Leftover Dump: Breakfast Pizza

Y'all should know by now that I have a serious aversion to throwing away food.  I think it goes back to my early 20's when I was waiting tables/bar tending/(insert random odd job here) and barely making ends meet.  I used to save little leftover bites from everywhere and eat them, dammit, because there wasn't always money in my bank account to go buy more chicken breasts at the grocery store.  Now I have a job that pays me enough to buy groceries whenever I want, and I am a much more savvy shopper, but I still get a little twinge of regret when I toss something that could have been eaten.

This twinge has caused me to create some very tasty dishes from odds and ends, and this breakfast pizza is one of them.  Nutrition stats will vary based on your toppings.  If you make sure to choose a crust that is low in carbohydrates and calories, and don't get too heavy handed with the cheese, you should be fine.

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The beauty of the breakfast pizza is that you can make it from almost anything.  You do need an egg, some cheese, and some form of crust, but you can throw whatever you want on top.  Asparagus?  Good.  Grilled chicken?  Good.  Green onions?  Good.

For this pizza I started with a flax pita from Joseph's Bakery.  I crisped it in the oven for about a minute then added a spoonful of low carb barbecue sauce.  I scrambled an egg and spread that on top, along with a piece of bacon that I stole from the awesome boyfriend.  I had some leftover sauteed veggies (peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic) that I spread over the egg, and then I sprinkled a small handful of shredded cheddar over the whole thing.  I baked it under the broiler for a couple of minutes and removed it when the cheese was bubbly.  Total cooking time?  About ten minutes.  Voila!

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What 2000 Calories Looks Like

The awesome boyfriend sent me this little video yesterday and I thought it was so clever that I decided to share the love.  There is lots of varied information out there about how many calories a person should eat in a day, but 2,000 seems to be a general rule of thumb.  Of course if you are dieting or very active that number will change, but for the average person who works at a desk, it's a good number to keep in mind.


Yogurt Machine: Sugar Free Strawberry Yogurt

Remember when I confessed to my (not so) secret obsession with yogurt?  Well the obsession has now become full blown because my yogurt machine arrived and guess what?  It works!

This yogurt machine is seriously, like, the best thing ever.  My aunt bought it for me and told me that it is the same kind she uses in her own kitchen.  She also got me a box of 8 replacement glass jars in case one gets broken, or I want to cook more than one batch at a time.

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I have been intrigued with the idea of fermenting my own yogurt at home for a long time.  If you go to the grocery store and take a look at most of the varieties, you'll see that although the calories and fat may have been reduced, the carbohydrates and sugar can be quite high.  Even my favorite kind, Dannon Light & Fit Greek, has 9 carbs, not to mention a pack of 4 yogurts is around $4.00.  If the awesome boyfriend and I each have one cup of yogurt a day, we would be spending $730 a year on yogurt, and that is too big a number for me to reconcile.  Our last vacation didn't even cost that much.  

According to Dana Carpender, one of the pied pipers of low carb cooking, you can make yogurt as home that has as few as 4 carbs per Cup.  That is tremendous when you think about the fact that 1/2 Cup of the store bought stuff has 10 or more carbs.  Another quality of homemade yogurt that has always intrigued me is how many different ways you can make it to manipulate the nutritional content.  There are some very long threads on popular low carb forums about how to get the most bang for your yogurt buck.  I'm a homemade yogurt newbie so I decided to stick to a pretty basic recipe the first time around.

1 quart whole milk
1 C sliced strawberries
2 Tbsp water
1/2 C Splenda
1 individual serving yogurt with live and active cultures
1 tsp banana extract

