Tag Archives: cooking

Seriously yummy food swaps

I love (read: despise) the sections in magazines that tell you to “try this healthy option instead of this unhealthy option to save yourself X amount of calories!” They always compare something delicious to something bland. Like, eat this fat-free yogurt with aspartame instead of this amazing chocolate peanut butter sundae from Dairy Queen, and you’ll get skinny!

I mean, obviously. I am aware that if I eat a plain veggie salad with oil and vinegar over a cheesy caesar salad with croutons, I’ll lose some weight. But they’re not the same! No matter how you slice it, the “unhealthy option” is always a million times better.

That being said, I have found some “swaps” that are just as (or almost as) satisfying!

I used to really enjoy getting a muffin from Starbucks or Panera in the morning with a cup of coffee.

It’s a comforting and delicious 350 calories. But let’s face facts: it’s a total piece of crap. It has 6 grams of protein, which actually isn’t bad, but it also has less than 1 gram of fiber. And it’s gone in about a minute.

And then there’s this breakfast:

One warm apple crumb Vita Top muffin with half a tablespoon smart balance, 1 tablespoon crunchy organic peanut butter, and 1 sliced banana (to dip in the peanut butter). 325 calories. 8 grams of protein. 12 grams of fiber. This breakfast takes like 5 times as long to eat as that Starbucks muffin, and keeps you full longer.

And seriously, not gonna lie to you – it’s AS or MORE delicious than that muffin!

I swear, it’s the small victories that keep me going.

I attempted another swap tonight, switching spaghetti and beef meatballs for spaghetti squash and turkey meatballs. While spaghetti squash is a great pasta alternative, I’ll admit, it tastes nothing like pasta. It’s crunchier and thinner…but it’s not terrible. And it’s worth the calories you save.

I used spaghetti squash from Trader Joe’s, and just as I was looking up how to cook it, I saw that the instructions were right on the label! God I love you TJs.

I used a cup and a half of spaghetti squash, 3 turkey meatballs from TJs, a half cup organic marinara sauce and a quarter cup of Daiya dairy-free cheddar shreds.

If I had made the same amount with real spaghetti, Ragu pasta sauce, beef meatballs, and Kraft sharp cheddar shreds, it would have been 730 calories. But my meal only added up to 340 calories!

So no, it doesn’t taste QUITE as good. But for less than HALF the calories, it’s totally and completely worth it. And if you can used reduced fat cheese instead of dairy-free like me, you can save even more cals. It’s worth trying, just saying.

Do you guys have good food swap suggestions? I’d love to hear them!


Autumn’s (kind of) in the air

I live in Southern California. I walked outside this morning wearing a knit sweater, and immediately turned back around to change. It was 80 degrees outside.

I’m originally from the east coast. I moved out here over the summer, and summer never really ended. It’s messing with my sense of time. When filling out my rent check this week, I dated it August 1st.

Nope, Kate. Not even close.

That being said, I went for a walk in my neighborhood this weekend and stumbled upon some fall!

These were the first colorful leaves I’ve seen since moving here. Maybe some chilly 60 degree weather will follow? Wishful thinking probably.

My meal choices are also reflecting my need for some colder weather. Last night I made the chicken pot pie soup from SkinnyTaste.com. Chicken pot pie is such a cozy favorite, usually loaded with calories and fat (and guilt).

This version is only 250 calories per serving and still acts as delicious comfort food! I walked to the grocery store to get the ingredients, and then cooked while watching Modern Family on my iPad. It was actually a nice and peaceful evening.

I used almost a cup more frozen veggies than it called for, so my version turned out pretty green. I’ll spare you the gross-looking photo of my finished product, but I swear it still tasted amazing! If you make it correctly, it ends up looking like this (photo linked to recipe):

And by the way, I’m back on track after my Saturday slip-up. I’m still at work right now, but I’m going to the gym right after, and I already have a healthy dinner planned tonight.

If any of you out there have piles of red and orange leaves in your front yard, please jump in them for me!

Crazies in the kitchen

I don’t like cooking.

I don’t mean that I’m not good at it (which I’m not), or that I’m intimidated by it (which I am), I just truly hate the process.

Not only am I a clumsy disaster (about half of the ingredients end up on the floor), but I’m also completely impatient. Once I spend a good chunk of time preparing something, I enjoy eating it immensely less than if I had said “I’m hungry!” and someone simply gave it to me (think: a restaurant).

