Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hall & Sloats: Whoa-oh here she comes. She’s a slow cooker!

I should preface this post by explaining that my husband Joe and I have been around each other for so long, we speak our own language. I don’t mean a cutesy sort of lovey-dovey language. I mean we have a weird habit of making up our own abbreviated words for things.

If you hear us talking to each other in public you might think we sound like a couple with “special needs”. Somehow Italian garlic and oil sauce (aglio e olio) has become alool. Ice cream is affectionately called screamies, and scrambled eggs with salsa and cheese has somehow morphed into crazy eggs. In some instances we abandon the spoken word all together and resort to hand signals. It’s bizarre, I agree. But look at us, would you expect anything else?

So now you can understand why this SLOW COOKER OATMEAL came to be called “The Sloat.”

I really like having a hot breakfast in the morning and oatmeal is a welcome departure from Egg Beaters and turkey sausage. The instant packet oatmeal isn’t the greatest. To make it quick cooking and microwave friendly, a lot of the packets contain artificial flavors and sweeteners.

This oatmeal took two failed attempts before I realized you have to use steel cut oats. Rolled oats just don’t work. Take one was more of an oatmeal-flavored soup. Take two woke me up in the middle of the night with the smell of burning brown sugar cementing to the sides of the pot.

By take three I switched to steel cut oats. They take longer to cook and stand up perfectly to slow cooking. The pellet shaped grain is closer to bulgur or al dente cous cous than it is to what American’s typically think of as oatmeal. It maintains a chewy texture even after being slow cooked overnight.

Selling points for The Sloat
  • It cooks while you’re sleeping and the whole house will smell like cinnamon.
  • Sweeteners and dried fruit mix-ins are interchangeable for different flavor combinations.
  • It’s super creamy despite being cooked in water.
  • Leftovers can be brought back to life in the microwave and enjoyed for the next few days by adding a splash of water to the bowl, covering it in plastic wrap and reheating.
  • The Sloat is just really silly to say and bound to make you laugh at least once. 

Oats on Foodista

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Come to the Dark (Leafy Greens) Side!

Three healthy eating challenges:

#1 = being bored to death with steamed vegetables.

#2 = finding a side dish that feels exciting enough to serve guests (or the guests I’d like to have over if I could fit more than four in my kitchen. Anyone who’d like to come over and eat from a “kids table” kind of setup in my living room is more than welcome).

#3 = having to eat my two foot Easter bunny at a rate of one nibble per day.

I’m solving number one and two with BAKED SPINACH. My normal preparation of baby spinach is wilted in olive oil and garlic. It’s getting a little stale. It feels boring. When I’m bored with a vegetable, I want French fries, or mashed potatoes, or forget the side dish and just give me a slice of cake, NOW!

If I can keep my veggie options varied and interesting, I don’t miss the bad stuff. This baked spinach is similar to a gratin except it’s cream-free and uses only a small amount of gruyere cheese (I guess what I’m saying is that it’s nothing like a gratin but comes in the same nifty baking dish).

The sautéed spinach is mixed with creamy gruyere and topped with crispy breadcrumbs. The cheese flavor is mild, so the spinach can taste like spinach and not be forced to drown in a river of cream. 

I served this alongside a roast beef and the plate could have easily been served for Easter dinner. It’s just as appropriate for a quick weeknight meal. It’s low in calories but high in specialness, far superior to (insert generic steamed vegetable here).

Don’t treat your greens with a lack of enthusiasm. Don’t toss them on the plate as an afterthought. You’ll look forward to this. Embrace the power of dark leafy greens. Welcome vitamin K and antioxidants into your life with open arms!

As for the Easter bunny, I guess I have no choice but to share it with my husband. Maybe he can resist the enticing stare of those sugary eyes!

Spinach on Foodista

Friday, April 8, 2011

Spoiler Alert: This is Not a Cookie

I don’t want to eat much before I’m bouncing around on the treadmill Yes, bouncing. I’ve been called a lot of things, but graceful never seems to make the list. What I really need before my clumsy workout is a little bite, just enough to reenergize.

Luna Bars are my staple snack. They’re formulated with essential vitamins and minerals specifically for women’s health. It’s not like they’re going to boost your bra size (darn), I just happen to like the flavors and appreciate that they’re made from all-natural ingredients.

At 180 calories a bar, they’re a little big for a bite. The company does make Luna Minis, but the flavors are limited and get pretty boring. So, I cut the full size bars in half and pack them in little plastic baggies.

I whipped out one of my plastic baggie snack packs on the train the other day and the guy next to me looked at me like I was completely bonkers. The resulting conversation went something like this:

 “Is that half a granola bar?”
 “Yeah, and?”
 “Lady, go wild. Eat the whole bar.”

Get a load of this guy. Apparently grabbing slivers of food from baggies hiding in the depths of your purse is NOT the norm around here. I came across these CARROT OATMEAL BITES on Chiot’s Run. I thought they might take the place of buying a store bought granola bar and chopping it to bits.

Please note: The recipe is actually intended for pure maple syrup but I only keep
sugar free in the house. The bites turned out just fine anyway. 

Don’t be fooled by their signature cookie shape. These aren’t overly sweet and really taste more like a granola bar than any cookie I’ve ever tried. But, I love how hearty and filling they are. Plus, I got to experiment with coconut oil, which I’ve never used before.

