Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts

The Atkins Diet: Does It Work?

Brandon and I are engaged, and are doing what most couples do when planning for a wedding: diet.

(Read our engagement story HERE)

Being the meat-eaters that we are, we decided to do the Atkins diet. Let me start by clearing up a common misconception:

You are allowed to eat carbs on the Atkins diet.

In fact, you need to eat carbs. The problem is, most of us just eat too many.

The idea behind the Atkins diet is to start drastic. Shock your body into it. You do this by not just eliminating most carbs, but by eliminating a lot of foods as well. Those first two weeks are a bunch of veggies and protein. Daily net carb intake is around 22 grams. That's not a lot.

As time goes on and you get closer to your weight loss goals, you introduce more carbs. Eventually, you figure out how many carbs you can/should consume daily in order to maintain a healthy weight. It's intended to be a lifestyle change.

The first few days suck.

I mean, really suck. You're basically just starving all day, every day. Which is actually another common myth:

You do not get to eat as much as you want.

Yes, the types of food you can eat are limited, but your portions should really be limited, too. If you eat 2 lbs of cheese every day, you're not going to lose weight.

So the first few days are limited carbs, and small meals. I was hungry, tired and grumpy. That being said, the food you can eat is great!

Brandon actually started getting extremely sore as well. Ordinary activities would leave his muscles very tender. We did a little research and found out that it was being caused by a mineral deficiency because of the change in diet. He supplemented with Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium and he felt instant relief.

I felt better around Day 4.

This is when I started to feel less hungry and get some of my energy back. I learned tricks that worked for me, for example: the later I eat my breakfast, the better I do throughout the day.

The earlier I ate, the earlier I snacked, the earlier I was hungry. I could generally go between 2-3 hours between meals, so eating earlier in the day meant the time between my afternoon snack and dinner was verrryyyyyyy long.

The Meals

As I had mentioned before, most of the food is great.

One of the reasons I really liked the diet was because of the convenience. Atkins makes frozen meals, snacks, protein shakes, even dessert! Being able to just grab a snack I knew fit the diet made it much easier not to cheat. But the prepared meals get old.

Luckily, Atkins has great recipes, and plenty of them on their website. I tried really hard to always make something for dinner, and breakfast when I could. That way we got some decent variety and didn't tire of the frozen meals as quick.

My one complaint about the recipe section of the Atkins website is that it's really not user-friendly. You can search by:
  • Phase (this lets them know how many carbs you can have)
  • Keywords
  • Type of meal (snack, entree, breakfast, etc.)
All of those things are nice, but then I would frequently run into these issues:
  • Recipes calling for Atkins Baking Mix
    • No idea what that was, it's not something you can buy in stores, it's actually another recipe in and of itself.
  • Multiple versions of the same recipe
    • So I would look up the ingredients for a recipe, buy them, look up the recipe again and find that I was missing an ingredient, or bought too many. And then the cooking instructions would be slightly different.
  • Unclear measuring units
    • Instead of cups, tablespoons, etc., some recipes would call for servings or units.
    • One recipe I looked up, in the directions, said it required 2 cups of Atkins baking mix (please see first bullet), but that amount never changed, regardless of how many servings you said you were making. Since this ingredient wasn't actually listed on the list of ingredients, I was very unclear on how much I really needed.
  • Recipes are listed in alphabetical order
    • It sounds convenient, but it's not. When I would browse through the recipes for dinner ideas, there would literally be 17 pages of recipes, but not wanting to click through every single page, I would basically only see the recipes from the first 4 pages.
Since then, I've just started Googling low-carb dinner ideas and gotten some really yummy recipes.

I should also mention two other things I've discovered:
  • Eating healthy is very expensive. Many of the recipes I use call for crazy ingredients I've never heard of (there is an incredible variety of flour out there) and a lot of these ingredients can only be found at specialty stores like Whole Foods.
  • GLUTEN FREE FOOD IS HIGH IN CARBS!!! Sorry, gluten-avoiders! There are SO MANY gluten-free options out there, but the amount of carbs in a lot of those foods is outrageous.

Our Results

We're still going, but results have been good, so far. Brandon, who was already thin to begin with, lost 14 lbs in the first two weeks.

My results have come much slower. I lost about 5 lbs the first two weeks, but have been slowly dropping a pound or two at a time. A month in, I'm about 10lbs down.

