a wooden plank AFTER I'd been hit in the head with a wooden plank? I'm not sure... That seems to be a somewhat philosophical question, and this is neither the time nor the place (maybe in the "Comments" section?).

After the initial "I'm sorry for your inconvenience" interaction, the manager actually handled it quite well, offering ice (um, I'm not going to ice my head in public, thankyouverymuch), an ambulance (a formality, I'm sure, but dude...), comping our meal (better), a $50 gift card (now we're getting there), and a growler of beer (ok, I forgive you).

For those wondering about injury other than to my ego and careful eyeliner application: Ono assured me that my pupils were reactive and I seemed to have no more brain damage than when we'd arrived.