  1. Add the milk and Splenda to a medium sized saucepan and cook over high heat, stirring continuously.  
  2. Once the yogurt begins to boil, remove it from heat and allow to cool to room temperature (about 30 minutes).  
  3. While milk is cooking, add strawberries and water to a small saucepan and heat over medium high.
  4. Stir strawberries occasionally, until fruit has reduced and wilted.  When finished cooking, strawberries will have a jelly-like consistency.  
  5. Let strawberries cool 10 minutes, then add to room temperature milk.  
  6. Add banana extract to milk mixture.  
  7. Add yogurt with active cultures to milk mixture, and stir briskly with a whisk until all ingredients are incorporated.  
  8. Transfer milk mixture to jars and place jars in yogurt machine base without lids.  
  9. Cover yogurt machine base with lid and cook for 8 hours, or until yogurt has thickened.  
  10. After yogurt has thickened, place lids on jars and refrigerate overnight.  
  • I read on a low carb forum that you can just add a couple of Tablespoons of sugar free strawberry jelly if you don't feel like flavoring your yogurt with real fruit.  Cooking down the strawberries was a little bit tedious, but also delicious.  Next time I'm going to try the jelly trick and see if I can tell the difference.  
  • Most of the yogurts that I looked at in the grocery store do have live and active cultures.  It will be written, somewhere easy to find, on the outside of the package.  If you get an organic variety, like Stonyfield Farms, you can be assured that the live bacteria cultures you need will be in there.  
  • There is a lot of wisdom available about how long you should allow your yogurt to cook.  Some say 6 hours, some say 10 hours, and most say it depends on what kind of milk you use.  I'm not sure that it is an exact science.  I just cooked for 8 hours and tested the consistency of one of the jars with a spoon before serving.  
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Midnight Snack

The awesome boyfriend and I are getting old.  Sometimes on the weekend we sleep in late and have a late breakfast/lunch.  Then we are hungry for dinner around 5:00 PM.  This weekend we went out for an amazing dinner at Uno Chicago Grill.  I stuffed myself full of grilled vegetables and cheesy chicken, and was completely satisfied.  But around 11:00 PM I started thinking about food again.

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One of my go to snacks when it's late and I don't want to eat a lot is a cup of peppermint tea and some really dark chocolate.  Peppermint tea has all kinds of health benefits, but the main reason I drink it is that is has been shown to suppress appetite and curb sugar cravings.  This dark chocolate is about 90% Cocoa, which means that it is not very sweet.  It also means that a very little bit goes a long way.  I know that three squares seems like a small serving, but it is enough of the bitter sweet chocolate flavor to satisfy my desire for a snack.  


Happy Surprises at Uno Chicago Grill

There are not words for how happy it makes me when restaurants make their nutrition stats available online.  Eating out is bad for you.  Like, really bad for you.  Have you ever heard someone on a new diet complain about how they have to cook all their food at home?  It's because dining out is a refined flour and sugar minefield.  When restaurants make their nutritional stats available it makes the minefield easier to navigate.

Some restaurants (I'm looking at you, Panera Bread...) like to pretend like they are serving health food by talking about fresh ingredients and hormone free chicken*.  After all, how bad can a turkey sandwich be?  It's not like you're having a cheeseburger for lunch.  A turkey sandwich can be really bad, it turns out.  The Sierra Turkey Sandwich at Panera has almost 1,000 calories and 80 grams of carbohydrate.  Even with nutrition stats available online, some people are tricked into thinking that menu items are healthy when they are not.  

If a restaurant wants to offer 1,200 calorie meals that is their prerogative.  People are going to buy them, after all, and there's nothing wrong with that, in moderation.  I, myself thoroughly enjoy a bacon cheeseburger with a side of cheesy sweet potato fries.  I believe that completely depriving yourself of something you love is a path to failure for most people, and that we should live a little from time to time.  But if I'm going to spend a cheat day eating junk food then, dammit, I want some real junk food.  Nothing gets me more hopping mad than restaurants parading junk food around like it's health food.  

All of the above are why I am so glad the awesome boyfriend and I stumbled into Uno Chicago Grill for dinner this weekend.  I was bored with our usual places and wanting to go somewhere new.  I remembered that there is an Uno around the corner and pulled up the menu online.  I was pleased to find a Gluten Free menu, although gluten free breads still have a lot of carbs so I tend to stay away from them.  The real surprise came when I clicked on the Nutrition tab and found out that the menu is divided into happy little categories including: less than 500 calories, greater than 30g protein, and less than 30 carbohydrates.    

After perusing this little corner of the menu that was set aside just for me, I decided to go with the Baked Stuffed Spinoccoli.  This dish is supposed to come with 2 sides, but the roasted vegetables were calling my name so I asked for double veggies and a side of marinara for dipping.

You can see from the picture that this meal brought a huge portion.  I immediately asked for a box and put half of it away for later.  The chicken is stuffed with spinach, tomatoes, garlic, and different cheeses.  It was delicious, and filling, and made me a very happy girl.  I was so impressed with the quality of the food that I stopped to tell the manager on the way out.  It's not often that I feel like I get such a complete meal at a chain restaurant.

The awesome boyfriend and I will be visiting again soon because there are several other items on the low carb menu that I want to try.  I almost ordered the Chimichurri steak, and there is also a blackened Cajun salmon that sounds tempting.  This may be the first time ever that I plug a pizza place on this blog, but if there's an Uno Chicago Grill in your area it's definitely worth a visit.

