Steak and Shrimp with Creole Pan Sauce

I read that Helen and Caron thought that my overly snacky high point Friday was due to my two glasses of wine, but sadly, that was not the case.  I’d already eaten at least 15 points by then, and I will tell you that the snacking of 31 points was ALL day – not just at night, which is when the urge to snack usually rears its ugly head.

I think what it was, is that I’ve already gotten into the “comfort zone” of Weight Watchers.  I mean, I’ve been down this road so many times, I KNOW the program inside and out, but I think my motivation waned a bit, maybe my eye balling 1/2 a cup of ice cream was more like 2/3 cups – you know the drill.  I have to realize that I need to keep my focus to continue losing the weight.  I am back to journaling, which I did religiously every day since January 1 – but once the calendar flipped to February 1, so did that daily motivation that I need to keep my head in the game.

I did fine over the weekend after Friday night – stayed within my points and both days got nearly 15k in steps.   But as I was meal planning decided to up the protein game with my meals this week.

Breakfast was a steak “picky plate.”  One PB2 muffin (4) that I microwaved for 20 seconds at work which made it taste like it just came out of the oven.  Four ounces of pan seared steak (4), a hard boiled egg (2) and half a tangelo.  10 points for breakfast and I was full for HOURS.  I ate breakfast between 9-9:30 and didn’t eat lunch until nearly 2:30.

Mid-morning I texted my sister to see if she would be up for walking at lunch and she said yes!  We had temps in the mid-40’s with sunshine, but in the shade it was still  a bit chilly, so we kept walking on the sunny side of the street.

It takes us about 7 minutes from each of our offices to meet up, then we set the clock for 30 minutes, so that I have time to walk back to my office and heat up my lunch before my lunch hour is over.

Lunch was leftover Jennie-O turkey chili.  Six smart points for 2 cups, with a side of tortilla chips for dipping (4).  I got busy right when I got back to our walk, so this isn’t the best picture, but this sure was tasty!

Remember when I was talking about getting your monies worth with the cable bill, and how I felt like I wasn’t getting my $600 of entertainment by having the FoodNetwork and HGTV stations and cut down to basic cable?

The same is true with my Y Membership.  I don’t go often enough, and I think after this month (since I’ve already paid for February) that I am giving it up.  I have a free gym at my office and I can just as easily leave my desk at 5 and go down and workout before catching a later train home.  And now that the weather is getting nicer a gym really isn’t that necessary.  

So before I give up my deluxe gym completely, I decided to see how much I can actually use it this week.  I have an hour train ride home, and decided to see how a banana and a premiere protein shake would be as a pre-workout fuel.  I figured it was just long enough to give me the necessary carbs I need to get in the workout I want without my blood sugar dropping, and give me enough time to digest the shake so it wasn’t all giggly in my tummy by the time I got to the gym. 

I felt fine during my workout: 2000 meter on the rowing machine (took me 12:09), abs for 5 minutes, then 30 minutes on the treadmill for 2 miles.  Happy to say my cough is completely gone, although now Hannah is sick, so I hope I can keep healthy.  

I had 22 points spent before dinner (10 breakfast, 10 lunch and 2 for the protein shake) so a low carb dinner was in order.   I whipped this dinner up in a matter of minutes and it was so delicious!  I added the points up in my head and said it was 6 points on Instagram last night, but it’s actually 7 points – oops!

Steak and Shrimp with Creole Pan Sauce
Serves 1
A quick and easy week night dinner that's fancy enough for a crowd!
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Prep Time
1 min
Cook Time
9 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
1 min
Cook Time
9 min
Total Time
10 min
375 calories
8 g
268 g
16 g
48 g
7 g
386 g
902 g
5 g
0 g
6 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
386g
Servings
1
Amount Per Serving
Calories 375
Calories from Fat 145
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 16g
25%
Saturated Fat 7g
37%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 5g
Cholesterol 268mg
89%
Sodium 902mg
38%
Total Carbohydrates 8g
3%
Dietary Fiber 2g
8%
Sugars 5g
Protein 48g
Vitamin A
17%
Vitamin C
59%
Calcium
13%
Iron
20%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 3 ounces beef
  2. 3 ounces shrimp
  3. 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
  4. 1 teaspoon butter
  5. 1 tablespoon half and half
  6. 1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning
  7. 1/2 teaspoon Hardcore Carnivore Black
Instructions
  1. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle the room temperature steak with the Hardcore Carnivore rub. Cook steak 2-3 minutes per side, depending on how thick your steak is.
  2. Remove steak to a plate. Reduce heat to medium low. Spray the skillet with Pam. Add the shrimp and cook for about 1-2 minutes. Set on the plate with the steak. Finally, add in the zucchini and cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove the zucchini to the plate, and in the pan melt the butter. Stir in the half and half and Creole seasoning (mine is spicy so 1/2 teaspoon was plenty) and pour over the plate.
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calories
375
fat
16g
protein
48g
carbs
8g
more
My Bizzy Kitchen http://www.mybizzykitchen.com/
 

This was so delicious.  I wonder if my brother or sister would eat this?  Not sure either one of them is a fan of shrimp.  And because I didn’t eat until nearly 8:30, I was completely full and had no desire to nibble on anything, and ended my day with 29/30 points.

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My timehop reminded me that it was TWO years since the Sun-Times article came out about Tony being the ultimate White Sox fan.  You can check out that article here.

And if you missed it, my latest blog post is up on The Chopping Block – my take on Sopa Azteca – only 100 calories per cup or 2 smart points – you can find the recipe here – so good! If you could pop over there with some comment love, I’d appreciate it! 😀

Here is a workout for today that needs no equipment.  I plan on doing this as soon as I hit publish.  Make it a great day!

