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Shrimp & "Grits" A La Nik

Shrimp & Faux Grits
 
Now for those of you who are new, I’d like to let you in on an important piece of information (that you probably already know): when I put the name of food is “quotations,” it means it’s not really that food. So “rice” is not rice and, in this case, those “grits” are not grits. We all on the same page now? Lovely!

Over the summer, while the girls live with their dad, my boyfriend and I are culinary explorers. Here in the city of Baltimore there are ample opportunities for us to flex our wings, too. We have two events every year called “Restaurant Week” where fancy shmancy restaurants offer a special menu for a set price so that us gourmet-deprived masses may taste fine dining at least once in our lives (#sarcasm).

This year I really could only afford to do one restaurant during the week (which was the first week of August) and so I perused the Restaurant Week website to see what different places had on the menu and noticed a trend: grits are all the rage right now.

Now if you’ll indulge me a food memory, grits were a big part of my upbringing. We had them for breakfast countless times. My mom liked to crumble bacon over them and put the perfect amount of butter, salt and pepper. As an obese person, I added my own touch: a tablespoon of bacon drippings (along with the butter) and two fried eggs.

Nowadays I do eat grits sometimes but not in the quantity or the preparation that I used to. But still, it tickled me to see restaurants reimagining what amounts to the U.S. version of “peasant food.” (Meaning that it’s what most of us eat and not what most gourmets have traditionally cooked, NOT that we are all peasants!)

Fast forward to last night, when I needed a quick and tasty dinner. It was the divas first day of school and I’d worked all day. Generally I cook ahead but in prepping for school I didn’t get a chance to. This is when I start to look to my arsenal of 30-minute meal ideas. And I came back to that idea of dinner grits!

I’m going to give you two ways to do this. For those of you who eat grits in moderation, I will give you that method. For those who’d rather skip the grits (for whatever reason), I’ll give you “grits.” (See what I did there?)

Shrimp & Grits a la Nik
(Makes enough for three non-ops, one post-op with a post-op lunch portion left over!)
Ingredients:
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 non-green (yellow, red, orange – your choice!) pepper, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ lb. shrimp, tails removed (I used frozen cooked ones but rinsed them to get them thawed enough to remove the tails)
  • 1 tomato (variety of your choice), diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste (or less if you want a more liquidy sauce)
  • 1 tsp. Cajun seasoning blend
  • 3 cups of spinach (or more, because I felt like it wasn’t enough)
  • A package of grits (quick or traditional, your choice – I’ll tell you what to do with it in the instructions)
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese
Directions:

Spray a large skillet generously with non-stick cooking spray and set it over medium heat. Allow it to get HOT. Add onion and peppers and cook for 1-2 minutes, until slightly softened. Add garlic and stir.

Add shrimp and tomato and stir again. If shrimp are frozen, semi-frozen or cold, sprinkle some salt over the entire thing (not a bunch, it’s mostly to draw the water out of the veggies) and cover the pan and allow the shrimp to cook about 5 minutes or so. If shrimp are already fully cooked/room temperature, proceed to the next step.

Add tomato paste and seasoning and stir through. Add the spinach to the top of the mixture, cover and drop the heat to medium-low and allow it to simmer about 10 minutes or so. Uncover and mix the cooked spinach into the rest of the sauce.

While the sauce is simmering, cook the appropriate portion of grits, according to the amounts on the package directions EXCEPT instead of water, use milk (the fat percentage is up to you. I don’t give the family grits often so I just use whole milk when I do) and add a bit of salt and pepper to the milk as it is simmering. Once the grits have thickened, add 1 heaping tablespoon of Parmesan cheese for each intended serving of grits (so if you’re making 4 servings, use 4 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese).

Now if you're not into the idea of eating regular grits, this would be delicious atop my Four Cheese Mashed Cauliflower or...you can make “grits.”

Nik’s “Grits”

(Makes 2 -3 servings, depending on your eating capacity and who else you are feeding)

Ingredients:
  • 2 c. water
  • 3 c. of cauliflower florets
  • ¼ - 1/3 c. low-fat cream soup of your choice (nearly any flavor works. I used cream of mushroom)
  • ¼ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 tbsp. milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Directions:

In a pot, bring water to a boil and add cauliflower florets. Cook until very, very soft (about 10-12 minutes).

