Category Archives: breakfast

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+.

 

 

 

Welcome back, old friend


Ahh, peanut butter—you evil blond temptress.

For years (decades, really), I’ve had a love affair with the stuff. Extra crunchy Jif was my main squeeze, but I’d take it any way it came: spreadably smooth, natural, or chock full o’ nuts.

In my starving-grad-student days (and my even leaner post-grad-first-job years), I bought institutional-size drums of peanut butter and strawberry jam. I rationed bread by having “PBJS” dinners—that’s peanut butter and jelly on a spoon. Grab both containers and a tablespoon, head to couch, alternate PB and J spoonfuls, wash it down with a huge glass of milk. Commence carb coma.

Weight Watchers prides itself on being a program that allows everything in moderation. I find that to be both true and awesome. By choosing smaller portions or substituting ingredients, I’ve made peace with many of my former junk food staples.

There are, however, a handful of foods I haven’t been able to adapt to the WW plan. Mac and cheese, for instance (did you know that there are more than TWO servings in a box of Kraft Mac and cheese? That shit ain’t right.) And, of course—peanut butter. Two tablespoons = 5 Points+. Five. FIVE. That’s a seventh of my daily Points, in two measly tablespoons of the stuff. And by the way, have you seen a tablespoon lately? My PBJ sandwiches of yore were heaped and slathered with mountains of peanut butter—certainly not lightly frosted with two measly #@$!*% tablespoons worth.

Since January, my Jif jar has been sitting untouched, mournful and alone, in my pantry. I have done my best to ignore my salty-sweet spreadable peanut cravings. But no more! Friends: meet PB2.

Okay, what the hell is PB2 and why is it so amazing?
Let me give you the scoop (pun intended). The official dealio, according to the Bell Plantation website: “PB2 reduces fat through a chemical-free process. PB2 is all natural, preservative free, and contains no artificial sweeteners. And that makes it a sweet alternative for active lifestyles, dieters, and moms who want healthy snacks for their kids.”

PB2 isn’t your typical peanut butter experience. It’s powdered and packed in freeze-dried foil bags like coffee. You can mix with water to make traditional peanut butter, or create peanut-flavored novelties by adding to smoothies, cake or brownie mixes, bran muffins, Cool Whip—the options are endless.

How does it taste?
PB2 is pretty delicious—but if you’re expecting an exact replica of peanut butter you’ll be disappointed.

The reason it’s so much lower in calories and fat is because much if its oil has been removed. That reflects in its taste and consistency. Have you ever drained the oil from a jar of natural peanut butter? Think of a smoother version of that. It looks and smells like the real deal, and spreads fairly easily, but it feels drier and slightly less creamy in your mouth. It’s also not as sweet as I was accustomed to—think crushed roasted nuts, not a sweetened spread. As a true peanut lover, I find this to be a plus.

So, is it good for you?
Naturalist foodies will be happy to know that the company’s “preservative free” claim is true; there are just three ingredients: peanuts, sugar, and salt.

As for WW, it is much lower in Points. Two tablespoons of PB2 = 1 PP versus 5 in traditional peanut butter. I ate four tablespoons today (FOUR!!!) slathered on rice cakes and topped with chopped walnuts and sliced banana for a hearty, filling, satisfying breakfast.


I even licked the knife, just like old times. Welcome back, old friend!

Egg mcmuffin, no Micky D’s walk of shame

Those people who’ve cleaned up their eating habits and go around bragging that they don’t even like the taste of fast food anymore? They lie.

Your palate changes—that much is true. I crave fruits and veggies for the first time in my life. When I indulge in the occasional fried food, it tastes more oily than flavorful. But that doesn’t mean I don’t wake up every now and again in a psycho-zombie trance muttering, “hasbrownshashbrownshashbrownsHASHBROWNS!”

I love me a fast food breakfast. Flaky-hot biscuits damp with oil, perfectly round egg patties, melty American cheese, and those delectable little hasbrown patties—I could eat a trough of the stuff. Pile the plate high, cover it in ketchup and salt, and eat until I’m drowsy and bloated: my Sundays of yore.

Now, when psycho-zombie Kara appears and I would literally rather gnaw off my own arm than eat something green, this is my go-to. I can twist my fat-girl mustache and cackle darkly about getting away with something so devilish. It’s baaaaaddddd for me, mwah ha ha.

