Roasted red pepper soup

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First, let me say: I hate soup. You can dress it up however you like—put it in a bowl, add some toppings and a spoon—but it’s basically a chunky beverage. I have never eaten  a meal of soup—no matter how hearty—and thought, “I am so satisfied right now.” Nope, it’s usually like, “Interesting liquid pre-dinner. Now where’s the actual dinner?”

So, why the soup recipe? It all comes down to math. Grab your calculators, people—we’re ’bout to talk equations.

Complete the following: 1 miserable head cold  +  (23 inches of snowfall / 48 hours)   8 remaining WW Points  x  0 interest in cooking = roasted red pepper soup

It’s the “new math.” Learn it.

I put this one together on my own; it’s rich , smoky, flavorful, and very, very easy. It’s on the thin side, so if you want your soup to be hella thick , you should probably use cream or half & half instead of milk. That said, my version has a fraction of the Points, which you can then spend on a warm, toasty chunk of break for dipping… and doesn’t that sound like a better use of calories? I thought so.

Ingredients

  • 1 jar roasted red peppers, packed in water, drained, 16 oz.
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup low-fat or 1% milk
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 t. butter
  • Basil (to taste, about 1 t.)
  • Salt (to taste, about 1 t.)

Recipe

Heat butter in medium saucepan. Add onion and cook 3-4 minutes, or until soft. Add garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes, stirring regularly.

Reduce heat. Add remaining ingredients except milk—peppers, broth, basil, and salt. Let simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Pour mixture from pan into food processor or blender; process until smooth. Pour back into a saucepan or a crock pot, add milk, and stir to combine. Heat on low (stirring occasionally) until you’re ready to eat—I let mine go for about an hour.

Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt and some fresh basil. Add croutons, toasted pita, or bread for dipping, if desired.

 

 

Grilled Salad, Y’all

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Yeah, it’s a thing, and it’s epic.

You know how sometimes you’re walking home from work, or maybe hanging laundry on the line, and you catch a whiff of someone’s grill, and you stop dead in your tracks because the heavenly aroma invades your brain and YOU. MUST. HAVE. GRILLED. MEAT. NOW?

The charcoal fever can be tough when you’re a pescetarian, and even tougher when you’re trying to eat healthily. And it’s darn-near impossible when you haven’t shopped for a week.

Then it occurred to me—some lettuces hold up nicely to pan heat… so why not try to grill it? Bam! The great experiment was on.

I took a big, hearty head of romaine and split it right down the center, vertically. Brushed both halves with olive oil and seasoned with a touch of cracked black pepper and kosher salt. Then I tossed them on a charcoal grill. They cooked for about two to three minutes, I turned them, and they cooked for about two minutes more. The end result produced a mix of softish pieces and crispier leaves. I did a rough chop of the lettuce while it was still hot.

Add to your lettuce:

  • one grilled (almost blackened) ear of corn, kernels removed
  • a heap of black beans
  • avocado, cut into cubes or chunks
  • a few tablespoons of some wonderful cheese (don’t mess with the shredded-from-the-bag stuff—I went with an aged goat’s milk feta and it was divine)
  • a few spritzes of lime juice

Here’s what happens: the olive oil (all warm and smoky from the grill) combines with the avocado and lime juice, creating an unctuous, creamy, decadent “dressing.” The tangy cheese warms ever-so-slightly, contrasting with the charred corn.

It is bliss, my friends. Sweet, summery, salad bliss.

 

 

World’s laziest ice cream

Dear Ben, Jerry, DQ, Baskin Robbins, and Breyers,

You need to stop jamming delicious shit into ice creams. Like, really. Please don’t show me another commercial of a drippy, salted caramel confection piled high atop a fist-sized cone. You are the stuff of my fat-girl dreams, and you’re killing me this summer, guys.

With no love,
Kara


All right, let’s put it out there. I spent much of the first half of this summer eating ice cream. (Damn you to the bowels of hell, Ben & Jerry’s Everything But The….) So when July arrived, I knew I needed to find an alternative.