Gumbo

Shrimp and Andouille Sausage Gumbo

What’s weird about my new job is that the days of the week really don’t have any meaning anymore.  When I worked Monday through Friday, I woke up knowing how many more days it was until the weekend.  Now?  Every day could be Thursday and I wouldn’t know!  Which is why I missed my Weight Watchers meeting this morning – I forgot it was Tuesday!

Speaking of Weight Watchers, I was recently asked to be a Weight Watcher Ambassador.  I know, it sounds a bit ironic considering the fact that I’ve not lost any weight since joining this past spring, but they follow me on Instagram – they have nearly half a million followers and only follow 915 people, and I am one of the ones they follow.  They like how creative I am with the Weight Watcher friendly food I make.  I am hoping that by being asked to be a WW Ambassador that it will help me get the scale to move in the right direction.  The first steps I made last night?  I got rid of all the trigger foods that I’ve been binge eating.   I remembered that’s how it helped with Tony was alive, I would stand in front of the pantry wanting to eat shit, but there wasn’t anything that I wanted and the feeling went away.

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I am also going to keep a journal and write in it every time I want to eat anything I shouldn’t.  I am hoping that I can break this stupid cycle and get my life together.   I am still struggling with my job decision – I know I made the right decision – I seriously love every minute I am at work, but financially I can hear Tony telling me that it was a mistake.   I haven’t gotten the hours yet that I had hoped, and while I know that will change as we get into the holiday season, I can’t make a living if I only work 25 hours a week.   I just have to find confidence in myself to embrace this new life I have, even when I am desperately trying to hold onto my past life.

*************

I hadn’t been grocery shopping and our fridge was quite bare – well, for the exception of take out containers from Hannah and Jacob.  I have the three day rule with take out food – if you haven’t eaten it three days after you brought it home, it’s fair game.

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I had three slices of deli ham (1) that I stuffed with egg whites, baby spinach and 1/2 an ounce of cheese (3), then Pam fried it so it got a bit crispy like bacon.  On the bottom?  That would be three ounces of leftover French fries that I chopped and made into hash browns (6) with strawberries on the side.  A delicious 10 point breakfast.

I got everything done on my to do list yesterday except the emissions test.  I drove over there and it was closed and a few other cars pulled in too.  We were trying to figure out why, when I pulled out my form and realized it was closed because it was Columbus Day – I should have known that because all the neighborhood kids were out yesterday.  I had to hit up Sam’s Club for k-cups – their store brand is only .25 a cup and it’s really good.  I normally pick up a rotisserie chicken every time I go because they are really big and only $4.98.  But the display was completely empty when I walked by.   But about 5 minutes later when I passed by again, I realized they were just coming out of the oven – all of a sudden there were like 20 people waiting for chicken!

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When I got home, sliced chicken was actually my lunch.  I wasn’t too hungry, but I sliced off a wing and some breast meat and let it cool on the counter before putting it in the fridge.

Sunday night at work we made a sausage and shrimp gumbo.  I was trying to remember if I’d ever made gumbo on the blog before, and it turns out I have a couple times.

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Looking at both of my previous attempts, um, neither one of them look like gumbo.  The second dish just looks like a chicken and carrot stew!  I did adapt The Chopping Block’s recipe a bit because I reduced the butter by half (original recipe called for 1 stick of butter) and I left out the okra because that’s gross and subbed in Brussels sprouts in it’s place.  I also reduced the shrimp to 3/4 of a pound.  So I am not sure how “authentic” this is, but the broth was spot on.  Nice and spicy.

Shrimp and Andouille Sausage Gumbo
Serves 8
A super spicy soup that can be made on the weekend to enjoy for a quick weeknight dinner.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
294 calories
16 g
127 g
17 g
18 g
7 g
285 g
907 g
4 g
0 g
8 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
285g
Servings
8
Amount Per Serving
Calories 294
Calories from Fat 152
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 17g
26%
Saturated Fat 7g
35%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 6g
Cholesterol 127mg
42%
Sodium 907mg
38%
Total Carbohydrates 16g
5%
Dietary Fiber 1g
6%
Sugars 4g
Protein 18g
Vitamin A
60%
Vitamin C
26%
Calcium
7%
Iron
5%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
  2. 3/4 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  3. salt and pepper to taste
  4. 4 tablespoons butter
  5. 1/2 pound andouille sausage, cut in 1/4 inch rounds
  6. 1/2 cup flour
  7. 1/2 onion, diced
  8. 2 stalks celery, diced
  9. 2 carrots, diced
  10. 3/4 cup Brussels sprouts, rough chopped
  11. 1/2 green pepper, diced (which I forgot!)
  12. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  13. 1 tablespoon Cajun Creole seasoning
  14. 5 cups chicken stock
Instructions
  1. Heat a heavy pot over medium high heat, and add the oil.  Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and sear in the hot pan until lightly golden brown on each side.  Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add the sausage to the same pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.  Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. To make the roux, reduce the heat to medium, and melt the butter.  Whisk in the flour into the butter. Stir the roux constantly until it reaches a deep reddish-brown color.  I may not have let mine get that dark – it could take up to 15 minutes.  Add in the onions, celery, carrots (green pepper if you remember!) and Brussels sprouts to the roux, and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add in the garlic and Cajun spice and stir until aromatic.  Season with salt and pepper.  Return the sausage to the pot, along with the chicken stock.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and cook uncovered for 45 minutes.
  4. Stir in the shrimp and continue to cook an additional 2 minutes.  Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.
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calories
294
fat
17g
protein
18g
carbs
16g
more
Adapted from The Chopping Block
My Bizzy Kitchen http://www.mybizzykitchen.com/
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Yep, we are back to awful kitchen lighting, and it was only 6:45 when I served this.  The broth was thick, spicy and delicious.  I served mine with 1/2 cup of white rice.   Jacob had a friend whose Dad made gumbo (with okra, which turns out Jacob loves) who spent two days making it, so while he enjoyed this “soup” he was expecting something like his friends Dad made.  Hannah?  She ate leftover broccoli cheddar soup that I brought home from the class. 