Drain and then mash (in whatever manner you see fit – I use a good old potato masher). You should mash it so that the cauliflower no longer looks like florets. If you still see florets, keep mashing! TIP: Drain the cauliflower into a colander and then mash in the colander in the sink. It helps to remove more of the water.

Mix in cream soup, cheese and milk. For thinner “grits” use more soup and milk. For thicker “grits” use less cream soup/milk. Mix thoroughly. 

Now just because I am a visual eater, I went at them with my immersion blender. But you certainly don’t have to do that. If you let them sit a moment, they thicken up and are very tasty. I will say though that they DO NOT feel like regular grits in your mouth. This is an alternative, not a replacement! J

And of course here are an outtake of this meal (photo I did not choose for the cover shot)

Shrimp & Faux Grits
 
…and the boyfriend’s portion with regular grits
 


PB&B Greek Yogurt

PB&B Yogurt with Blue Diamond Blueberry Almonds
Disclaimer: Blue Diamond provided almonds for use in this blog post. The opinions stated in this blog post are the unbiased opinions of its author. 

I'll let you in on a little secret if you promise not to shame me for it.

Part of why I like to work out is because I like workout recovery food.

There, I said it!

I do heavy weightlifting (I've been lifting since I had surgery 6.5 years ago) and one day was speaking to my trainer and asked what's a good thing to eat after a heavy lifting session. She advised me that something with some good carbs, protein and some fat is the best combo and suggested some lowfat yogurt with some fruit.

You don't have to tell me twice!

So this particular day I had three things going on:
  1. I had an abundance of blueberries (I'd visited the Reading Terminal Market in Philly and everything was a dollar at this one stall, including pints of blueberries. Needless to say, I went a little overboard!)
  2. I had a strong peanut butter craving.
  3. I'd just done a REALLY strenuous lift session (new routine and I bumped my weights up).
This post-workout mini-meal was the result. Now I usually don't eat before I go to my lifting class (it's at 5:45 a.m. and I don't care how agreeable my pouch is, it's not accepting food that early!) so it's essential I get something good in me once I get home. This was fast, easy and yummy! I call it a PB&B for peanut butter and blueberries, of course. In my former life I loved blueberry jam on a peanut butter sandwich, so I decided to play with my food and see if the flavor could work in a yogurt set-up.

NOTE: In the end I decided not to use the actual blueberries. (Stay tuned because I found another yummy use for them!)

Nik's PB&B Greek Yogurt

Ingredients:
  • 6 oz. container unflavored Greek yogurt (I use 0%)
  • No-calorie sweetener, to taste
  • 1 tbsp. peanut butter powder (as you can see above I used PB Fit)
  • 1/2 serving Blue Diamond Blueberry Almonds (the above is a whole serving because the half serving looked sparse in the picture!)
Directions:


In a bowl, mix together yogurt, sweetener and peanut butter powder.

Top with almonds.

And CRUNCH!

Simple as that.

Blue Diamond offers a variety of flavored almonds that you can use in a variety of ways. I must admit I was skeptical about the blueberry almonds (I'm skeptical about almost any kind of blueberry-flavored anything), but I really did enjoy them. They were lightly sweet and crunchy. A nice offset to my peanut butter yogurt.

Now, if you'll excuse me I'm going to use my current post-workout endorphin high to knock out some laundry.


Keep playing with your food!




S'mores Protein Pudding Pie

S'mores Protein Pie featuring CLICK 
Even though we've been experiencing fall-like weather in Baltimore over the past week it is still, in fact, summer. Which means my gut instinct is to NOT turn on the oven if I can avoid it. I have one big cooking day a week where I make or "start" a bunch of things and then finish them off throughout the week (Dear Rachel: I had the idea first!)

So once the Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Bake and a batch of my Curried Chicken were all squared away, it was time to think about dessert. Now dessert is mainly a notion for my family. Even at six years post-op, anything more than a bite of something sweet directly after a meal is not happening.

For me, like so many other post-ops, dessert is another meal entirely. That's part of what makes it problematic for me. I love protein shakes and I've made all manner of desserts (especially cheesecakes!) weight loss surgery friendly, but here's a true fact: Nik cannot stand too much sweet stuff! Nope, I can't. A few bites and I'm good to go. This makes it imperative that I make things my children (and now, my boyfriend) also like. Because there's no way in hell I'm finishing a dessert by myself, short of being able to freeze it.