Is it Sustainable?

I would say yes...as long as you're flexible.

Life isn't always going to provide you with low-carb options. Brandon and I just went to Mexico and were very hard-pressed to find low-carb options. A lot of the fish was breaded, and tacos are served on....you guessed it...carb-packed tortillas! (We weren't about to go to Mexico and not eat tacos.) So we ate a little less and made sure to spend time at the gym or swimming to work it off a little.

It's a balancing act and a lifestyle choice. Smaller portions, fewer carbs. I would still never turn down a slice of pizza, but I have the discipline to trade my side of french fries for a healthier option. You have to be realistic and make choices that will work for your lifestyle. As another example: it's just not realistic to say that Brandon and I will stop drinking. And alcohol has a lot of carbs! We tried vodka for a while, but that's just plain dangerous! So that's where we know we're getting our fair share of carbs - in our (red) wine and (low-carb) beer. It means a lot of salads for dinner, but it works for us.

And people have gotten so creative these days that there's really not a whole lot you can't have. I just had pancakes for breakfast! They had a bunch of difficult-to-find ingredients, but they were delicious. And you can make just about anything out of cauliflower. It's not always good, but it is what it is.


Do you have any Atkins wisdom you'd like to share? Comment below.

Gameday Solution: HORMEL GATHERINGS Party Trays

*I received free product in exchange for my honest review

I love football season.

Do you know what I don't love? Worrying about food while I watch those football games that I love so much.

In the past I have always gone out to a sports bar to watch games. It's fun! But as of late, the idea of going to a crowded bar only to fight my way to a seat and hope that the game I want to watch is on the TV I'm closest to has lost its appeal. So I've been watching the games at home, there's just one set-back: the food. And more than that, cleaning up the food when I'm done.

Courtesy of Hormel, I tried out one of their HORMEL GATHERINGS Party Trays. Party trays make me a little nervous because they're so hit-or-miss. Either the cheese is disgusting, or there's something else in there I don't like. But I went out and got the HORMEL GATHERINGS party tray with the salami. Here's what I thought:


Pretty tasty

It was pretty good! To be fair, it's not your top-of-the-line party tray, but it's also not priced that way. The cheese is good (obviously, the most important factor for me), the salami was tasty, and the crackers are just normal crackers.

I brought a tray to my family Thanksgiving get-together and it made for the perfect appetizer while the meal was cooking. We worked hard at snacking while watching the Vikings work hard to beat the Lions. The family approved of my appetizer choice.

Easy

Like I said before, the only thing worse than cooking the gameday food is cleaning up the gameday food. Between the party tray, a few paper plates and napkins, all I needed was a trash can (and maybe a vacuum) to clean up. Finger foods are so great in that way. Not to mention the ZERO amount of preparation it took. Easy appetizer.

Variety

As far as meat and cheese trays go, you get a little bit of variety. No matter which tray you choose, you're going to get a couple of options. Here are your choices:

  • Hard salami and pepperoni
  • Honey ham and turkey
  • Supreme (which has meat, cheese, crackers and olives)
Every tray has two different kinds of meat and two different kinds of cheese. Crackers come standard-issue.



All-in, the party trays worked out well for me. I think they're a great, easy solution when you need snacks. Be it a football game, or another get-together, the HORMEL GATHERINGS Party Trays are easy and enjoyable. They're pretty big, though. I'd only recommend getting a tray if you plan on having at least 3-4 guests over, even though the tray can definitely feed more.

Would you like to try one? Email me or leave a comment for a chance to win a free HORMEL GATHERINGS party tray. U.S. only.

Colorado Green Chili Recipe

There is nothing better than a pot of green chili.

Eat it with your eggs, smother your burrito, throw it over your mac and cheese, or just eat it with a couple of tortillas.

I grew up in Colorado and I've been eating green chili my whole life. If you're not from here, let me explain some things: Roasted chile peppers are like gold. Pueblo, Colorado happens to have the perfect conditions to grow a mean green chile and when they are in season, watch out. People stock up on these things like they'll never get the chance to buy them again. I mean, they buy them by the bushel. That's over 20 lbs. of peppers. And then you've got to get them roasted because if they're not roasted...well then what's the point? So before they're out of season, you will find Coloradans from all over the state hoarding their bushels in the freezer so that they've got them all year. New Mexico has also got some great peppers.

