Spring Training a la Francaise

It happened again.  My passion for food and cooking has caught up to me and I find myself in need of a little “Spring Training.”  We like baseball in this house, well the hubs loves baseball and my own fandom was the obvious response to watching my own son play for many seasons, well that and being born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio.  And just like the pudgy boys of Summer who return to their Spring Camps in March in need of some batting practice and cardio, so too must I re-introduce a bit of discipline to the Casa Kitchen.

Readers know by now that I have always admired the French–for their food, architecture, style, food and drink mores, and especially their approach to diet and exercise.  To sum up: eat everything but not much of any of it.  If you drink the wine, skip the desert and only 1 piece of bread.  Eat at least 3 small meals a day but avoid snacks.  Stay stated with protein in the form of roasted chicken (take the skin off), grilled steak, broiled fish and as many fresh greens and vegetables as you wish but lightly dressed and make the most of herbs and spices.

For exercise, make sure you walk everywhere you go and if walking is not the appropriate form of transport from A to B ( witness my own rural address 10 miles from town), then take a long walk to nowhere every day.   If you have dogs, leash them up and take them along.  A long walk is good for your soul and exercise  curbs the appetite.

I will watch my calories and avoid all processed food and most alcohol for a few weeks and I will be right back on track.  I love food too much to ever have to go on a serious diet so I keep things in check.  In a few weeks I will feel slimmer in all my clothes just in time for a short trip to the beach to see my Dad.  Nothing like some motivation before pool season!

When watching calories its important to dress your food up with flavor so you do not feel deprived.  I make a bit of a spectacle about my reduced calorie creations and I find myself looking forward to meals.  A few of my favorite foods to eat when watching calories:

Microwaved eggs (good for breakfast, lunch or dinner)–

2 organic eggs beaten in a bowl with salt and pepper and 1 oz. shredded Irish Sharp Cheddar Cheese.  Cook in microwave for 45 seconds until soft set.  Stir and let rest.  Sprinkle with fresh parsley and dill.  Serve with a side of diced organic tomatoes and 1/2 of a sliced mango.  This meal is 300 calories.

Tuna salad on crackers–

Start with one of the very small cans of tuna packed in water.  Mix in a bowl with a little chopped celery, 1-2 T of mayonnaise, salt, pepper, white pepper, and parsley.  Serve on 5 saltine crackers.  Total calories 300.  I add fresh sliced tomatoes, greens tossed in a tiny bit of vinaigrette, and whatever fresh fruit I have on hand.  This week I have d’anjou pears, mangos, strawberries, apples and bananas.  Keep the serving size to 1 cup or less as fruit does tend to have a lot of sugar.

Grilled steak–a lean cut like NY strip and cut on the small side–maybe 4-6 ounces will run 400-500 calories.  Salt and pepper and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Grill to desired temperature.  Pair with a nice salad and one glass of red wine.  I have a flair for making a salad.  It sounds so ho hum but everyone (Jeff mainly but really he is EVERYONE to me) says I make the best salads.  I do tend to indulge some creativity in this area.

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Things you can add to a salad–blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, apples, organs, pears, grapes, nuts, banana peppers, olives, corn, tomatoes, avocados, green beans, peas, beans, onions, crumbled/shredded cheese of any kind, pickles, beets, dried fruit, shredded coconut (toasted is delicious and crunchy), croutons, seeds, tortilla strips, hard boiled egg, broccoli, asparagus, potatoes, etc! But don’t add all of those at once.  That would be weird.

Instead think about natural flavor pairings like tangerine sections, toasted coconut, green onion and feta.  Strawberries, blueberries, chopped pecans, and crumbled blue cheese.  Make sure to economize on all of the ingredients to be aware of their effect on overall calories.  Eggs and avocado are calorie dense but also super healthy and a great choice if you watch calories in another area.

And for heaven’s sake make your own vinaigrette!  Its easy, tastier and cheaper.  Look up any vinaigrette recipe but stick generally to this formula–2/3 EVOO, 1/3 vinegar, lots of salt and pepper, a pinch of sugar and a shot of mustard.  Thank you People of France.

Now at this point we are making a major digression from the reduced calorie musings but this one bears posting for those who might not be in Spring Training.  The other day I made an Ina Garten vinaigrette for salad with warm goat cheese croutons.  The vinaigrette gave me the perfect excuse to use my new hand blender–I used it to emulsify a dressing of 2 egg yolks, 1 cup EVOO, 1/3 cup champagne vinegar, salt, pepper, white pepper and a pinch of sugar.  It’s a little on the tart side but if you use it to dress greens and then add the warm goat cheese crouton it becomes perfection.

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Slice goat cheese into 1 inch rounds, dip in egg white and dredge in panko crumbs.  Fry at medium heat in a small sauté pan in 1 T. EVOO and 1 T. Butter a few minutes each side until golden.  Top salad dressed in the vinaigrette.

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My 14 year old son devoured 2 salads with 2 croutons each and remarked that he was not sure what it was but it was sure delicious.  You must serve the croutons warm from the saute pan for full culinary effect and flavor explosion.  Like when Pete Rose hit number 4, 256….a record still not broken today.  Would someone put that man in the Hall of Fame already!  Go Reds (and Rockies)!

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