*Hormone free chicken is important, and don't think that I'm knocking it.  It is not, however, a cure all that will magically turn an unhealthy meal into a healthy one.  


Ultimate Kitchen Cheat Sheet

Hey there guys and gals!  I'm a little swamped today.  I'm was working on a post about how awesome Uno Chicago Grill is for having both low carb and gluten free menus available, but you'll have to wait until tomorrow for the exciting conclusion.

Today I have another super handy infographic brought to you by my good friends at Visual.ly.  Until a few months ago I did not know that a London Broil is a cooking method, not a cut of meat.  This graphic can help you understand what kind of steak comes from where, as well as cooking times, and minimum internal temperatures to prevent the spread of food borne illness.  Happy Monday!

Kitchen Cheat Sheet


Leftovers, happy hour, and new grocery store snacks

That spaghetti squash that I made a few days ago is a gift that keeps on giving.  One serving of spaghetti squash is about one Cup so a medium sized squash will yield several servings.  The awesome boyfriend is not crazy about spaghetti squash which means more for me!  I finally ate the last of it for lunch yesterday.

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I had a little sauce with roasted veggies leftover and I cooked a couple more frozen meatballs in the microwave.  I mixed 1 Cup of fat free Greek yogurt with 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter and ate that on the side for a little something sweet, and some extra protein. 

After lunch I met a friend at Franklin's Brewery for happy hour.  Franklin's is one of my favorite places to go for happy hour because they have these sizzling skillet mussels that I adore.  It's in Hyattsville, about 6 miles outside of DC, and is truly a hidden gem.  

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For happy hour I like to order my vodka sodas with lime in a tall glass.  I feel like this gives me a little bit more volume and lessens down my alcohol consumption.  Alcohol slows down your metabolism and also leads to bad decision making, which means that I am more likely to eat cheese fries or pizza after a few beers.    

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After happy hour I stopped by the grocery store to pick up some chili for the awesome boyfriend.  The Giant grocery store by my house has a good soup and salad bar.  They have a really meaty chili that we pick up occasionally when a craving strikes.  I grabbed a couple of new and tasty low carb snacks while I was in there.  

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These salami and mozzarella snacks were very good, although I'm not sure I would spend six dollars on them again.  I feel like I could get the same result by wrapping salami around some string cheese.  

These chocolates were clearly leftover from Christmas and that is why they were on sale.  That, of course, did not stop me from buying a whole bunch.  I am quite bummed out about the fact that I can't get them anymore because they were awesome.  

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I've never heard of Theo Chocolate before, but I did a little research and found out that the company is based in Seattle, and is doing a lot of awesome stuff to support the farmers who produce their cocoa beans.  You can read more about this on their website.  Both the peppermint and the macadamia nut varieties you see here are very good.  I'll be keeping an eye out for them when the next holiday season rolls around.  

Dark chocolate (over 70%) can be very low in carbs.  The nutritional stats can vary based on sugar and other additives so always make sure that you are checking.  These bars only had about 7 carbs per serving, and the awesome boyfriend and I found one serving to be enough for the two of us to share.  If you are a choco-holic keeping these in the house might represent a significant challenge, so take stock before you bring them home.  One of the keys to low carb success is not having your trigger foods within easy reach.  We like to have a little nibble after dinner in the evenings and one of these bars will last us about a week, so they are a perfect purchase for me.  


Calorie Reduction, more artichokes, and tasty chicken

I have sad news.  I have been gaining weight.  I put on one of my favorite suits for a work meeting earlier this week and could barely get the pants zipped!  This is partly frustrating, and mostly my own fault.  I have been a busy bee lately and have been eating out with friends and family, drinking wine, and not going to the gym as regularly as I should.

The happy news is that a small weight gain can easily be turned around on a carb controlled diet through calorie reduction and exercise.  I know that reducing calories is a pain and kind of sucks, but sometimes you just have to do it.  I'm going to start with some small tweaks and hope that I see some progress within a two week period.

For work breakfast yesterday I skipped the bacon and cut down to one fried egg instead of two.  I also had 1/2 of 1 flax pita with 2 Tbsp of cream cheese, and a cup of coffee with a little heavy cream.  