Enter a bunch of elderly bananas and a dollop of vanilla extract. Yep, that’s literally all you need to create banana “soft-serve” ice cream.

We’ve all pureed fruit into smoothies. We know the texture by heart—chunky, icy, and fruit-dense. It’s nothing like ice cream at all. But this is different. Really. It’s thick and creamy and lip-smacking and naughty tasting.

So, how do you turn bruised ‘nanners into ice cream nirvana? It’s so, so easy.

Step 1: Take two bananas, un-peel, slice, and freeze. They should be chilled for at least two hours, or up to two days.

Step 2: Place frozen banana chunks into food processor. Add 1 T.vanilla extract.

Step 3: Blend for five minutes. This one’s important. Don’t blend until combined, don’t blend until you get tired of it—blend for five whole minutes. For the first four, you’ll think, “This lady is full of shit. This is just pureed fruit.” And then during the last minute, the ingredients cream and fluff and become something wonderful.

That’s all she wrote, folks. Eat it all, or stick it in a bowl and re-freeze. I have eaten it topped with berries, chocolate drizzle, walnuts, and shaved coconut. All good. I mean, you can’t really go wrong, can you?

Summer ice cream season can now commence.

 

Beskirted swimwear and boob jiggle: the Fat-Girl Exercise Commandments

Last weekend, I committed an unspeakable crime: I purchased activewear in a size 2X. Leggings and a form-fitting neon-pink sports top, to be specific. And I didn’t just buy it—I wore it. In public.

This act was a flagrant violation of the Fat-Girl Exercise Commandments. If you are of a certain size and have ever tried to exercise, then you already know. The Commandments are unspoken. Nobody says them out loud. They’re not taught or instilled. They just… are.

Every functional society is governed by a set of laws, and the FGECs are just that: an agreed-upon list of rules that dictate the exercise habits of us big’uns. If you’re a fat gal— chubby, pudgy, plump, plus-sized, or “apple shaped”—or if the only item at Victoria’s Secret capable of covering your body is perfume—well, then, these rules are for you.

For the unenlightened (thin-framed, slightly-built, small-waisted) folks, let’s review.


Fat-Girl Exercise Commandments

As a fat girl, it is your sole responsibility to get thin. Any second of the day not spent eating celery or reading Dr. Oz books must be spent exercising. In doing so, thou must obey the following six rules:

  1. Suck in your stomach. At all times. In fact, forget exercise—this rule applies to everything. Basically, from the moment you leave your house in the morning until you disappear under the covers at night, don’t even think about exhaling.
  2. Bathing suits must have skirts—the longer and more material-dense the better. Your bathing suit should look more like your last bridesmaid dress than an actual swimming implement. Also, from here until eternity, fat-girl suits shall come in only two color schemes: pure black and Amazonian-panther-jungle print. (It distracts from the tummy.)

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  3. Don’t buy sports bras—most brands don’t make them in your size anyway. Your regular old cotton Target bra will more than suffice. If the underwire breaks free and stabs you repeatedly in the side-boob, that’s just motivation to run faster. Besides, you shouldn’t be doing activity vigorous enough to necessitate a sports bra in the first place… do you know how much jiggle that would produce? We don’t want to have to hide the children.
  4. There’s a reason why Nike, Lululemon, and 99 percent of the other activewear brands don’t make clothes for people over 175 pounds: it’s because nobody wants to see you in hot-pink Lycra. Who are you to demand specialized workout wear? You’ve got a pair of faded Walmart stretch pants and an old sleep shirt (pizza stained and gently pilled) that’ll do just fine. Don’t get uppity.
  5. If you do choose to adorn your body in fluorescent workout wear (against the extreme objection of your friends and neighbors… I believe a petition was circulated), for the love of god make it baggy. Boys don’t make passes at girls with skintight-spandex-covered asses.
  6. Finally—and most importantly—always be palatable. Don’t do anything that could make others squeamish or uncomfortable. No sweating, groaning, grunting, huffing, or puffing. Always be cognizant of the major Jiggle Danger Areas: stomach, arms, thighs, and ass. Be sure to keep them in check at all times. Pause your workout often to tug your shirt down lest your prodigious stomach dangle and flap in the breeze.

