Monday, June 30, 2008

Bulgur Stuffed Tomato

You can think of this as an appetizer or just something different to prepare and enjoy while dieting.

To hollow out the tomatoes, use a serrated grapefruit knife and a teaspoon, scoop out the inside of the tomatoes and leave the shells intact. Place the tomatoes cut side down, on a double thickness of kitchen paper to drain. Or you can always use your hands, but be careful not to squeeze them tightly.

Keeping them in the fridge overnight helps it blend together and not come apart when served, but you don't have to wait if you want to eat them as soon as you prepare them.

I actually skip the mint, I just don't like the taste of it. And skip apples too, which give a nice crunch, but for me it just doesn't work. If you want, you can substitute equal amount of mushrooms with apples. The calorie count doesn't change that much, maybe about 5 calories more than if you would use apples.



1 cup fine-grain bulgur
1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped red delicious apple (tossed in a little lemon juice to prevent browning)
4 beautiful ripe tomatoes, hollowed and 2 tablespoons finely-chopped tomato pulp reserved
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chopped mint
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander
Salt and pepper

Rinse the bulgur wheat in a sieve and place in a bowl, covered with cool water. Let stand for 30 minutes, drain excess liquid.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small saute pan, add the onions and apple and cook for 2 minutes.

Hollow out the tomatoes to make room for the salad: reserving 2 tablespoons of the pulp.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the bulgur wheat, onions, apples, chopped tomato innards, and all the remaining ingredients (except greens); blend well. Adjust the seasonings.

Refrigerate overnight and check seasonings before you fill the tomatoes. Serve on greens.

Makes 4 servings

Per serving:
Calories: 265
Fat: 11 g
Carbs: 40 g

Protein: 8 g

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Chicken Marsala

This one is an easy chicken recipe which is also very delicious. You can serve with a salad and have a complete meal. And it takes only 20 minutes to prepare it.

And you get to use wine:)

Sage is a great herb that works with this recipe. Use about 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage if you have any available. You can use dried also, but fresh is always nicer. You can also use rosemary, especially if you are serving a boiled potato next to it which would add about 160 calories for a medium sized one (about 200 g).

You can also substitute shallots with the onion if you want a more garlicky taste. I just use whatever is handy.



4 chicken breasts, boned, skinless (5 oz. each)
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup Marsala wine
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1 onion, sliced thin

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste


Mix together pepper, salt, and flour. Coat chicken with seasoned flour.

Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet. Place chicken breasts in skillet and brown on both sides. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.

Discard all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet and sauté onion and mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated. Add Marsala and cook mixture, stirring, until Marsala is almost evaporated. Add broth and chicken with any juices that have accumulated on plate and simmer, turning chicken once, until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer chicken with tongs to a platter.

Simmer mushroom sauce until liquid is reduced to about 1/2 cup. Spoon mushroom sauce around chicken and sprinkle with parsley.

Makes 4 servings:

Per serving: 1 chicken breast with 1/3 cup sauce

Calories: 235
Fat: 6 g
Carbohydrates: 35.5 g
Protein: 8 g

Friday, June 27, 2008

Open Faced Burgers with Onion Mushroom Topping

This one is an old recipe from Cooking Light and it's very easy to prepare. The calories are not so high, and you can even bring it more down by skipping the English muffins. I like using regular burger buns and the calories are about the same.

But I skip the mushrooms which are about 30 calories, so it's no so much, but I'd rather use a slice of cheese instead:)

I use my panini maker to grill the burgers, but you can just as easily cook it in a pan. Enjoy:)



2 teaspoons olive oil

1 medium sweet onion, sliced and separated into rings

2 (8-ounce) packages presliced mushrooms

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound ground round

2 English muffins, split and toasted


Preheat grill.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, and cook for 5 minutes or until golden.

Add mushrooms and salt; cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add vinegar; remove mixture from pan. Set aside.

Combine the paprika and the next 4 ingredients (paprika through black pepper). Divide the ground round into 4 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Coat patties with spice mixture.

Grill patties 4 minutes on each side or until done.

Place burgers on muffin halves, and top each burger with 1/4 cup onion mixture.