Today is a work day – whoop!  It’s Beef on the Grill at Lincoln Square – grilled strip steaks with bacon-chive butter and grilled corn and green bean succotash; Greek burgers on Pita with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce and Feta and Ginger and Cumin Spiced Beef and Pineapple Kebabs with cilantro-mint chutney – sounds delicious!

Make it a great day!

Mini Falafel Bites

Mini Falafel

This is going to be a very disjointed post, so just be prepared Smile with tongue out

I am blogging late because I slept in until the last dog was hung before having to get my ass out of bed to Weight Watchers, which I haven’t been to in the last three weeks.  My eats and schedule have been all over the map, and I am realizing that I really have to plan my food a lot better than I have been doing.  Oh, and maybe ditching the wine and extra licks and tastes at work.  I gained 2.8 these last three weeks, which puts me 1.6 above where I started back in April – but still, I consider basically maintaining a victory in and of itself, so it’s all good.

Yesterday was on the cool side, a bit over cast and I got my stuff together to meal plan, grocery shop and just map out my week.

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I love my Cabot Cheese coffee mug – the handle and size of the mug is perfect.   As I was sitting outside doing my healthy meal plan, the mail came and my Aunt Cele sent me this magazine:

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A good friend of hers in South Carolina’s sister writes for the publication.  Her name is Terri Milligan and you have to check out some of her recipes here.   Lynne, Mel and Jessica I thought of you guys because she does cooking demonstrations all around Wisconsin, even in Door County and Louise, she even has a cooking class coming up in Appleton!

I am making braised carrots from that magazine later this week, I’ve never cooked carrots like that before (and they have a recipe for carrot top pesto which I am going to try too).  But what I really want to do is make that cherry apple pie on the cover!  Even after smelling and tasting pies at Apple Fest this last weekend, I still could eat pie.

**************

I had my 30th high school reunion on Saturday night.  My twin sister didn’t go because it was her daughters first high school homecoming, so the question of the night was “where is your sister?!” 

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I spent the night at my Mom’s house because I had to be back to work at the Apple Fest early the next night.  Before I left I got the lecture “don’t drink too much, drive safe and do you have a key to the house?”  Unbeknownst to me though, was that while my Mom left the back porch light on for me, I didn’t realize that I should have turned it off when I got home at 11:15.  She woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and saw the light was on and thought I was still out!  Well, maybe there was precedent there, because that’s something I would have done 25 years ago!

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My outfit?  $9 at my local thrift store, including the shoes.   Andrea, I thought you’d be impressed with my thrift store score (but I really could have used your styling skills!)  I was actually belting out I am Beautiful by Christina Agulera when my Mom took this picture – it cracks me up every time I look at it!

PicMonkey Collage - reunion

The man standing on the bar doing an OPRF cheer is Spe, our class President.  He has a ten year old son who is so cute.  The top right picture?  That’s John, and I’ve known him since I was 4.  Middle picture is my friend Beth (who just moved back to the area – once you get settled I am coming over to make pizza!) and my friend Ellyn.  Bottom picture is my buddy Franck who I was in homeroom with.   It was great catching up with people, although with the advent of Facebook and all the other social media, there really weren’t any surprises.  My only complaint was that the music was really loud and it made having conversations a bit tough – I had a scratchy voice the next day do to all the loud talking I did the night before.  Is that a sign that I am getting old, that I am complaining about the loud music?!

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Last week when my friend Jacky told me I should have gotten the falafel at the Merchandise Mart before work last week, I’ve been having a jones for it ever since.  When my Mom and I were downtown last week to have her birthday lunch, I picked up some pita bread at Naf Naf Grill.  Holy balls is it fluffy and delicious!  Only one tiny problem – one pita bread after I weighed it was just under 8 smart points.   So I decided to make mini falafel bites and place them on sliced cucumber, and cut half of the pita in half and toasted it to make a more point friendly lunch.  The recipe below is for the falafel – you can accessorize with store bought hummus, tzatziki or olives.

Mini Falafel
Serves 3
A quick and easy vegetarian dish that even meat lovers will love!
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
334 calories
52 g
0 g
9 g
14 g
1 g
98 g
414 g
7 g
0 g
7 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
98g
Servings
3
Amount Per Serving
Calories 334
Calories from Fat 75
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 9g
13%
Saturated Fat 1g
4%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 5g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 414mg
17%
Total Carbohydrates 52g
17%
Dietary Fiber 12g
50%
Sugars 7g
Protein 14g
Vitamin A
8%
Vitamin C
10%
Calcium
16%
Iron
26%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup chick peas (I used canned, drained)
  2. 1 cup cilantro (I really, really love cilantro!)
  3. 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  4. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  5. 4 tablespoons flour
  6. 1 teaspoon cumin
  7. 1 teaspoon pepper spice blend (see note below)
  8. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  9. 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (for pan frying)
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, add cilantro and pulse until chopped up.  Add in remaining ingredients except for the grapeseed oil, and pulse just until combined.  I got 12 patties out of this using my melon baller, so if you make bigger falafel, just adjust the points.  My calculation is that four (including the oil for frying) come in at 5 smart points.  I fried four at a time, using 1 teaspoon of grapeseed oil per pan fry, for about 2 minutes a side.  I topped mine with tzatziki and a bit of sriracha for a spicy kick.
Notes
  1. * I used The Spice & Tea Exchange Gourmet Pepper Spice Blend, but you could substitute 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper in it's place.
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calories
334
fat
9g
protein
14g
carbs
52g
more
My Bizzy Kitchen http://www.mybizzykitchen.com/
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These were so delicious!  Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside and I opened up each pita, stuffed the cucumber and falafel into each triangle of the pita and had mini falafel bites.  I will definitely make this again.  And soon!