I’m a good fat girl; I have always played by the rules. Sucked it in. Worn baggy, long-sleeved shirts on 80-degree days. Apologized for taking up too much space in a track lane (once my elbow accidentally leeched into lane 2; the guy next to me had to move his arm three inches to avoid touching me. It was a close call.) But when I considered wearing Spanx to jog last weekend, I knew things had gone too far.

Ladies, I think it’s high time we take back the Commandments. We need to say “fuck it all!” to society’s ideals about how we exercise and what we look like while we’re doing it. Let’s sweat and move our bodies in clothing that WE want to wear.

I’ll start. Here I am in my new workout uniform. The slinky tank fabric clings to every stomach roll, the “chicken cutlets” on my arms dangle, and I’ve got side-boob spilling all OVER my business. And yet it’s one of the proudest photos I’ve ever posted. I walk-jogged 4.27 miles and burned 627 calories. I felt like a warrior.

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Let’s not stop there—let’s burn the Commandments and rewrite them anew. Here are my proposed NEW Fat-Girl Exercise Commandments—which will henceforth be called simply Exercise Commandments. Because it doesn’t matter if we’re fat girls; skinny girls; black, white, or purple girls; trans girls; young or old girls; or even whether we’re girls at all. It just matters that we’re doing good things for our bodies.

  1. Breathe deeply. Exhale slowly. Smell the flowers, the fresh-cut grass, or the icy metallic scent of an impending snow. Allow your stomach to do as it damn well pleases.
  2. A swimsuit is a piece of clothing designed to be immersed in water. That’s it. It has no greater power, so let’s stop treating it like it does.
  3. Get thee to a bra shop—stat. Like, now. Yesterday. A year ago. Seriously. A professional bra fitting was the greatest and most loving thing I ever did for my body. Buy three: a sports bra capable of handling your girls, an everyday workhorse, and a sexy little (or big) number.
  4. Trash the five-sizes-too-big shirt you once wore to paint your living room. Buy tanks, tees, shorts, and crop pants in sturdy, quality materials: cotton or moisture-wicking fabrics will feel the best when you sweat. Check out a great catalog called Junonia for activewear up to size 6X.
  5. Wear what you’re comfortable in—no exceptions. I find that the more material I have on my body, the more likely things are to bunch, rub, and irritate. If you choose to wear tight-fitting clothing, do it unapologetically. It’s freeing.
  6. Sweat, grunt, groan, trip, fall over, get back up again, and let your jiggly thighs and flabby stomach bounce happily along. If you pass a judgmental gaggle of gawking girls or snickering guys, don’t drop your head—make eye contact, smile, offer a friendly “hi!” and keep on trucking. In the scheme of things, who cares—I mean, really?

Ready to join the movement? Spread the word—share with fellow FGEC’ers. Add your own Commandments. Share your warrior-woman workout pics. I can’t wait to see what you got. RAWRRR!

 

Tarragon-Dijon quiche: A “fancy food” that is decidedly not

Too bad people don't say "bomb" anymore, because this is bomb-dot-com.
I hear the word quiche and immediately picture baby shower brunches: deplorable pin-the-safety-pin-on-the-diaper games and fussily-dressed women awkwardly sitting in cheap metal folding chairs. Ugh.

Now, strike those images from your mind. Let’s turn quiche into what it should be: a yummy, hearty-ass weeknight meal. I’m serious, guys—quiche is, like, the perfect food. It’s basically dinner pie.

The only downside of quiche is the health factor. When you bring eggs, heavy milk, pastry crust, and cheese to the party, shit’s bound to get caloric. But there’s something nobody tells you about—a secret ingredient that makes quiche healthy while also upping the deliciousness factor by 1,000%. Ready? It’s Greek yogurt.

Apart from the crust (we’ll talk about that later), the pie pictured above has no fat. None. Zero. 0.00 grams. Turns out, when you whip egg whites with Greek yogurt and a few other tasty things (like ground mustard and tarragon), the result is fluffy, souffle-like bliss.