Makes 4 servings (serving size: 1 sandwich)

Per serving:

Calories: 320
Fat: 10.5g
Carbs: 27 g
Protein: 29. g

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Gourmet Chicken Salad

Chicken is a must when you are dieting. It is low in calories, it is filling and it's a good source of protein. This version of the recipe uses regular mayo. It's not so much, so I didn't touch the recipe, but if you want to save a bit of calories use low fat version.

Most of the calories come from the walnuts, which is 200 calories for the 1/4 cup. Since the recipe is for 2 servings, if you skip the walnuts you would be saving 100 calories etc. You get the picture:)

1 chicken breast is 130 calories, and 1 tablespoon of blue cheese is about 60 calories etc. So this dish as is would be 400 calories which should be one course without anything else served with it so that you can have enough for the rest of the day. If you think this course is too small for you just serve it on a bed of greens which will add only 10 calories per cup.

You can also substitute blue cheese with feta cheese but the taste would change completely and be careful with how much salt you are using as feta is usually salty.


1 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 lemon, zested and juiced
3/4 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons chopped celery
2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1-1/2 teaspoons brown mustard
salt and pepper to taste
garlic powder to taste

Place chicken in a skillet, and sprinkle with lemon juice and 1/2 the rosemary. Pour broth into the skillet. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 25 minutes, or until chicken juices run clear. Drain, cool, and dice chicken.

In a large bowl, toss chicken with lemon zest, remaining rosemary, walnuts, celery, blue cheese, mayonnaise, brown mustard, salt and pepper, and garlic powder. Chill in the refrigerator at least 1 hour before serving.

Makes 2 servings
Per serving:

Calories: 400
Fat: 36 g
Carbs: 5 g
Protein: 17 g

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Herb Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes with Feta

This easy and wonderful recipe is from Bon Appetit. Roasting the vegetables, especially the tomatoes concentrates the flavor and makes this dish that much more yummy. Not bad for a diet recipe:)

If you want to, you can substitute or add more veggies to make the dish more to your taste. Here are some suggestions with their calories:
1 cup (4 oz.) chopped zucchini = 20 calories
1 cup (6 oz.) chopped onion = 65 calories
1 clove garlic = 5 calories
1 cup (5 oz.) chopped green or red peppers = 30 calories
1 cup (5 oz.) mushrooms, sliced, cooked = 80 calories
1 tomato (4 oz.) tomato = 25 calories
1 olive = 10 calories
1 cup chopped eggplant, cooked = 35 calories
1 lb eggplant, cooked = 130 calories

Be careful with the olive oil, don't use too much. Keep in mind that olive oil has 120 calories each tablespoon.



1 1 3/4-pound eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 large plum tomatoes, cored, quartered lengthwise
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 450°F. Place eggplant and tomatoes on rimmed baking sheet; toss with oil and vinegar. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons oregano, salt, and pepper. Roast until eggplant is tender and golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes.

Transfer eggplant and tomatoes to platter. Sprinkle with feta and 2 teaspoons oregano and serve.

Makes 6 servings
Per serving:
Calories: 133
Fat: 10g
Carbs: 10g
Fiber: 5g
Protein: 3g

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

You have to have comfort food while dieting. So here is an easy recipe which is also very tasty. It is a lot of food, but you can always freeze it by the serving and just nuke it when you are ready to eat.

If you don't have mustard around you can add mustard powder instead. But be careful with the rest of the ingredients. If you change too much of it you are really playing the calorie content and can go over 300 calories per serving. I've calculated this dish as either a 6 or a 8 serving dish. So, after you prepare the dish you have the choice of deciding how many servings you want out of the dish and then calculate it per serving.




12 oz uncooked macaroni, elbow-type
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
12 oz fat-free evaporated milk
8 oz low-fat cheddar or colby cheese, shredded
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
2 Tbsp dried bread crumbs
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Cook pasta according to package directions without added fat or salt; drain and transfer to a large bowl. While pasta is still hot, stir in sour cream; set aside.

Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until tiny bubbles appear just around the edges (known as scalding). Reduce heat to low, add cheese and simmer until cheese melts, stirring constantly with a wire whisk, about 2 minutes; remove from heat and stir in mustard, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Add cheese mixture to pasta; mix well. Transfer to a 3-quart casserole dish.