I went across the street to Applebee's for lunch and was very pleasantly surprised to find new weight watchers entrees and new entrees under 550 calories.  This Napa Chicken and Portobellos is a fantastic dish that I will be eating again.  The chicken comes topped with a red wine sauce and Parmesan cheese and is served alongside a mountain of vegetables.  The menu actually calls for potatoes, but you can leave those off and get double veggies instead.  The picture below is the chicken with one portion of vegetables.  They brought the second portion out on a side plate.  I boxed half of the chicken plus the second portion of vegetables to eat later.  I also asked for some of the sauce to go and used it when I reheated the leftovers.  

When I got home I practiced some more calorie reduction by measuring my snack out on a little plate.  Normally if I'm hungry after work I will just take the whole bag of almonds, or whatever, and sit out on the porch with a magazine.  This leads to overeating and so I'm going to be measuring snacks for the time being.  I had two tablespoons of onion dip, 10 baby carrots, and 3 slices of brie, and it was enough to hold me over until dinner.    

The awesome boyfriend went to the gym after work so I ate dinner without him.  I heated up the leftovers from the Applebee's chicken and prepared a Garlic Roasted Artichoke to finish off the meal.  This dinner is low calorie and very low in carbs.  

After the awesome boyfriend got home from dinner he fixed himself a corned beef sandwich on a flax pita from Joseph's Bakery.  He is a banana pepper addict, the spicier the better.  Sometimes I catch him eating them straight out of the jar.  

I know that I am always singing the praises of these bread substitutes, but in case you haven't heard I'll tell you again.  These pitas only have 4 net carbs a piece.  They are tasty and don't get moldy in a couple of days like some of the other low carb bread substitutes.  I keep them regularly stocked in my fridge quick meals like this one.  


Snacks and Leftovers

After work yesterday I was super hungry so I turned on the oven and made this little sweet and salty snack.  I started with a low carb flax pita from Joseph's Bakery.  I put some sugar free peach jelly (about 2 Tbsp total) all over the pita bread and then topped it with 4 slices of brie.  I put it under the broiler on low for a few minutes and then cut with a sharp knife.

Joseph's makes a whole line of low carb, high fiber bread substitutes.  My local grocery store carries the Flax Pita Bread, and the Lavash Bread.  I keep both on hand for wraps and sandwiches.  The nutritional stats on these products are very good and, unlike some other low carb breads, they taste good and will stay fresh in your fridge for a long time.  If you can't find them locally you can order them online.  You can also talk to your local health food store.  Lots of local businesses will order a product like this if you are willing to purchase a case at a time.

For dinner I had the leftovers from yesterday's Spaghetti Squash and Vegetable Roast.  I just put everything into a bowl and heated it in the microwave for a few minutes.  I topped with some shredded Parmesan cheese and a little hot sauce.  It was equally delicious the second time around.


Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Veggies and Meatballs

This meal sounds way more complicated than it actually is, so it's a good one to serve to people that you want to impress.  It seems like you made three dishes but you are really just roasting some veggies in the oven and heating your pasta sauce over the stove top.  Spaghetti squash has about 8 net carbs per Cup so it's not as low as tofu pasta, but it is a good alternative to regular pasta as long as you make sure to measure your servings.

1 spaghetti squash
1 red onion
1/2 of 1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 zucchini
6 asparagus spears
4 oz fresh mushrooms
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1- 26 ounce jar low carb spaghetti sauce
1 package frozen meatballs

  1. Preheat oven to 425.  
  2. Cut spaghetti squash in half and remove seeds.  Place squash, cut side down, on a baking sheet.  Add  water to baking sheet until squash is surrounded.  
  3. Place squash in oven and roast for 40 minutes.  
  4. While squash is roasting, add tomatoes to a large bowl.  
  5. Cut onion into bite size pieces and add to bowl.  
  6. Cut zucchini into long, thin slices with a vegetable peeler and add to bowl.  
  7. Break asparagus spears into thirds and add to bowl.  
  8. Add 3 Tbsp olive oil, salt, and pepper to bowl, and toss with hands or wooden spoon until all ingredients are evenly incorporated.  
  9. Spread mixed vegetables over a baking sheet and add to oven with spaghetti squash.  Veggies should roast for 20 minutes.   
  10. While squash and veggies are roasting, add spaghetti sauce and meatballs to a saucepan and heat over medium high.  Stir occasionally.  
  11. Add remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil to a small skillet and heat over medium.  
  12. Slice mushrooms and add to skillet.  Saute until mushrooms have browned and softened.  
  13. Remove mushrooms and set aside on a paper towel to drain.  
  14. Remove vegetables and spaghetti squash from oven.  
  15. Hold spaghetti squash with an oven mitt and run a fork down the length to shred the flesh.  After you have finished one half repeat with second half.  
  16. To serve, add 1 C spaghetti squash to bowl and top with spaghetti sauce and meatballs.  Add roasted vegetables next to squash.  Add sauteed mushrooms third, next to roasted vegetables.  
  17. Top with Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper if desired.  
  • I love this recipe because it is easy to have all of the components working at once.  If you get the squash started you have 20 minutes to prep your veggies before they go in.  Then you have another 20 minutes while the veggies are cooking to get the sauce/meatballs and mushrooms cooking.  This is a meal with a lot of complex flavors and it can easily get done in less than an hour.  
  • Preparing a spaghetti squash is a little confusing the first time.  I've added a video in case you've never seen it being done before.  Skip to 2:45 if you just want to see how to shred it after it comes out of the oven.  