ANYWHO.  Protein Pudding is often a favorite dessert of mine but I decided I'd like a protein pudding pie. Since the children are still gone for the summer, I rightfully should have made these in ramekins but...I didn't. What can I say? I don't always have a good explanation for why I do the things that I do!

Nik's S'mores Protein Pudding Pie
(This yields a family-sized or share-able pie. If you'd like smaller portions, this also makes about 8 ramekins worth of pie, which can be frozen for up to two months, if wrapped properly.)

Ingredients:
  • 2 (1 oz.) boxes sugar-free chocolate pudding mix
  • 3 scoops (doesn't matter the size of the scoop) unflavored protein powder (NOTE: I highly suggest an unflavored protein powder, like BiPro USA, but you can use either a vanilla or chocolate based protein powder. But your pie will be SWEEEEEEEET.)
  • 1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 -1/4 c. milk (NOTE:  must be cow's milk. Traditional pudding mix won't set up with almond or soy milk)
  • 1/4 c. Torani Sugar-free S'mores flavored syrup
  • 1 tub (8 oz.) whipped topping (low-fat, fat-free, your choice)
  • 1 crumb pie crust (you can either do a Fiber One/high protein or fiber cereal crust OR you can do what I did and splurge on a pre-made graham cracker crust...it truly was a lazy evening!)
Directions:

In a bowl, whisk together pudding mix, protein powder and cocoa powder until thoroughly combined.

Add milk and syrup and blend whatever way you see fit (that particular evening I didn't feel like breaking out the mixer so I just whisked by hand). The mixture will be thick and it may appear slightly gritty. If so, add a bit more milk (try adding 2 tbsp. at a time) until it gets better. In my experience, protein pudding is always at least slightly gritty. And did I mention the mixture would be THICK?

Spread the mixture in your pie crust evenly. It should only come about 3/4 of the way up the crust. Then top with whipped topping. Cover it (that's where the premade crust comes in handy as it has a plastic dome top) and refrigerate an hour before serving.

As is quickly becoming my new custom, here are a few more shots I took of the pie, for your viewing pleasure!

S'mores Protein Pie featuring CLICK
Just a little slice is all you need!


S'mores Protein Pie featuring CLICK
So I had a mishap with the crust. It sort of broke up on me. Doesn't affect the taste one bit!

Cheesy Chicken & Brocolli Bake

Cheesy Chicken & Brocolli Bake - The final shot
For reasons unknown (probably climate change or something), Baltimore has been decidedly fall-like this week.

Unlike many of you, however, I consider it blasphemous to consume anything with pumpkin in it outside the months of September through December. So no pumpkin lattes or protein shakes or the like - yet. But I have been using my oven more, which is nice. Comfort food almost always comes from the oven.

And this easy bake is comfort food at its best. Now I made it from raw veggies (cauliflower, broccoli) but you can easily use frozen for a quick weeknight prep. The amounts listed yield this lovely little casserole dish (notice it isn't much bigger than the salad plate it's sitting next to) full of  yumminess.

Nik's Cheesy Chicken & Brocolli Bake

Ingredients:
  • 8 oz. chicken (I used thighs, use breasts if you like those better)
  • 1/2  a large head cauliflower, cut into florets OR 2 cups frozen cauliflower florets
  • 1 small head of broccoli OR 1 cup frozen broccoli florets
  • 8 oz. can reduced-fat cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup whatever shredded cheese you like (I used Mexican blend)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, to taste
  • Optional: 1/2 an onion diced and/or more veggies (I didn't javascript:;use onions because it would have required another pan and I didn't want to dirty one!)
Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Season chicken thighs and place them on a baking sheet. Bake until done. Once done, remove the skins and transfer to a rack to drain of excess oil. If you are using chicken breasts, I'd advise the morning before you make this you use my meat marinating method (which makes it so tender that most newbies can even tolerate it) and then proceed to grill the chicken in whatever manner is easiest for you (I use my Foreman Grill).

While the chicken is baking set a small pot of water on to boil. When it is boiling, add both the cauliflower and broccoli florets and cook until fork tender, about 5-7 minutes. Drain.