Now, let’s talk crust. Some renegades out there are like, “I go CRUSTLESS, I’m badass like that.” Rock on. But for me, the bread element is basically the most important part of any foodstuff. This time, I went with a puff pastry sheet versus traditional pie crust or dough. Thaw it for an hour, dust the counter top with flour, and roll the pastry out thin. You’ll make it go a lot further (I was able to stretch one sheet into two full-size quiches) and cut the fat and calories in half.

Ingredients

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 t. dried mustard
  • 2 T. tarragon Dijon (I like Edmond Fallot)
  • 1/2 puff pastry sheet
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Veggies of your choice (I went with asparagus and leeks)

Recipe

Roll the pastry sheet thin (see above) and press into a pie plate. Add pie weights or dried beans and pre-bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

Slice veggies into short pieces or matchsticks. Steam or boil and blanch. Set aside.

Add eggs, yogurt, mustard, salt, and pepper to a bowl and whip with an electric beater until well combined and fluffy.

Add egg mixture to the pre-baked pie crust and top with veggies. You can arrange them into artful patterns or just throw them on, like I did; all tastes the same. Bake 25-30 additional minutes. Eggs should be cooked through but still moist. The yogurt creates a fluffier consistency than usual–think souffle.

1/6 of the pie is 5 Weight Watchers Points+; 1/4 is 7 P+.

 

 

 

#noodleporn

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If you’re anything like me, your love-hate relationships with noodles is profound. Noodles are majestic, epic, al dente little niblets of deliciousness. My love for them was always pure and uncomplicated. That is, until I recognized their propensity to make me very, very fat.

I’m not one of those people who can be like, “Noodles are carby y’all, so I’m just going to have a small little half-serving, kthx!” Nope. I don’t want little bird servings, I want man-sized bowls full’o noodley goodness. The masochist within me would rather eat none than enjoy a small amount, so I have learned to exist in a world without noodles—but I’ll tell you what, I’m not happy about it.

Enter the Paderno Spiralizer, aka Return to Noodle Nirvana. It allows you to turn pretty much any fruit or veggie into curls, shoestrings, strips, or slices. In seconds. Like, really.

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I know what you’re thinking—I thought it too. Allow me to dispel your doubts:

  • The end result tastes like noodles, not veggies. Yes, really. I don’t know why zucchini—a vegetable I have loathed since childhood—all of a sudden tastes amazing in noodle form. It just does. I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
  • They’re also not too crunchy—when properly simmered in the sauce of your choosing, they soften nicely and take a slightly-more-biting-than-al-dente form.
  • The contraption itself is super easy to use. The unit suction-cups to the counter so nothing shifts during use, the slicing plates (comes with three in varying cuts and sizes) pop in and out easily, and everything is dishwasher safe.

As you can see from the photo below, the trial meal was deemed a success. I even finger-wiped my bowl clean of the sauce (a high-level culinary creation of Prego Veggie Smart mixed with fat-free cream cheese). Buy this thing and rediscover your love of Italian feasts. You won’t be sorry.

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The food item you need to have in your kitchen, always

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Yes, you. You need this. Go buy it. Now.

It’s FlatOut bread–specifically the Pinwheel party-sized variety.

It’s big–like, the size of a full cookie sheet–and it has just 5 PointsPlus. That means you can do just about anything with it.

  • Do what its name implies and cover it with sandwich fixin’s, roll it up, and cut it into pinwheel finger sandwiches.
  • Cut it in half (only 2 P+) and use as a bread or wrap for hot dogs, hamburgers, sandwiches, spreads, or gyros.
  • Cut in halves or thirds and use in place of higher-Point tortillas for burritos.
  • Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with herbs and seasonings, and bake at 350 for five minutes for awesome pita chips. Dip in hummus, guacamole, salsa, or PB2.
  • Brush with olive oil, add garlic seasoning and Parmesan, and bake for a delicious (much healthier) alternative to garlic bread.
  • Top with fat-free ricotta cheese, sliced Roma tomatoes, fresh spinach, artichoke hearts, garlic, and reduced-fat mozzarella cheese for a ginormous and super-satisfying personal pizza. If you stick to 1/4-cup serving sizes for both cheeses, you’re looking at just 9 PointsPlus for the ENTIRE thing. That’s not to say you can’t share… but you can also say, “back off, bitches” and eat the whole damn thing. That was my strategy.