Combine bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese; sprinkle over pasta.

Bake until top is golden, about 30 minutes. Yields about 1 cup per serving

Number of Servings: 8
Per serving:

Fat: 4g
Carbohydrates: 40g
Protein: 17g

Number of Servings: 6
Per serving:

Fat: 5g
Carbohydrates: 55g
Protein: 23g

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cheese Omelet

I have to start from somewhere, but I couldn't decide if I should start with menus, or with recipes that are low in calories. So, at the end I decided to post some of the recipes so that I can maybe put menus together for a 1,200 calorie day.

So here is a basic scrambled egg recipe. I know everyone knows how to prepare it. But I'm just adding it for the numbers so I know how many calories I'm consuming.

If you were to prepare this recipe without cheese, you would be consuming around 90 calories.

I actually use 1/2 cup of egg substitutes instead of using an egg and an egg white which is around 60 calories. For me, it's easier to prepare, but I've used real eggs just in case you would prefer it.

If you were to use skim milk mozzarella instead of cheddar = 165 calories
feta cheese instead of cheddar = 165 calories
swiss cheese instead of cheddar = 200 calories
provolone cheese instead of cheddar = 190 calories

Feel free to add any herb that you like to spice up this basic egg dish. I like adding fresh basil just because I have it handy on my balcony:)



1 whole egg
1 egg white
1 oz. cheddar cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a bowl, whisk eggs and salt just until blended; do not overbeat.

Heat an 8-inch nonstick frying pan with sloping sides over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Spray with non-stick cooking spray. Pour egg mixture into pan and swirl to spread it out to edges of pan.

As egg mixture sets on pan bottom, lift edge with a spatula and tilt pan to let uncooked egg flow underneath. Continue the process, working around pan sides, until no uncooked egg mixture flows underneath and top is still moist.

Sprinkle cheese in a strip down the center of the omelet, in line with the pan handle. With the spatula, fold one side over the strip of cheese.

Run spatula under omelet to loosen, and tip pan to slide omelet, folded edge first, onto a warm plate. Flip remaining edge over filling as omelet leaves pan.

Makes 1 Serving
Calories: 205
Fat: 14.5 g
Carbs: 1.5 g
Protein: 16.5 g

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Intro - Why I'm doing this and some general ideas

When I started with my original blog of tested recipes I didn't realize how much weight I would gain while testing the recipes:) So, now it's time to get back on a diet. I could have gone on, but I'm about to reach the point of no return, and summer is right here, not just around the corner.

I started out trying to diet, but by the afternoon I was back on the routine called "I'll start tomorrow". Saying "on Monday" became a joke with my husband, and after a while it wasn't a joke anymore, but more of an embarrassment. The pounds just kept attaching themselves to me.

So I thought I need professional help. Started looking around for weight loss programs but to tell you the truth, I'd rather spend my money on other things like buying myself an outfit at every 5-6 lbs lost to reward myself. I would at least have things to wear rather than spending the money on food and diet programs. After all, I have dieted all my life, and I know what really needs to be done.

The trick has always been simply to take in fewer calories than your body uses. The real math of it all is actually very easy. Every 3,500 calorie difference is 2 lbs of body weight. So, let's say your body uses 2,000 calories per day (the usual number if you are inactive), and you eat around 1,200 calories a day (the lowest safest number of calories a woman should eat), the difference is 800 calories a day. This means you will lose about 2 lbs every 5 days.

That math would be just fine for me. I know the total I need to lose is around 40 lbs. So I need around 20 weeks which is around 5 months to get back to where I was around 1,5 years ago. It's kind of scary, but I have to start at some point, otherwise the gap is getting bigger and bigger. I love eating, so sue me:))

After checking God knows how many different web sites, diet programs, readymade meals that can be sent to your door etc. I saw that everyone wants to charge for the information. Or if they are not charging they are just recycling information that I have memorized by now:

* You should drink 8 glasses of water every day. Who really knows if this is true? It all depends on which article you are reading. Some say it has to be water, some say it can be any kind of liquid you ingest, some say you need more than that etc. I choose to believe the article that says you should drink water when you are thirsty, that your body knows and tells you how much you need...that's what the sensation of thirst if for. So I drink about 2 cups of coffee, about 3-4 glasses of water and a diet coke a day. And sometimes I drink only 1 glass of water and I seem to feel just fine with it. They do say that it's good for your skin, but again, it depends on whose article you are reading and I'm tired of others opinions.