Ingredients

  • Egg whites, 1/4 cup
  • Whole wheat English muffin
  • Kraft American cheese single
  • Dried mustard, 1 pinch
  • Paprika, 1 pinch
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Dried chives, 1 tbsp.

Recipe

Whisk egg whites with spices in a small, microwave-safe dish sprayed with PAM. Micro the eggs for 1 minute, 45 seconds. They will fluff and puff and expand.

Toast an English muffin, add egg patty and cheese, and enjoy.

Not only does it taste *exactly* the same as a McMuffin sandwich, it’s also easy, requires no pans or extensive cooking, can be eaten with your hands, and doesn’t require a car trip and five bucks. It’s an angel of a breakfast dressed up in a devilish costume. Just don’t tell my inner fat girl.

6 Weight Watchers PointsPlus; 230 calories; 5.4 g fat; 29 g carb; 14 g protein; 4.4 g fiber

I’ve learned to love Greek omelets


About six months ago, a friend asked if I wanted to go out for Greek omelets. I turned up my nose. I actually remember saying, “omelets suck unless they’re filled with cheese, butter, and hash browns–that’s where all the flavor is.”

For shame, Sokol.

What a difference a half a year makes. Today’s brunch was a pile of beautiful fresh produce–chopped spinach leaves, green onions, garlic, and tomatoes–cooked with a touch of feta in a huge egg-white omelet.

No hash browns on the side, but I did stick a piece of whole wheat bread in the pan while olive-oil-sautéing my veg. It toasted up nice and crispy with a rich flavor, no butter necessary.

They say the more fresh food you eat, the more you crave it. I always thought it was bullshit. But savoring the flavors of this heavenly breakfast (and not missing the butter/cheese fat-bomb in the slightest), it finally makes sense.

Open-face cheesy spinach sandwich

Cheesy spinach sandwich
What’s for breakfast today? A bowl of cereal? A muffin?

Puh-leeze.

I grew up hearing, “You’re eating THAT for breakfast?” That could be anything from cold pizza to clam chowder to leftover mac & cheese. I’ve never dug sweet stuff the way most women seem to, and DEFINITELY not at breakfast time. I like savory, crunchy, salty: nachos, salads, tofu tikka masala. And my body doesn’t seem to understand why these foods aren’t appropriate at eight in the morning.

But you know what? I didn’t make the rules. And I don’t like them. So I’m not going to play by the Appropriate Breakfast Playbook any longer. Take that, society.

So, ladies and gentlemen, breakfast this morning was not a nice little cup of yogurt. It was a big goddamn pile of garlicky spinach and cheese on olive-oil-toasted whole wheat. With a side of grapes. (What? I’m not a total anarchist.)

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Ingredients
Slice of sturdy wheat bread, 50g
3 tbsp part-skim ricotta
1 tbsp grated Parmesan
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup fresh spinach
Fresh sweet basil
Minced fresh garlic
Olive oil

Recipe
Brush bread with small bit of olive oil. Mix ricotta, garlic, and Parmesan and slather on bread. Add rough-chopped spinach and basil. Top with mozzarella. Broil on low for 5 minutes.

Using the quantities I used, this is 10 PointsPlus.

Enjoy with an equally non-conformist beverage–no coffee or OJ allowed.

There, you broke the rules and flipped society the metaphorical finger–all before 9:00. Now don’t you feel better?

“Banana bread” pancakes

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This one’s simple. It’s Sunday morning and I’m craving a warm, hearty breakfast. Those of you on Weight Watchers understand the difficulty: syrup + butter + pancakes + eggs… the PointsPlus values add up so fast, it’s dizzying.

So I messed around with some ingredients and came up with banana bread pancakes. Pancakes is a term I use loosely; these have a denser, heartier consistency. The first bite was crispy on the outside with a yummy, ooey-gooey interior–much like oatmeal banana bread. And they’re baked, not pan-cooked.

The PP value is highish (all of these low-Point, healthy ingredients become higher in Points when added to Recipe Builder). But it’s okay. They’re DELICIOUS. Drizzle them with a small bit of real maple syrup–you won’t need much–and enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup oatmeal (quick oats)
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 egg white
  • Cinnamon

Recipe
Mash bananas and mix with egg white and cinnamon (to taste–I use tons). Stir in oats. Let sit for 15 minutes so oatmeal can soften.