Some would say this goes against all logic. Which it probably (definitely) does. But it’s just plain true. Me + the kitchen don’t go together.

That being said, I’m starting to be less stubborn about cooking. I’m spending a lot less time in restaurants, so this magical scenario where someone just gives me what I want to eat shortly after I ask for it is less likely. And I’m getting a little sick of my makeshift meals. There’s only so many times you can eat deli turkey on a low-cal wrap.

Plus, I’ve always wanted to make something from skinnytaste.com.

The creator shares AMAZING recipes, beautifully photographed, and gives the nutrition info for all of it. There’s everything from dessert, to crock-pot family meals, to vegan options. She makes it so easy for dieters, but I’ve been too lazy to try.

Tonight I had a few friends come over for dinner. They offered to cook, but knowing that I was calorie-counting, I wanted to be sure I knew what exactly I was eating…so I volunteered. I made the Turkey Chili Taco Soup. And it was DELICIOUS. Super easy, fairly quick, and totally spaz-friendly. I even have leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

My version didn’t have cheese, obviously. And I had a small 90 calorie wheat roll instead of chips. (This picture above is from the website.) But it was delicious nonetheless. And for only 160 calories a cup, I will definitely be making it again soon.

I’m also trying to expand my breakfast horizons. I’ve been eating oatmeal more and more, and today I discovered recipes for “overnight oats.” For those who aren’t familiar, “overnight oats” are rolled oats put in the fridge overnight in some sort of liquid (usually milk or yogurt). The oats absorb the liquid by morning. Cold oatmeal sounds like it would taste like a dessert (with the right toppings of course), so I decided to try it.

Tonight I put 1/3 cup rolled oats with 2/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk and half a sliced banana into the fridge. Right now it looks like this (you’re staring down into the bowl):

Hopefully tomorrow it will be delicious-looking. I’m thinking I’ll add some almonds in the morning. Maybe honey. We’ll see.

Oh, and my new eating plan is going well so far. I’ve eaten 1250 calories for the past 2 days, and went to the gym yesterday. And I’m going again tomorrow.

I got this!

Warning: Do not read unless you hate cookies


I wandered into Trader Joe’s today for some bananas, turkey, and low-cal tortillas. That was all I was going to get. And then I happened upon this:

It was just sitting on the shelf, staring at me. I suddenly remembered reading a rave review for it online, and I couldn’t resist. It practically jumped into my hand.

Now let me explain to you what this product is. The jar reads, “A deliciously unusual spread reminiscent of gingerbread and made with crushed biscuits.” What that means is, is that this delectable devil-made treat has the consistency of peanut butter but tastes like crushed up gingerbread cookies. Yup.

Now you may be thinking, “Why would I want to eat crushed up cookies when I could just eat normal, solid cookies instead?” I hear you. But think about it – would you rather eat peanuts or peanut butter? Peanut butter, obviously. And this cookie butter has done for cookies what peanut butter did for peanuts: Made it 1000 times better.

I had to stop myself after 2 tablespoons (180 calories, similar to peanut butter). But I could have eaten the whole jar. Honestly, I don’t know how I’m going to handle this being in my fridge. [Update: I discovered it has lactic acid in it, which may go against my dairy rule…maybe that will keep me away.]

I’m sorry, world, to have introduced you to this product. I want you to try it because I want you to experience the sheer¬†ecstasy¬†that comes with one bite. But it comes with a warning: you may end up knuckle-deep in the jar, scraping the bottom for more.

To make up for the cookie butter debacle, I decided to make a pretty healthy dinner. I bought a bag of pre-shredded fresh brussel sprouts from Trader Joe’s. I love brussel sprouts, but my favorite part is always the leaves that get really crunchy when you cook them.

So I decided to peel back the leaves on all the sprouts and separate them from the center, so all the pieces would be thin enough to get crispy.

The centers are on the left. I threw them away, but I’m sure if you’re crafty in the kitchen you could figure out what to do with them.

I then fried the shredded leaves in small batches, to ensure they’d get evenly [slightly] burnt. I used PAM olive oil spray to save calories.

Afterwards, I put a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, for a total of 115 calories. Not too bad!

I should mention, that even as I’m typing about vegetables, I’m still thinking about the cookie butter.

What have I done…