* You should walk half an hour every day. Yeah, I know. But I live in a hilly neighborhood and walking for half an hour seems like torture when I think about it. I'm sure once I start walking I won't feel this way and might actually enjoy it. After all I have worked out, exercised and swam on and off all my life. So I really know that it makes a difference, but I just don't feel like walking right now. So I want a diet that will make me lose weight while I'm not moving at all. Plus, I know when I start losing weight I will feel better about myself and will start moving around more often. Right now I feel like a whale and don't want to move at all. Do you mind?!!!!!:))))

* You should cut down the fat. Years ago I cut down on margarine and butter because a nutritionist friend of mine told me that the metallic taste that I wake up with in my mouth is caused by margarine or butter. I tried it and saw that it is true. So I have been using olive oil whenever I can, because I like the taste of it better than all of the other oils, but that's not to say that I cut it out completely. I do enjoy the taste of it, and when I feel like eating butter I eat it. My body had better know how to handle a little bit of things that may be a little bid bad for it, because God knows whatever is bad for you is really what tastes good:)

* You should eat smaller portions. Now, that's the only piece of dieting strategy that is definitely true as far as I'm concerned: To eat whatever you want, but in smaller portions. But, as far as I'm concerned there are problems with this. One is it's easier said than done. If I could eat smaller portions I would not have gained weight in the first place. So I know my brain knows, but it's kind of hard to convince my taste buds which want more and more, and my stomach that can handle more and more. Two, who can really stop eating what they like? Skinny people are who.

I think there are two kinds of people, skinny people that say they like food, and people that really LOVE food and have to deal with their weights all their life. My husband is a skinny person. I could just kick him when I see him take a bite out of a "small" piece of chocolate. Yep, a bite out of a SMALL piece. Are you kidding? I can eat the whole bar, not a small piece, let alone a bite from a small piece. And then he just leaves it right next to him, and it just sits there. (I hate him at moments like this, just because he can do it:)) ). Never, not once in my life have I been able to do something like that. (And I don't have a sweet tooth. I'm more of a salty junk food type of a person.) This is the difference between skinny people and people like me that have to deal with their weights all their lives.

But at least I know that that's a problem, and I know that it is going to be an effort to lose weight. Kudos to those who say it should not be a diet; it should be a life style. Good for those that have been able to do that, but I'm almost 45 and I still haven't mastered this perspective.

To make a long story short, I have decided to help all fellow dieters and create a menu a day totalling about 1,200 calories, along with small and easy recipes just to keep things interesting. I know that for myself a dieter's diet can become very boring and then it becomes easy to stray. And once you stray, you just get back into the rut of "on Monday". So, I have compiled recipes along with nutrition information. And I have tried to give as much information as possible so that you can easily adapt them to your own tastes.

Keep in mind that I'm not a nutritionist and so I cannot responsibly make claims or promises about the relative health or appropriateness for you of these menus and recipes. But this is the diet that I will be following. I do try to keep it balanced as much as I can. Also, you might not be able to go for 1,200 calories every day, and hit a plateau even if you do. After years of dieting and having friends that have been dieting I can see that every person can handle it differently. But the basic math of things usually doesn’t change. And I think that once you see that you are losing weight it will become easier to stay on the diet.

I've also found some links while working on this that might be helpful, such as a site that lists the caloric content of all foods. There are even some that list the calories in foods according to who is producing them or according to the restaurant names, etc. To me that was just too much info. But if you are interested, the info is available with some very basic web searches.

The first thing that I'm doing is getting a kitchen scale because I know it is a must to measure the food, especially in the beginning, so that you are really getting the calories you think you are getting. Then after a while when you think you have the measuring thing down, start measuring again, you will see that you have been making bigger meals:) The good thing about all this is that eventually, say in about 2 weeks, you will have adjusted to the smaller food portions and they will be satisfying to you, but you'll have to hang it there for a little while, and then try not to lose control.

So, tomorrow is Monday and here I start my diet for about next five months. You're welcome to join me....

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