This is the spice packet I used from The Spice & Tea Exchange for the pepper in the recipe – I’d substitute 1/2 a teaspoon of crushed red pepper in it’s place if you don’t have it. 

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***************

Hannah and I hung outside late yesterday afternoon and decided to burn down our fire pit since we haven’t had a fire since early spring.   The luxury of living in an unincorporated area, we can pretty much burn anything we want.  The only problem is that once we let the pit go, all the vegetation grows around it, so I feel like I am burning nature and wood at the same time Open-mouthed smile

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***********

I was supposed to work today, but got called off because of low attendance for the class I was going to work.  And I was already scheduled off tomorrow, so my next work day isn’t until Thursday.  I am taking advantage of the time off and spending time organizing my basement more before garbage day on Friday.  I also need to get a filing cabinet to put important stuff in that’s off the floor in case of water in my basement that happens from time to time.  Hannah and I are going to get our eyebrows threaded at Wal-mart this afternoon and I’ll checkout the Goodwill there to see if I can find some organizational stuff. 

Let me know if you make the falafel – I’d love to hear what you think of it!  Make it a great day!

We Made A lot of Pie. . .dough

When I was scheduled for “pie production” I really didn’t know exactly what I was going to be doing.  All I knew is that it was going to be a long day because I started at 8:00 a.m. and was scheduled to 5:00 p.m.  Did I mention this was at the Lincoln Square location, which meant I would be driving exactly during rush hour.  Let’s just say it took me two hours to drive to work – I need to do a dry run to take public transportation to Lincoln Square, which would require me taking the Metra from Cary to Chicago, then switching to the Brown Line for 15 stops before exiting a block away from work.  The price I pay for living a country life and working in the city! 

But it’s totally worth it.  I was telling my Mom the other day that I can hear Tony’s voice telling me how stupid it is working 40 miles away from where I live, but I keep having to tell him to be quiet, that I’ve got this and everything will be okay.

I ate an English muffin with peanut butter and a banana in the car ride to work.  I was 15 minutes late, and didn’t realize that the owner of the company was going to be there all day – you all know how I hate being late!  It ended up being fine.  After the owner gave us a quick tutorial on how she makes her pie crust we were off to the races.  We were a team of 5 including the owner and we were like an assembly line of two teams.  The owner chopped up the butter and shortening and would portion out exactly how much was needed for each pie crust (top and bottom) 6 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of shortening if you were wondering.  They were frozen so they would stay cold.  Then one of us would portion out the dry ingredients, and another person manned the robot coupe to process the dry ingredients with the fat, then add in the ice cold water, while another person wrapped up the individual crusts in plastic wrap.

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This was supposed to be a two day production of making 500 pie crusts for Apple Fest this weekend.   250 pie crusts yesterday and 250 pie crusts today.  But we had such a rhythm going, that we managed to make all 504 pie crusts from 8:40 a.m. until 4:40 p.m.  We only took a 30 minute break for lunch, which was chicken tacos.  I had one chicken taco and a Diet Coke.

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Um, turns out making pie dough is a bit messy, but my station was the messiest!

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It actually went by super fast.  We listened to music, shared food stories.  It was a lot of fun even if the task was repetitious.   And yes, I was toggling between Diet Coke and coffee.

By the time we cleaned up and I was heading home, it was 5:30 and I thought for sure I’d run into rush hour traffic, but outbound traffic wasn’t bad at all and made it home in just over an hour.  I really didn’t eat much during the day so I was hungry, and literally wanted to stop at every fast food place I saw, but I knew I had stuff to make a quick fried rice, and that’s what I made for dinner.

Beef and Veggie Fried Rice
Serves 1
A super quick dinner using leftover cooked rice. You'll be ready to eat in about 5 minutes!
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Prep Time
1 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
6 min
Prep Time
1 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
6 min
537 calories
62 g
257 g
15 g
35 g
5 g
446 g
601 g
4 g
0 g
9 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
446g
Servings
1
Amount Per Serving
Calories 537
Calories from Fat 136
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 15g
23%
Saturated Fat 5g
26%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 7g
Cholesterol 257mg
86%
Sodium 601mg
25%
Total Carbohydrates 62g
21%
Dietary Fiber 3g
12%
Sugars 4g
Protein 35g
Vitamin A
195%
Vitamin C
91%
Calcium
9%
Iron
18%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 3 ounces lean sirloin steak, chopped
  2. 1 cup cooked white rice
  3. 1/2 cup broccoli, chopped
  4. 1/2 cup carrots
  5. 1 tablespoon pot sticker sauce
  6. 1 teaspoon hot mustard
  7. 1 tablespoon sriracha
  8. 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
  9. 1 large egg, cooked and chopped
Instructions
  1. In a skillet, heat to medium temperature and cook one large egg, just until the yolk isn’t runny.  Set aside and let cool.  Heat pan up to medium high heat.  Spray with Pam and add in your bite size chopped steak to the pan and cook for about a minute and a half.  Set aside with the egg.  Add in the broccoli and carrots and cook for about 2 minutes – you still want them to be crisp tender.  While the veggies are cooking, mix the pot sticker sauce, hot mustard, sriracha and rice wine vinegar together.  Add the chopped egg and steak in with the veggies.  Add the leftover cooked rice, stir to combine.  Pour in the sauce and cook for 1 minute.  Garnish with sesame seeds.  The sauce is 20 calories, so barely a point, but I am counting it as 1 smart point.
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calories
537
fat
15g
protein
35g
carbs
62g
more
My Bizzy Kitchen http://www.mybizzykitchen.com/
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This was hearty, delicious and super quick to put together.  And turns out much healthier than fast food!