Here’s what the hell to do with portabella mushrooms

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Ugh, mushrooms.

I have broadened my veggie palate considerably in the last year or two. But I just can’t get on board the mushroom train. They’re slimy, they’re mushy, and they smell like unwashed feet. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I decided to try them again for the same reason I try half the things I do: because someone on Pinterest told me I just had to. Apparently they’re amazing in fajitas. I was skeptical but game for the challenge.

I bought a single portabella cap–no five-count value packs for this shopper. I cut the little stump from the bottom, plugged my nose (crusty feet smell; oh the humanity!), and sliced the ‘shroom into strips. I threw them into a pan with 2 t. heated olive oil, then added slices of fresh yellow bell pepper and onion. Stirred ’em all around and let them brown up a bit, then added a liberal splash of water and a T. of dry fajita seasoning spice mix. They simmered down for about ten minutes.

I piled them on charred tortillas with fresh salsa, tomatoes, Greek yogurt, and shredded lettuce. The result? Magic. Pure magic, I tell you. Turns out, portabella mushrooms are like amazing little sponges. They absorb the spices and flavors around them and come out looking and tasting like meaty little steak strips (except better because they’re good for your body and no animals had to die to make your dinner dreams come true).

So now you know.

Kitchen must-keep: pizza crust

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People often tell me they don’t have time to cook. I hear that; I work 50-hour weeks and often arrive home starved and cranky. The secret is prep.

Not every meal needs to be a production. Just say no to your next takeout fat bomb or mac ‘n cheese binge by stocking your freezer with Golden Home Ultra Crispy & Thin Pizza Crusts. Each serving (a third of a crust) is just 130 calories, 1.5 g fat, 26 carbs, and 3 WW Points+. That means if you top wisely, you can eat the whole thing. Cue singing angels and hallelujah chorus.

The possibilities are literally endless:

Rub with olive oil and garlic and top with reduced-fat mozzarella for a crispy take on garlic bread.

Top with sliced Roma tomatoes, garlic, spinach leaves, basil, and fresh mozzarella for a healthy margherita pizza.

Pile high with seasoned taco meat (use veggie crumbles for cruelty-free and low-fat yum!), Rotel canned tomatoes/chilies, avocado slices, black olives, green onions, shredded lettuce, and Greek yogurt for a feast of a Mexican pizza.

Cover with homemade sauce of puréed fat-free ricotta, garlic, and fresh spinach and basil, then add mozzarella and bake for a bright, flavorful “green goddess” pizza.

Add scrambled egg whites, peppers, onions, fresh snipped chives, and smoked salmon or sausage crumbles for a breakfast omelet’za.

No matter which option you go for, it’ll take you from freezer to dinner in like ten minutes or less. It’s a huge leap up from greasy drive-through, but (shhh!) you don’t actually have to cook.

S*%# happens

Some days are “revel in good health” days—creative cooking, yummy plant-based meals, and epic C25K training. Fist pump. Go ME.

Other days, I find myself in the unfortunate position of having to track 47 pieces of English marzipan licorice candy.

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I’m owning this for three reasons:

  1. Nothing bugs me out more than hearing a fellow healthy-eating reformist make a comment like, “Oh my gosh, I totally binged today. I had TWO whole-wheat English muffins with fat-free soy cheese. I feel like such a heifer.” Sorry, not buying it. The healthy-living perfectionism schtick is played; EVERYone freebases a jar of Nutella or a bag of chips once in a while. When the shit hits the fan and 1,100 calories of marzipan-coated black licorice gets wolfed, just do the right thing and own it.
  2. I tracked it. Every piece.
  3. I don’t feel guilty. Because this disgusting-sounding pink-candy-coated licorice is the shiz, yo.