You could put your verification ID in a comment Or, in its own meta tag Or, as one of your keywords Journey to Fabulous and Fifty: March 2014

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Eating healthy on a budget -- Make your own "Greek" yogurt -- This is the food I eat!

I've been drinking a lot of protein drinks lately. I will for the rest of my life. But, I have to find a way to actually enjoy them since one is a meal replacement (Breakfast) and one is my final snack of the day about 3 hours before bedtime.
Plain non-fat yogurt strained to thicken it
I have priced plain non-fat Greek yogurt. For the amount I use, it's expensive. I go through at least two to three 32-ounce containers in a week. At almost $4 to $5 a pop, that's a lot of money, especially in a week where I end up using 4 or 5 containers. I remembered a trick from years ago that I think it was my mother or my grandmother taught me. Strain plain yogurt, it will thicken it up.

Many will say Greek yogurt has twice the protein as regular yogurt. That's great for some people who have issues getting protein. Me? Post WLS I get minimum 60g just from my protein drinks each day, so getting protein isn't an issue. Eating healthy on a budget? That's an issue.

Do NOT buy any plain yogurt with anything like modified food, potato or tapioca starch. It's garbage, all fillers. Check out the store brands at your local supermarket. You should be able to find them for under $2 per 32-ounce container, definitely under $3 per container. There should be nothing but non-fat or fat-free milk and cultures. NO MODIFIED STARCH of any kind!

Since I am not willing to pay for fillers, and because my husband and I are both diabetically-challenged, I have had to find a way to make my own thickened plain yogurt to use for tzatziki and as sour cream and mayonnaise in place of higher calorie, higher carb items.

I buy a 32-ounce container of plain yogurt. Just plain yogurt, Dannon is my favorite and usually costs less than $3 for a 32-ounce container. I also like the Wegmans and Tops brands...local supermarkets here in Western NY.

Using a fine mesh strainer or a colander, I layer four to five sheets of paper towels (if they're cheap -- I but the 50¢ a roll kind) or one cheese cloth folded over to create four layers. I spoon the plain yogurt over the paper towels in the strainer, then take another four to five sheets of paper towels folded over and place them on top of the yogurt in the strainer. Put the strainer containing the yogurt over bowl or plate to catch the liquid. Put the whole thing in fridge for at least one hour, may need up to 4 hours.
Tzatziki made with plain, fat-free strained yogurt
I use the strained plain yogurt in tzatziki -- a delicious yogurt and cucumber dip made with lemon juice, garlic powder and dill. I also use the strained plain yogurt as a sour cream substitute or as a mayonnaise substitute when making salad dressings, macaroni salad, tuna salad, egg salad, potato salad, etc.

Macaroni salad made with half Miracle Whip half strained plain yogurt

I also use the strained plain yogurt in my morning protein drinks. It gives them a bit of thickness and a nice tang. I especially like the smoothies with vanilla protein powder and some type of berries.

The Berries are Hiding protein smoothie made with strained plain yogurt

These are just some of the things you can use the strained plain, fat-free yogurt for. I'm sure you can find lots of ways to use it in place of Greek yogurt!

As always...Cheers!
Rachael Monaco

©Rachael Monaco All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without prior permissions from the author. Partial reposting is permitted with a link back to the original article.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Avgolemono - Greek lemon chicken soup recipe -- This is the food I eat!

I have always liked Avgolemono -- Greek lemon chicken rice soup -- with a Greek pita wrap and/or a Greek salad for dinner.
Avgolemono -- Greek Lemon Chicken Rice Soup

I've found this soup is actually not too bad just warmed up a little. And it definitely tastes better the second day. The flavors have overnight to meld together. These days I'm skipping out on the rice, but I am going to make some of this over the weekend and enjoy my portion without it.