I am excited about work tonight at The Chopping Block.  There is going to be a meet and greet with JeanMarie Brownson, who is a local Chef and Writer from the Chicago Tribune.   She will be demonstrating her prosciutto parmesan puffs to start the evening.  Then you’ll dine family style on a roasted beet, radicchio and walnut salad; Chicken Osso Bucco; Crispy Baguette with Herbed Cheese Spread; finished with a Latte Brownie and ice cream while you hear JeanMarie talk about her passion for food and life.  The $85 price tag includes a copy of her cookbook “Dinner at Home.”  Only 3 seats are left!  And I am happy that my schedule allows me to take public transportation, so I can watch youtube videos on my way to work. Open-mouthed smile

It’s a chilly morning, which I love.  Right now I am wrapped up in a snowman throw, with my hot cup of coffee and all the windows open.   And it’s 54 degrees – love!   I love this time of year.

Hope you have an awesome day!

Happy Birthday Tony!

Oh how I wish he was here.  While he didn’t ever want to make a big deal out of his birthday, that just wasn’t an option when you are married to me.  I’d think long and hard on the menu, the gifts, etc.  When I think back to his last birthday, I obviously didn’t know at the time that it would be his last.  I’ve just recently started to read my old blog posts from that summer of 2014 when we were back and forth to Mayo Clinic.  What I can’t believe is that even though he hadn’t had an appetite for the longest time, and even the smell of cooked food sometimes turned him off, I somehow decided it would be a good idea to make him lamb chops because they were his favorite.  I think he maybe ate two bites of one chop, and was apologetic about not eating more.  And as I was clearing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen, I remember hearing him snore because he fell asleep at 7:00 p.m. like his did. 

tony

Maybe next year will be easier to sit outside without the constant reminder that he isn’t sitting across from me with his cigar and Grey Goose on the rocks.  Yesterday when I was trying to decide what to make for dinner that all three of us would eat, Jacob said that he loved a vodka tomato sauce.  Suddenly the idea for pasta and meatballs was on the menu and as I was going to the grocery store to pick up a small bottle of vodka for the sauce, I realized I hadn’t bought vodka at all since the summer of 2014.   I am not sure Tony would have approved of my $8.99 choice though!

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This is my version of a vodka sauce with meatballs.  I love buying what my store calls “chili meat” which is just a thick ground chuck of 85/15. 

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Vodka Sauce with Mini Meatballs
Serves 8
I love having mini meatballs because it feels like you are eating more than you really are. Each meatball comes in at 1 smart point.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
35 min
270 calories
12 g
69 g
12 g
13 g
5 g
171 g
684 g
2 g
0 g
6 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
171g
Servings
8
Amount Per Serving
Calories 270
Calories from Fat 103
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 12g
18%
Saturated Fat 5g
24%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 5g
Cholesterol 69mg
23%
Sodium 684mg
29%
Total Carbohydrates 12g
4%
Dietary Fiber 1g
5%
Sugars 2g
Protein 13g
Vitamin A
6%
Vitamin C
11%
Calcium
7%
Iron
13%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 1 teaspoon olive oil
  2. 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  3. 1 cup vodka
  4. 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  5. 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  6. 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  7. 1/4 cup heavy cream
  8. pinch of salt and pepper
  9. 1 pound ground chuck
  10. 2 ounces of chopped stale Italian bread
  11. 1/4 cup 1% milk
  12. 1 egg
  13. 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  14. 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  15. 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  16. 1 teaspoon salt
  17. 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  18. 1 tablespoon dried parsley
Instructions
  1. In a stock pot, heat the olive oil and add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.  Add in the vodka, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the vodka has been reduced by half.  Add in the Italian seasoning, crushed tomatoes, crushed red peppers, salt pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the heavy cream.  Taste for additional salt.
  2. In a large bowl, put the stale bread and the milk together and mix until the milk is absorbed into the bread.  This is called a panade and keeps your meatballs tender while cooking.  Add in the ground chuck, 1 egg, bread crumbs, Italian seasoning, garlic salt, salt, pepper and dried parsley and mix just until combined, careful not to over mix the meat mixture.  I got 45 meatballs about the size of a marble out of this recipe – each meatball comes in at 1 smart point each.
  3. Heat a skillet with Pam – there is enough fat in the meat that you don’t need to add any additional fat to the pan.  Cook over medium high heat so that there is a nice crust on the outside of the meatball, but not yet fully cooked.  Throw the meatballs into your sauce and put the pan back on a low simmer to let the meatballs cook through, about 10 minutes.
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calories
270
fat
12g
protein
13g
carbs
12g
more
My Bizzy Kitchen http://www.mybizzykitchen.com/
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I ate 6 meatballs for 6 smart points, 1 point for the sauce and 5 points for the cooked pasta for a filling 12 point dinner.   I may be having a mini meatball sandwich for lunch today.