By using coconut oil instead of butter and eggs, these cookies are vegan approved. The original recipe calls for unrefined coconut oil, which I couldn’t find. But, the refined oil (processed to remove any impurities and eliminate the coconutty taste) was right in the organic aisle of the regular supermarket.  Unrefined (unmessed-with) is always better, but I couldn’t get my hands on it the day I needed it.

Either way, this is pretty cool stuff. It looks like beeswax in the jar, but you can melt it and pour it right into your baking in place of the butter. Just make sure you melt the oil right before you want to incorporate it into the rest of your ingredients. Once it cools off, it’s back to beeswax consistency.

I’ve been eating one of these cookies before each workout this week. They’re packed with trail mix-like energizing ingredients. They’re nutty with little bursts of sweetness from the dried fruit. I went light on the ginger since I didn’t want this to turn into a gingersnap, but I thought the ginger added an interesting spicy element.

I had fun with these. You can easily change up the mix-ins and create a completely different tasting bite for the next batch. Hiding carrots in there is a pretty sneaky way to get some extra veggies in. I stashed half the bites in the freezer to have again next week. If you’re looking to avoid a confrontation with strangers on the train, give these “cookies” a try. Add your own spin. Go wild. 

Carrot on Foodista

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Healthy Bacon Pizza. Yes…I said HEALTHY.

My brother James completely cracks me up. He’s a 25-year-old home beer brewer/International culinary enthusiast/fearless cook.  While I’m trying to figure out how I can get a really spectacular dinner on the table quickly, he’s making Julia Child’s all day Boeuf Bourguignon and pairing it perfectly with his favorite craft brew of the week. James sends me this Facebook post a few days ago:

"Trish, I have a Diet It Up challenge for you. Can you think of a way to healthy-up Tarte Flambée? It's a French flatbread covered in crème fraiche, bacon and onion. I feel like there's a healthy variant out there somewhere, I just can't quite find it."

A healthy bacon pizza? I call that an oxymoron of epic proportions. Obviously my own brother was trying to set me up for a Saturday afternoon of eating failed pizza attempts (given my inability to throw anything away). I don’t know much about the French or their food. The last time I checked, Flambée was something set on fire.

A quick search turned up a recipe from the beautiful blog, Smitten Kitchen. I was able to learn what the Alsatian specialty is supposed to look and taste like. Her recipe gave me a great starting point to launch my own clever swap outs and culinary substitutions.

First off, I made my own HONEY WHOLE WHEAT PIZZA DOUGH. I always take the lazy route and grab a frozen ball of dough from Whole Foods. That’s perfectly fine. But, if you want to go the extra mile and make your own dough, I highly recommend this one. The hint of honey adds a subtle sweetness that pairs perfectly with salty pizza toppings. I cut the ball of dough into 4 to make portion-controlled individual servings.

The creamy “crème fraiche” base is made with a mixture of ricotta and sour cream (part-skim of course). Instead of bacon, I made crispy, crumbled prosciutto by baking slices of it in the oven. The fat drips away from the meat leaving the same salty, smoky flavor with much less fat.

I know the authentic flatbread is made with raw onions. I don’t love the bite of so much raw onion, so I went with Smitten’s approach and very lightly caramelized them in some olive oil. They are melt-in-your mouth silky.

The final BACON & ONION PIZZA was a flavorful combination of salty and sweet, creamy and crunchy. It may not be the most “diet” of all things I’ve ever made, but it’s certainly a significant calorie reduction from the original.

We ate the leftovers the next day for brunch with a runny, over easy fried egg on top…because runny fried eggs make every day just a little bit brighter.

Do you have an idea for a Recipe Slimdown? Send me your gut busters and I’ll take a stab and turning them into waist slimmers.

Prosciutto on Foodista

Monday, April 4, 2011

Munchos Reincarnated

Remember Munchos? I know they’re still around, but since most mainstream companies have ditched trans fats, I wonder if they’re still the greasy, salty, potato conglomerates of generations past.  I loved them.

Back in high school, kids lined up outside 7-11 after school. I wasn’t one of the cool kids sitting on the curb drinking a 40 from a paper bag. I was the nerdy, chubby kid grabbing a bag of Munchos and rushing home to study Calculus. 

I don’t care what anyone says, those chips were glorious. They aren’t even totally a potato chip. Frito Lay stretches the potato with corn. If you want to see a few examples of what corn has done to our lives, check out the movie King Corn. It’s rather enlightening.  

I recently stumbled onto Pop Chips. My cafeteria at work sells them and I thought I’d take a chance. Low and behold, Pop Chips are the all-natural reincarnation of Munchos! Hooray! They’re “popped” with air rather than baked or fried. They do use a little rice flour as a binder, but for the most part, they’re a crispy, salty potato chip.  They taste exactly like the Munchos I remember, but with fewer calories and more than half the fat missing from the equation.

It’s Monday. Go wild. Grab yourself a bag and enjoy. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011


In honor of my new Twitter account, I'd like to show off my "evil" laboratory, complete with bird friends (the newest members of the family, Gertie and Clevis). Follow me @DietItUp on Twitter. I can promise a plethora of food related ramblings.