Please note: I'm using chili to talk about the stew and chile to talk about the pepper.

The peppers are hard enough to get (the ones in the grocery store aren't the same, you want the right amount of heat, come people like them roasted with garlics, etc. etc. etc.). But if you can get your grimy little hands on some...good luck figuring out how to turn them into a green chili stew. The recipes are like sacred family secrets that NOBODY is willing to share. And after 29 long years, my friends...I've done it. AND I'M NOT SHARING! Just kidding.


I need to give a big shoutout to my friend, Colbyrae, who is from Pueblo, Colorado, and showed me her secret ways.

Colorado Green Chili

...Not to be confused with New Mexico green chili, which is thinner and I don't know what else, but it's NOT THE SAME.
Diced green chiles - a few leftover seeds is okay.

Ingredients

  • 8 ROASTED green chiles...Anaheim if you can get them, otherwise Hatch is fine
    • No, you cannot roast them yourself. Leave that to the professionals, people.
    • Skin them
    • Deseed and dice them
  • Pork (raw)
    • Be like me and buy the kind that's already diced for you!
  • Vegetable oil
    • Apparently canola oil has a weird flavor
  • Flour
  • Chicken stock, a little bit (optional)
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt...lots
  • Garlic salt...a little bit
  • 1 can of whole tomatoes
  • Water

Instructions

Step 2: Add flour.
  1. Put 1.5 tablespoons of vegetable oil on the bottom of a pan on medium-high heat. When it's shiny, throw in the pork and cook until brown. Add some salt to create sweat.
  2. Once the pork starts getting brown, add up to 1/3 cup of flour. The more flour, the thicker the stew. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the (roasted, skinned, deseeded and diced) green chiles.
  4. Add the (minced) garlic cloves and the can of tomatoes.
  5. This seems like a good time to add more salt...go for it! And stir it all up for a few more minutes.
  6. Throw in that garlic salt. Got onion salt? A little onion salt never hurt anyone...throw that in, too (optional)!
  7. If you've got about 1/4 cup of chicken stock, now's the time to add that.
  8. Slowly add water and keep stirring until you've reached the desired thickness (I don't know how much that is, sorry). 4 cups maybe? Maybe more? Just add water until it looks right.
  9. Tip: Green chili is best served with margaritas
  10. Let those flavors cook together for a few minutes and then serve it up!
I hope you enjoy! My directions weren't exact, but as I've come to find...good cooks don't measure things. Just do what feels right!

Canning 101: Pickling in 7 Easy Steps

Call me Peter Piper because I've been pickling peppers (and cucumbers).

For the first time in my life, I have a full blown garden. It has been great for my eating habits and I am proud to announce that I have reached the next level: pickling. That's right, my friends, I made pickles!

Side note: I hate pickles, my boyfriend forced me to do it.

While pickles are disgusting, making them was quite the experience! This same process applies to pickling peppers, so follow along:

Step one: The equipment

Be sure that you've got:
  • A nice, heavy knife
  • A cutting board
  • Mason jars (I prefer the wide-mouth variety)
  • A large pot for the brine
  • Another large pot called a canner (be sure it has a rack)
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Pickling spices (I used McCormick's)
  • A jar lifter
  • Cucumbers
  • Optional: cayenne peppers

Step two: Cut the veggies

The trick here is to cut your cucumbers to the right length. You want them to be about 1/4 inch shorter than the jar, this is called head space. It helps to make a mark on the cutting board so that you don't have to manually measure each cucumber.

Then you cut down the cucumber so that it is the desired length. Be sure that you're at least cutting about a quarter inch from the end of the cucumber that has all the yellow lines (the blossom end). Leaving that end on the cucumber when you make spears will affect the flavor. Another hint: Cucumbers that are too big don't taste as good.


Quarter the cucumber to make 4 spears. On thicker cucumbers you can sometimes cut them down even more to make 6 or 8 spears.

If you want to add some spice, also cut up some cayenne peppers. It's okay if they're still green.

Step three: Get the brine cooking and the water bath boiling

The McCormick's spice mix made it easy. Just boil up one part water, one part vinegar, and add the spice.

You'll also want to get the water bath going in the canning pot. The idea here is to have enough water that it will cover the top of the jars, but not so much that it spills over when you put the jars in. The amount of water is going to depend on the size of the pot.