My goal for the day is not to binge eat just because I am feeling sad that Tony isn’t here on his birthday.  Luckily today is a workday – a private party for just 5 people which should be interesting because I haven’t worked a small party like that before.  And I love the chef I am working with and know I can learn a lot from her.  It’s a California Wine Country Menu today:  artichoke focaccia; arugula, avocado and orange salad with a pistachio vinaigrette; roasted chicken with fig balsamic glaze; fennel and new potato salad with whole grain mustard and lemon cheesecake with whipped cream.  Doesn’t that sound delicious?!

So my only request today is to give your spouse or significant other an extra hug and a kiss today.  Hugs!

Steak with Polenta, Mushrooms and Fried Egg

Before I do a recap for of my weekend I have to ask Victoria Z to contact me for the win for my 8 year blog anniversary.  It’s all ready to be shipped, just need an address! 

And I have to share with you my breakfast/lunch/brunch last Thursday.  I am still trying to tweak my eats when I work.  Thursday I just decided to eat a big brunch that was high in protein that would keep me full for hours, and this certainly fit the bill.

Steak with Polenta and Mushrooms

Steak Over Polenta with Mushrooms and Fried Egg
Serves 1
A super filling, yet healthy lunch or dinner. Instant polenta is ready in a matter of minutes which makes this a great weeknight dinner idea.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
501 calories
34 g
290 g
22 g
40 g
9 g
470 g
301 g
1 g
0 g
11 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
470g
Servings
1
Amount Per Serving
Calories 501
Calories from Fat 197
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 22g
34%
Saturated Fat 9g
44%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 9g
Cholesterol 290mg
97%
Sodium 301mg
13%
Total Carbohydrates 34g
11%
Dietary Fiber 2g
9%
Sugars 1g
Protein 40g
Vitamin A
10%
Vitamin C
1%
Calcium
7%
Iron
20%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 4 tablespoons instant polenta
  2. 1 cup water
  3. 4 ounce sirloin steak
  4. 1/3 cup sliced mushrooms
  5. 1 teaspoon butter
  6. 1 fried egg
  7. salt and pepper
  8. dried parsley
Instructions
  1. Instant polenta is going to be found on the pasta aisle.  Bring 1 cup of water to a boil.  Add in the 4 tablespoons instant polenta and stir on and off for five minutes.  Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste.  Meanwhile, cook your steak in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  I like my beef on the rare side, so I cooked this steak about 2.5 minutes per side.  Remove the steak to rest.  Add in the teaspoon of butter and add the mushrooms.  When the mushrooms are almost done, fry your egg to desired doneness.  To plate:  put the polenta on the bottom, steak and egg on top and drizzle with the buttered mushrooms and garnish with dried parsley.  The smart point breakdown:  polenta (4) steak (4) butter (1) and egg (2).
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calories
501
fat
22g
protein
40g
carbs
34g
more
My Bizzy Kitchen http://www.mybizzykitchen.com/
This was so filling it really did keep me full throughout my whole shift.  Friday I worked a day shift and didn’t have to be to work until 10:30.  I  decided to take the train because I didn’t want to deal with Chicago traffic coming home at rush hour, and that worked out perfectly.  I had a coupon for $10 my first order at Graze Kitchenette at Revival Food Hall, but found out when I arrived there that they aren’t open for breakfast just yet.  So it was on to Plan B.  I bought a breakfast sandwich at Graze, which was higher in points than I would have wanted, but I brought soup for my lunch so I knew it would balance out.  It was a simple sandwich, but delicious.  I just didn’t want the shallots or tomato jam.  The biscuit was almost croissant like because it was so buttery and flakey.

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I am not sure how I thought I’d have time to eat lunch.  Once I got to work we got to business getting things ready for our private party that started at 1.  One of the greatest things about The Chopping Block is that there is minimal waste.  Not only do they compost all of their garbage (Merchandise Mart is the largest green certified building in the country), they donate any unused food to area non-profit agencies to repurpose the food at homeless shelters among other places.  They also have a “chef’s bin” in the walk-in, which is basically leftover products that weren’t fully used at any given event.  The party we had on Thursday night didn’t order any specific appetizer, so my trainer Jess came up with idea of making this roasted Brussels sprout tart made with a goat cheese/Dijon mustard sauce once we saw there was a bag of unused Brussels sprouts in the walk in.

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Guys – I am a new believer in Brussels sprouts! My mother in law will be happy to hear that, because it’s one of her favorite vegetables.  We roasted the sprouts in garlic grapeseed oil and it was absolutely delicious.

I also got to try Sea Bass, which was amazing.  The chef made a quick pesto to place over the top when it came out of the oven, so it basically melted over the top.  Why do I have to love the most expensive fish?  My store sells sea bass for $25 a pound.

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On Friday I worked in the large kitchen.  This one is used for a lot of cooking demonstrations because of the mirrors up above.

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One of the appetizers for this party was grilled flatbread with goat cheese spread and heirloom tomatoes.  My trainer asked if I wanted to take the lead on that dish and then asked “have you made pizza dough before?”  Ha!

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While the dough was rising, I set the table for 21 people.

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It’s been a while since I’ve cooked on a gas stove, but I managed to save it before burning it.

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The menu was homemade pasta with two sauces.  They were impressed with how simple making homemade pasta is.  The Chopping Block does cheater pasta dough like me and uses a food processor which makes the whole process so much easier.   And as always, my work shift went by in the blink of an eye.  And I never had a chance to eat my soup.  Note so self – bring a sandwich or finger food to make it easier to get my food in. 