Avgolemono - Greek lemon chicken  rice soup

Ingredients for Avgolemono:
  • 8 cups chicken stock or broth (canned or homemade)
  • 1 cup uncooked long-grain white or brown rice
  • 2 to 2½ cups cooked chicken, skinned, boned and coarsely chopped or shredded
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How to make Avgolemono:
  • Bring chicken broth to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in rice, lower heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Add chicken and simmer or 5 minutes longer.
  • Meanwhile, whisk egg whites in a small bowl until they are frothy. Stir in yolks and lemon juice and whisk to combine.
  • Remove 1 cup of broth from soup. Slowly whisk it into egg mixture. Add another cup of broth in the same manner. Remove soup from heat and pour egg mixture into it. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parsley and serve hot. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Photo courtesy of Rachael Monaco's kitchen on Avgolemono soup day

Until next time! CHEERS!
Rachael Monaco

©Rachael Monaco All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without prior permissions from the author. Partial reposting is permitted with a link back to the original article.

Minestrone soup -- easy, delicious and inexpensive -- This is the food I eat!

Sorry to have been away so long! Got caught up in my life and just getting a lot of things done. So, what have I been doing? Mostly I've been revamping old family favorite recipes and trying to make them healthier.

I'm back to eating food again, but I eat such small amounts. Yesterday I made homemade minestrone but I skipped out on the noodles. It was amazingly delicious!

I am now 21 days post-op and have list a total of 18 pounds. I had my follow-up with my primary care doctor today and see my surgeon next week. I'm hoping to be down another 3 pounds for a total of 21 pounds in 28 days. My goal is to be down 35 pounds by the end of March. 

Minestrone soup has always been one of my favorites. What’s not to like? Tomato broth, beans, veggies….and some kind of pasta. Usually spirals or shells, but more often than not the standard elbow macaroni. I enjoyed the beans and the zucchini and squash quite a bit. It was nice to have a different flavor added to what I eat.

I’ve seen so many minestrone soup recipes over the years and I cannot figure out for the life of my why people make it so complicated. Believe me, my Nonni, Nonna and those before her were not using all kinds of beans I have never heard of or cheeses that cost $30 a pound in their minestrone soup.

Basically what you will need to make a big pot of delicious minestrone soup is a combination of cooked beans. I don’t use canned, but feel free, just drain and rinse them. I use 3 cups of any combination of cannellini beans, white beans, garbanzo (chickpeas) beans, pink beans, pinto beans, kidney beans.
I chop up a small onion, 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, a large carrot (peeled) and a few ribs of celery. At the bottom of my largest soup pot (about 6-quarts) I add olive oil and heat it up then add the carrots, celery, onions and garlic. Let it sweat for a few minutes.

You’ll need 2 cups of vegetable broth, I make my own, here’s the link on how I do that --> Make your own vegetable broth from scraps

You’ll also need 1 large can (28 ounces) tomato sauce, low or no-salt preferred) and one can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes. After the stuff has had a chance to sweat, add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Carefully add the tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes. Bring to a bubble over medium-high to high heat. Add oregano, basil and parsley to taste. Add some garlic powder if it’s not garlicky enough for you. Simmer on low heat, uncovered, for about 30 minutes.

Now you’ll need one small green zucchini, one small yellow summer squash, a cup of frozen corn kernels, a cup of frozen, cut broccoli and a cup of frozen peas. Cut the zucchini and summer squash into smallish chunks (about the size of large dice). Add the zucchini, squash and broccoli to the pot. Simmer on low another 20 to 25 minutes. Add the corn and peas; simmer another 20 minutes on low. Don’t forget to stir the soup often. Taste test to make sure you have the seasonings just right. Add the beans and simmer another 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook your choice of pasta according to directions. Drain and set aside.

Take the soup off the burner, cover and let sit 10 minutes. Mine always ends up looking very thick and not thin and watery. Hubby likes it that way and so do I. Kids don’t seem to mind, the minestrone never seems to last very long.

I put the hot pasta at the bottom of the bowl and scoop the soup out over the pasta and then sprinkle with Parmesan or Romano cheese. A salad and garlic bread often round out the meal whether for lunch or dinner. Now, Mangia! Oh, it’s soooo cheap…and delicious…and healthy!

Here are the links to my other blog posts about eating healthy and exercising on a budget:

As always...CHEERS!!!
Rachael Monaco

Photo courtesy of Rachael Monaco's kitchen on Minestrone soup day

©Rachael Monaco All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without prior permissions from the author. Partial reposting is permitted with a link back to the original article.