Step four: Fill the jars

While the brine is cooking, put the spears and the peppers in the sanitized mason jars, fitting as many spears as you can. It helps to put the peppers in first.


PLEASE NOTE: If you don't want spicy pickles, leave out the peppers.

Step five: Add the brine

Once the brine is sufficiently boiled, add it to the jars to fill them nearly to the top. Be sure to get those spices in there, they tend to sink to the bottom of the pot.

This step sounds easy, but it was probably the most difficult for me. I kept spilling and overfilling the jars. WHOOPS!

Put the lids on the mason jars, be sure they're tight!

Step six: Water bath

Here is the dangerous part...proceed with caution.

When the water in the canner is boiling, put the rack on. On most pots, the rack will hook onto the sides of the pot. Place the jars on the rack and then lower it.


Cover the pot, still boiling, and leave them in for at least 15 minutes. The higher your elevation, the longer you should boil. I am in the mile high city, Denver, so at 5,250 feet above sea level I add on an additional 5 minutes.

Step seven: The final step

Once you've boiled the mason jars for long enough, remove them from the pot using the jar lifter. If you have a rack in your canning pot it helps to lift the rack back up and hook it to the top of the pot. Dry off the jars and then...we wait. They need to pickle for at least a month before you can eat them. I don't know how you pickle eaters have the patience for that!


Let me know about your pickling experience!



How Growing a Garden Made Me Love Veggies


I am not a health nut.

Outside of my addiction to vitamins (don't even get me started on how Thrive is the greatest thing ever), I focus very little on what I eat. I guess I've always just figured that as long as I play soccer a few times a week I'm welcome to eat that giant calzone for lunch.

My idea of eating healthy is drinking my coffee black instead of adding that splash of half and half. Veggies aren't bad as long as they're steamed and covered in salt or cut up and put inside that Panera broccoli cheddar soup...so good.

One time I grew a tomato plant, but I was so paranoid that I'd find worms in it that I didn't eat a single one of them.

Well then I meet Brandon. Brandon is my polar opposite (country boy meets city girl) and very wonderful boyfriend. Turns out Brandon is quite the green thumb. We met in the winter and knew instantly we were in it for the long haul, so I moved in in the summer.

Over the summer, Brandon has grown this truly spectacular garden. We're talking tomatoes, summer squash, peppers, green beans, GRAPES and who knows what else.


In an effort to make my boyfriend feel like he is a good gardener, I started eating his vegetables and they were SO GOOD! I've heard people talk about how homegrown veggies are better than anything you'll find in the store, and they're not wrong!

I was surprised to find that:

There are A LOT of different kinds of peppers.

Green chilies, bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, cayenne peppers, some other weird red small peppers that are really hot, some not-so-hot yellow peppers that looks like a jalapeños. And this is what I've found in Brandon's garden alone.

What you see in the grocery is not what vegetables look like.

Take cucumbers, for example. They're actually really ugly, all deformed and crooked. Which makes me wonder what it really happening to the vegetables sold at the grocery store. I'll tell you about my first pickling experience another day, that was wild.

You've never had a tomato until you've grown a tomato.

I love tomatoes. I love them so much. But when I ate one of Brandon's cherry tomatoes for the first time I was overwhelmed with the amount of flavor. We also had some tangerine tomatoes, bright orange, that were so juicy and wonderful. I can never buy a tomato again!

Raw veggies make great snacks.

Snap peas and wax beans (which are green beans, except yellow) are my new go-to snack. They're crunchy and delicious without filling you up too much. I had never had either of these things prior to meeting Brandon, believe it or not. It's not that I lived under a rock, my family is Panamanian, so wax beans aren't typically a part of the cuisine.

Needless to say, I'm now crazy for salads. Salads are great because I can incorporate any number of the mysterious vegetables Brandon grows and it always turns out yummy. We typically add some kind of protein, like steak, to the salad, but aside from some oil and balsamic vinegar for flavor, the salad has all the flavor I need.

Not lucky enough to have a Brandon to grow vegetables for you? Worry not, my friends. Farmers markets can be just as good. There you'll find people who are growing their own gardens and just earning some extra cash, no chemicals.

As for me, I better keep eating those veggies while I can because I don't know what I'll do come winter.

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