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Saturday was the last day of getting up at 3:45 a.m. to work my last farmers market.  When I turned off my alarm, I saw I had an unread text message, and it was from one of the guys that works in the kitchen.

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Of course I had to reply “thanks B!  hope you have a f*cking great day!”   When I got back to the shop, my buddy Alberto was coming back from his market.  I was going to tell him how much I appreciated his friendship this summer, but when I went back into the kitchen, he was gone.  He texted me a minute later “I don’t say goodbye.  I will see you soon and we will go eat somewhere, ok?!” 

I handed my key back to the owner.  He gave me lots of hugs, and thanked me for my hard work this summer.  I am sure it will be like most jobs and I’ll never see anyone of these people again, but who knows?

I had every intention of taking a nap when I got home, but I hadn’t made my dessert for a fund raiser my friend was having for another friend of ours (both from the Cooking Club!).  Um, maybe I shouldn’t have chosen such a time consuming dessert?  Also, I had never made these mini caramel apple bites, and I was hoping that they would work out.  Two things I would have done differently.  I would have dipped the whole apple in the caramel sauce, then dipped in the melted chocolate and then in the crushed peanuts.  I am going to repost the recipe when I fix it, but this was how they turned out.

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My friend Courtney was hosting the event at her house.  She requested finger food desserts so you didn’t need any utensils and I love these martini glass tooth picks that I found at Party City.

PicMonkey Collage

The day started out rainy, but it ended up being a gorgeous night.  The clouds eventually moved on and we had a gorgeous sunset.  I met some great people, the wine was delicious and hopefully the guests of honor (you can find out more info for the guests of honor here and donate if you like).  I had no idea how expensive adoption is, and they have already adopted two girls.

I didn’t get home until after midnight, and after getting up at 3:45 in the morning, it was a long day so I really slept in yesterday morning.  I had sweet and savory waffles for breakfast, because I couldn’t decide on which to make.

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I then vegged on the couch for 90 minutes watching back to back episodes of House Crashers on HGTV and 30 minutes of Pioneer Woman.  I have to laugh at this picture because normally Rummy is the one who sits with me and was more than a little upset that Roman sat on my lap for the longest time – which is something he hardly does. 

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After a couple hours I realized I had to get busy.  I had to make lasagna soup, pasta sauce and salsa for my giveaway winner.  I also made more pasta sauce from my friends Alison and Cameron’s garden. 

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I also made pickles with some of their cucumbers.  I haven’t tried to make pickles with regular cucumbers, so I’ll let you know if they work out.

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I had some leftover pizza dough in my fridge so I knew pizza was going to be on my lunch menu.  I have to give a shout out to my friend Jacky who stopped by my last farmers market and picked up some veggie burgers for her daughter that is vegan/vegetarian.  She brought me some of her arugula/basil/lemon pesto and that was the base of my pesto pizza with fresh tomatoes and basil.  This pizza came in at 10 smart points.

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Hannah and Jacob worked all day, so it was nice being in the house by myself all day.  I decided to make quesadillas for the kadults – Hannah just cheese, and I was making steak quesadillas for Jacob and I.  I thought I had low carb tortillas at home for me, but only had regular flour tortillas, and didn’t feel like spending 7 points on two flour tortillas, and opted to switch out the tortillas in place of cilantro lime rice, which I really love.

Except I burned 1/4 of the rice on the stove.  Then as I was placing the remaining rice in a bowl and set it on the counter, I lost my grip and the whole bowl – rice and all – smashed to the ground, breaking the bowl and spraying grains of rice all over half of my kitchen.  Um, I didn’t tell you that I was having a low blood sugar moment, and when that happens, I may get a little angrier than the event calls for.  I had to apologize to Hannah because I was basically a total crazy person for about 15 minutes.  But after I started to eat – all was well!

I made a steak fajita salad.  3 ounces of steak (3) 1/3 cup of Damn Delicious corn salad (3) cojita cheese (2) and using my homemade salsa for a dressing. 

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Last nights beef was this cut:

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This cut is great seared quickly over high heat like I did, or also braised low and slow.  And you guys know I am a sucker for the reduced meat bin at my grocery store.

I am excited about my work week – today I am working a cooking class where we’ll be making garlic shrimp scampi, caprese salad with crispy prosciutto, handmade spinach fettuccine with roasted peppers and gorganzola cream and amaretti-stuffed peaches.  How good does that sound?  And tomorrow I am in Lincoln Square to do a Beef Grilling Class!  Whoop – cannot wait to do that class.  I’ve never used a green egg before, but I know a lot of people rave about them once they use them.  Did I mention that I can get a Big Green Egg for cost after I’ve worked for 90 days?! 

It’s another gorgeous day today – 70 degrees and sunny.  I’ll have plenty of time to get my walk in and do some upper body workout at home today.   I hope you guys had a great weekend.  Make it a great day!

Stuffed Shells with Cherry Tomato Sauce

Stuffed Shells with Cherry Tomato Sauce

I woke up yesterday morning at 4 a.m. to get ready for work and I had the worst stomach ache.  Which is weird, because that hardly ever happens.  But I know I have to eat something because once I get to the shop I have to hit the ground running packing everything up.  I had a toasted English muffin with a schmear of peanut butter.  After a while my stomach settled down.  Weird!  It was a pretty sunrise when I got to the shop.

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I was doing a new market for me, so I was unsure of how it would go.  The previous record for this market was $1006, so that was my goal to beat that.  This one ran from 7 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.

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And for the first hour and a half.  Ghost town!  We were situated right by the Metra station, but hardly anyone walked by.  A Frenchman who sold hummus and olives next to me told me that he keeps telling the market director that this market shouldn’t open before 9, but they won’t listen.  So I walked up and down the street with my breakfast burrito demo and took “vendor” orders for $5 each instead of $8 to get the ball rolling.  I walked back with 7 orders.