Spaghetti squash going into the oven.  

Veggies prepped to be roasted.  

If you have a flavored oil like this one you can use it in place of the olive
oil.  I picked this one up at TJ Maxx for around $3.00

Veggies about to go into the oven.  

I like these meatballs because they don't require a lot of energy.  Just
heat them up in some sauce and you're good to go.  

We had some friends over for this meal so I transferred everything to
large bowls for easier serving. 

Yum, yum!


Work Breakfast

I know that not all of you are as blessed as I am to have a full kitchen available at the office.  If you are I highly recommend that you use it to make breakfast.  Getting a couple servings of protein will help get your day off to a good start and will also help you avoid that tummy rumbling 10:30 feeling.  I have one or two eggs almost every day for breakfast, along with a side of flax seed bread, and sometimes a piece of bacon.

The awesome boyfriend cooks.

Last week, we had about 4 inches of snow at my house, which meant a free day to cuddle with the pups and watch movies.  I woke up to the smell of bacon frying and initially wondered if my house was on fire, but then I realized that the awesome boyfriend was making breakfast. He whipped together some mighty spicy breakfast burritos.  I couldn't name all of the ingredients but I know that there were eggs with cayenne, bacon, salsa, jalapenos, and cheese.  It really helped get me out of bed!

We spent most of the day playing in the snow and laying around.  For lunch we threw together some grilled chicken salads, and for dinner we had the last of the Low Carb Taco Bake the I made a couple of nights before.

After dinner I whipped up some Sugar Free Hot Chocolate for the awesome boyfriend and I to enjoy while we watched the snow fall (just kidding, we are not that annoying- we were probably watching Community).

Sugar free hot chocolate is both easy to make and delicious.  I used almond milk and heavy cream for the base and then stirred in some cocoa and artificial sweetener.  It hits the spot if you are craving something warm and sweet.  


The Shelf Life of Food

Hey there foodies!  I have an accounting midterm this evening so I'm a little crunched for time today, but I thought I would take a few minutes to share another food safety infographic with you.

I am notoriously bad about trying to eat leftovers past their prime.  The awesome boyfriend is always picking on me about saving sauces, one bite of a cheeseburger, or three carrot sticks when we go out to eat.  This guide was made for people like me who don't like to throw things away.

The Shelf Life of Food


Artichokes and Chicken Wings

Now that my graduate school semester is approaching mid term, my cooking has slowed down.  I'm still making dinner 4-5 nights a week, but I'm back to basics.  The awesome boyfriend and I have been eating a lot of grilled chicken, roasted vegetables, and tofu pasta with some sort of sauce.  I've also been ordering and cooking larger portions and reheating the leftovers.  All of this is to say that time is not a good excuse for eating a bunch of junk.  Maintaining a healthy lifestyle does require planning and sometimes a little creativity, but it is possible, even for me.

One of my favorite no fuss low carb dishes is a Garlic Roasted Artichoke.  Artichokes are very low in carbs and they pack a bunch of fiber.  You can stuff them with whatever herbs or spices you like, but I almost always use garlic cloves.  Artichokes are a little bit pricier than some other veggies, but they take a while to eat and a single artichoke is a large portion.  It's not unusual for me to make a meal out of one after class on a weeknight.  

Yesterday, I roasted an artichoke and heated up a few chicken wings that I had leftover from happy hour with a friend.  It made for a perfectly satisfying low carb dinner.  The awesome boyfriend picks on me sometimes when I save little scraps like this.  He'll say, "Are you really going to eat those two carrot sticks?" The answer is yes!