Now here's where your personal style comes into it. I personally pick the broccoli out and mash the cauliflower in a large bowl then add the broccoli florets back in. If you're looking at this post going "Ain't nobody got time for that!" then it's perfectly fine to mash it all together. The broccoli will not yield willingly though!

Cut your chicken into the appropriate sized pieces and add it to the bowl and mix. Then add your soup and mix again. Transfer all this to your small casserole dish and top with grated cheese, then with Parmesan.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until cheese is as melty and brown as you like it.

This is a really easy, really comforting meal, especially if you're one of those people, like me, whose pursuit of protein almost always leaves you missing out on your veggies! Here's a few more shots I took of this dish. Enjoy!

Cheesy Chicken & Brocolli Bake



Cheesy Chicken & Brocolli Bake

Upcoming Travel – Obesity Help Conference and OAC “Your Weight Matters” Convention

(Photo Credit: Lynn Friedman)

Summer is generally a busy travel time for me, being “conference season.” There are two coming up that I wanted to let you know about.

Obesity Help Conference
(Click here for more information or to purchase tickets!)

When: August 15 – 16
Where: Manhattan Beach Marriott, Los Angeles, CA

What it is:

Obesity Help is a leading website that brings together obesity practitioners (including bariatric surgical practices), plastic surgeons and people who are trying to lose weight. I used to refer to it as “the Facebook of weight-loss.” Each year the Obesity Help Conference brings together specialists, as well as fellow post-ops, to speak on various subjects relevant to the weight loss community. This year’s featured keynote speaker is Chef Graham Elliott of Master Chef, who himself had the Sleeve.

Where I’ll be:

Everywhere! Kidding (sorta). I’ll be presenting a session on the 15th on the awkward situations we can face as post-ops. I’m collecting stories about awkward situations so if you have one, be sure to addto my list! I’ll also be a part of a panel of weight-loss surgery graduates.

IMPORTANT: If you are coming to this event, I’ll also have an exhibitor table on the 16th where I’ll be selling copies of The Bariatric Foodie Guide to Perfect Protein Shakes and The BariatricFoodie Breakfast Book. If you are coming and you already have copies, I’d also love to write a special note of gratitude in yours, so bring it along! It’s also my goal to take selfies with as many Foodies as human possible. So come see me!

Lastly, if you are not attending, no worries! I'll be sharing all my experiences on social media. Be sure to stay plugged into the Bariatric Foodie Facebook Page and follow Bariatric Foodie on Twitter. I'll be using the hashtags #OH2014" and "#FoodieNation" for my posts so you can follow those as well!

(Quick hashtag tutorial. Searching hashtags on Facebook/Twitter allows you to go to posts about specific subjects you’re interested in. In the above examples following those two hashtags would get you straight to my posts about the conference for Bariatric Foodie without having to go to my page or scroll through a bunch of non-relevant posts. Make sense?)

OAC “Your Weight Matters” Conference
(Click here for more information or to purchase tickets.)

When: September 23 – 25
Where: Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld - Orlando, FL

What it is:

This is the 3rd annual “Your Weight Matters” Conference. If you were around when I went to last year’s conference in Phoenix, Arizona, you’ll know this event is packed with great information for people in the fight against obesity.

What makes this gathering unique is the caliber of expert speakers. OAC engages top-notch professionals on the cutting edge of obesity research and advocacy. The conference is also extremely well executed, taking into account at every level the needs of people trying to make better choices (for example, they give you the full conference menu with nutritional information and spaces to write in what you ate so you can track your food).

If you were around last year you also know that YOU sent me to this conference with your purchases of the shake book so I was on social media overload. I plan to do that again this year (I even managed to impress OAC’s social media team!) so get ready!

Check out my coverage from #YWM2013.

Where I’ll be/How to find me:

This is a conference where I am simply a participant. But like I said, I plan to share what I learn – as much as possible in real time! So be sure to tune into the Bariatric Foodie Facebook Page, follow Bariatric Foodie on Twitter and also pay specific attention to the hashtags “#YWM2014” and “#FoodieNation” as I’ll be using those to post updates.


“Hey, Nik, you’ll be in my neck of the woods. How’s about a meet-up?”

Great idea! If you live near one of the two locations above, send me an email at bariatricfoodie@yahoo.com. I’m still getting plans together but I definitely want to meet as many Foodies as possible while I am traveling. So if you’re interested in staying in the loop on my plans, hit me up!

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