I hardly ever sell our mini cheesecakes, so I was determined to sell at least half that I had, and I did.  I did a demo of our mini mixed berry gluten free cheesecake it it was a hit.

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I did the bulk of our sales between 10:00 and 12:00 and ended up with a new sales record – $1126!  I am a tad bit competitive, no?! Smile with tongue out

After work, I headed to Hannah’s work to get lunch.   My stomach was feeling fine and I was really hungry.  She made me their “El Dorado” sandwich.  Grilled turkey panini with chipotle sauce, bacon and cheese.  I ate half and am calling it 10 points because it was on sourdough bread.  So good. 

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We were talking about what to make for dinner, when I remembered that I had ricotta cheese and baby spinach at home.  I am still participating in the Food Waste Challenge, which is going really well.  It does make you think to use up what you have vs. going to the store a few times a week.  Well, I did have to stop at the store for large pasta shells.  That’s one type of pasta I rarely keep stocked in the pantry, even though it’s one of Hannah’s favorites.  As I was walking through the store, I stopped in my tracks. 

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Halloween candy!  Not only is it out, but it’s also on sale, which is weird to me.  I love fall, and Halloween, but when the temps are 50 degrees and there are leaves on the ground.  Not when it’s close to 90 degrees outside.

My friend Alison grew a garden this year and has a bounty of tomatoes.  Like three large Trader Joe’s paper bags filled with tomatoes!  She and her family are on vacation this week, so she asked if I could use them.  Why yes I can.  Actually I am going to be making giant batches of my base pasta sauce and then can it for them to use later on.  They should at least get a benefit from their hard work of tending to a garden!

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Aren’t these gorgeous?!  Normally I would have cheated and bought sauce to make it easy on myself after a long day at the market, but after I took an hour nap I caught my second wind.  This cherry tomato sauce is so easy, it really could be made on a weeknight.

Stuffed Shells with Cherry Tomato Sauce
Serves 4
A great way to use up a bounty of tomatoes!
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
1210 calories
221 g
22 g
15 g
43 g
5 g
523 g
310 g
14 g
0 g
9 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
523g
Servings
4
Amount Per Serving
Calories 1210
Calories from Fat 133
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 15g
23%
Saturated Fat 5g
23%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 6g
Cholesterol 22mg
7%
Sodium 310mg
13%
Total Carbohydrates 221g
74%
Dietary Fiber 11g
44%
Sugars 14g
Protein 43g
Vitamin A
54%
Vitamin C
30%
Calcium
19%
Iron
26%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  2. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  3. 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  4. 1/2 cup water
  5. 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  6. 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  7. pinch of salt and pepper
  8. 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  9. 20 cooked pasta shells
  10. 1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
  11. 2 cups baby spinach
  12. 1 teaspoon garlic
  13. 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  14. 20 slices turkey pepperoni
  15. salt and pepper to taste
  16. 2 ounces part skim mozzarella cheese
Instructions
  1. In a pan, heat olive oil and once the pan is hot, add the garlic and cook for about a minute.  Add in the cherry tomatoes and cook for a few minutes, stirring to coat the cherries in the oil and garlic.  Add the water, crushed red pepper, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper and turn the heat to medium low, put a lid on the pot, and cook for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a food processor, add the ricotta cheese, baby spinach, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper and pulse until combined.  Using a teaspoon, fill each shell with a heaping teaspoon of filling, finishing off with a slice of turkey pepperoni.  Your sauce should be ready by now.  Rinse out the food processor, add the tomato sauce and pulse until it’s pureed.   Return to the pot, stir in the heavy cream and taste to see if it needs more salt.
  2. Pour half of the sauce mixture into a casserole dish.  Place the shells in the sauce.  Top with the mozzarella cheese, and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.   Hannah isn’t a big fan of red sauce, so I served the extra tomato sauce at the table for Jacob and myself.
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calories
1210
fat
15g
protein
43g
carbs
221g
more
My Bizzy Kitchen http://www.mybizzykitchen.com/
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I made this with five shells as a serving, but after plating, I realized 4 would be plenty and it was.  Each plate with the 5 shells comes in at 11 smart points.  I had 15 points going into dinner, so it’s all good.

***********

When I was at the market trying to drum up breakfast business with the other vendors, I came across Standard Market, and they had the most amazing bread display.  I didn’t have my phone with me, but if I work this market again, I am definitely going to take one.  When Hannah was little I used to make her rainbow bread for her sandwiches.  I would make four different loaves of bread, all a different color, then use 1/4 of each colored dough to make my loaf and bake it.  I haven’t thought about rainbow bread in years.  So imagine my surprise when I saw rainbow bagels!  They sold me a 4-pack for $4 (vendor price!) and I surprised Hannah with them.

This morning she is working at the coffee shop.  I woke up at 7:30 this morning to a text of her breakfast – she made a bagel sammie with the rainbow bagel.

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The dogs ended up sleeping with me last night.  They do hog the bed, but I don’t mind.  In the morning, Roman is extra snuggly as he wakes up.  So cute!

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I have WW this morning.  I didn’t go last week, and not sure what the scale will say.  I always do a sneak peak weigh in at home on WI day, but I stepped on it right out of bed, and the battery is dead and I don’t have any replacements.  Oh well, it is what it is.

Since I worked yesterday I have today and tomorrow off this week.  I have lots of pasta sauce to make and canning to do – among the usually laundry list of things to do.  Make it a great day!