Preheat oven to 350. Spray cookie sheet with Pam or use parchment paper. Bake 20 minutes, flipping halfway.

Makes four hearty cakes. I eat two topped with 2 tbsp real maple syrup, a tbsp of crushed walnuts, and sliced bananas.

The whole shebang = 9 PP. You’ll be full for hours. Thank me later.

Warm egg, ricotta, & arugula sandwich

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Confession time: I have a mad crush on Anthony Bourdain, host of “No Reservations.” Does anyone not think this man is a sexy, sexy beast? If you’re unaffected by his manly wiles, you have no pulse. Unruly gray hair, sharp and sassy tongue, a passion for eating with wild abandon… sigh.

What were we talking about?

ANYway. Recently I heard him comment about eggs–how satisfying they can be, what a sexy food they are. He said, “put a runny yolk on anything, I’m a happy man.” And an image of this sandwich popped into my head.

Mr. Bourdain, your wish is my command.

Ingredients

  • 1 slice hearty peasant bread (whole wheat multigrain)
  • 1 large egg (cage-free and humanely farmed, please—respect the animals giving us our nourishment. Your soul will be happier and your food will taste better.)
  • 1 cup greens (arugula, spinach, and radicchio)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus 1 tsp for bread
  • 2 tbsp part-skim ricotta
  • 1 tbsp Parmesan, grated
  • Garlic, finely minced, to taste
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper

Recipe
Make a quick salad dressing with olive oil, lemon, and garlic. Coat your greens and set aside.

Combine Parmesan and ricotta. Add herbs to taste if you wish (I used garlic and thyme). Set aside.

Brush your big, hearty slice of bread with olive oil and toast under the broiler.

Fry eggs–break into frying pan heated at medium (use a bit of olive oil or cooking spray) and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes, or until whites are cooked through. I did a solid 5 minutes because runny eggs kind of freak me out. My whites were solid and the yolks were half cooked, half runny. Perfect!

That’s all she wrote, folks. Spread ricotta mixture on toast, add salad, top with egg, season with salt and pepper, and Dig. In.

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I recommend eating it in bed. On 1,000-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets. I think that’s the way Mr. Bourdain would want it.

Cream cheese-‘n-lox omelette

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Growing up, my family lived in a predominantly Jewish community. We are not Jewish; we’re part Irish Methodist, part Polish Catholic, all traditional Midwestern. We eat a lot of potatoes.

Because my friends’ roots differed a bit from my own, I was exposed early to foods not so common to my family’s table. I grew to like latke and deli-cured “new pickles” and matzo ball soup. But there was one food that truly captured my fatty-foodie heart: bagels and lox.

I could deSTROY two or three authentic boiled poppyseed bagels, a half a brick of rich cream cheese (always plain flavored; I’m a purist), and thin-shaved slice after slice of cold, salty-smooth salmon.

It’s clear now how and why I got really fat, but it doesn’t change the fact that I still crave those bagels and lox. So I decided to deconstruct the ingredients and turn them into something healthy.

This recipe isn’t some big revelation. I didn’t invent the omelette. I’m sharing more as a reminder that we can get past those cherished foods—those fatty obsessions that haunt us like rich, buttery nightmares.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • Lower-fat cream cheese (Philadelphia 1/3 less fat is rich, thick, and creamy), 1 tbsp
  • Thin-sliced smoked salmon, cut into small bites/pieces, about half an ounce
  • Green onions, diced, about 2 tbsp

Recipe
Whisk egg and whites. Add onions and salmon and stir. Pour mixture into a small skillet sprayed with Pam Olive Oil on low-medium heat. Allow to cook slowly for about 5 minutes. When the omelette is cooked enough for the edges to pull away from the pan, add cream cheese in small chunks and allow it to melt into the mixture. Cook a few more minutes; it’s done when eggs are cooked through to your desired consistency. Fold over and serve immediately with fresh greens or berries. This whole big pile-o-omelette = 5 PointsPlus.

A coveted Jewish meal without the deadly carb load. Can I get an “oy vey?”