Kitchen Blunder transformed to Wonder: Southwest Sausage and Peppers

Oh, for the love of MUFAs! I miss being in my kitchen. For the last week and a half I’ve been resigned to bed rest. I’ve been at the mercy of the men in my household to bring me food and drink. Just try getting someone to bring you a glass of Merlot to wash down your Percocet – impossible!

The care and feeding of Heidi Lee has no doubt been a challenge for PC as well as for my son, Cole. I love to cook and I can be a little picky/snobby with my flavors. My poor PC has been a bachelor for 46 years and has gotten, how shall we say…. well, very creative with his culinary skills. I was able to detour him in his misguided attempt to slush canned tuna and applesauce together onto a plate by strategically requesting that he make a pot of his Chili. A big pot goes a long way, and every guy in the world swears by his own Chili recipe.

Yes, I’m sharing this strategy with you proactively should you ever find yourself in my position. Play it safe and ask for the chili.

Cole, on the other hand, brings me candy bars and licorice. Good kid.

Lately, though, our gallons of chili has begun to run dry. I find myself moving around a little better though. Last night I hobbled off my lazy duff and finally got back into my kitchen. A bit of a struggle scooting between the stove and the refrigerator, wearing my orthopedic boot makes me feel like I’ve got a 10 lb bag of flour strapped to my leg. No worries, though. I was successful.

I had been craving sausage and peppers for a while, and I could almost smell the fresh basil and garlic dancing around my drugged up nose for over a week. I had grabbed Italian Sausage from my freezer earlier and set it out to thaw.

When it came time to cook, I teetered my way through my cupboard pulling out all of my standard ingredients. As I grabbed the sausage to begin slicing, I realized my challenge. The Italian sausage I thought I had grabbed turned out to be a Southwest smoked chicken sausage I had never used before. Ok, so a change of flavors on the fly. Cool, I’ve got this. Basil and garlic became chipotle chili powder and smoky cumin – throw in a little paprika to boot….Voila! Perfection.

My hodge-podge of a throw together turned into a delectable variation on the traditional Italian Sausage & Peppers. I’d love to share it with you as I am certain I stayed within the requirements to make it a Flat Belly Mufa Meal. The best thing – this meal was my first adventure with a new favorite ingredient – Johnsonville Chicken Sausage with 50% Less Fat! (coupon) I can tell you the sausage was full of flavor. I was very impressed, and PC couldn’t tell that it was actually chicken.

Now to the meat of my post 😉 A little bit of kitchen magic:

Southwest Sausage & Peppers

  • 2 tbsps olive oil (Mufa)
  • 1 pkg Chicken Sausage with Cheese & Chipotle Peppers, cut into bite sized slices
  • 1 large yellow pepper, cut in thin strips
  • 1 large orange pepper, cut in thin strips
  • 2 large green peppers, cut in thin strips
  • 1 med yellow onion, cut in thin strips
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (you can substitute with minced garlic in a jar if you want)
  • 6 oz can of tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup dry red wine – Leave enough in the bottle for drinking. You be the judge.
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 small can tomato sauce (I believe these cans are ~ 4 oz)
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Whole Wheat Spaghetti, prepared

Pour a 5 oz glass of the red wine – set aside for drinking. See, now I’m back in charge!

Fill a pasta pot with water and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, using a 5 quart kettle, heat the olive oil over a medium heat and add sausage. Sauté until lightly browned. Add in the vegetables and the garlic, and sauté for 3 – 4 minutes. You want to keep the crispness of these peppers in the sauce, so don’t over-cook.

Enjoy a sip or two of wine and again, set aside. You need to pay attention to adding the tomato paste so don’t let the wine become the activity for right now. If you do this next step right, you get an added surprise in your meal of a rich, sweetened tomato sauce – mess up and your paste turns the whole dish burnt and bitter. So no gulping down the fruit of the vine just yet, k?

Add the tomato paste to the meat & veggie mixture and toss until the paste begins to coat through. You will begin to see the paste start to get a little gloss to it – this is the time to add in the wine and stir until the paste and wine begin to blend. Perfect! Nicely done.

Throw in the rest of the ingredients – not art to this part. Just be careful to toss gently through your sauce rather than to vigorously disturb your lovely veggies.

Set aside to simmer for about 20 minutes – and enjoy that glass of red while the aroma starts to fill your house. Be sure to offer a glass to your own Prince Charming while you are at it.

With about 10 minutes left, remember to start your spaghetti (my favorite wheat pasta). Add a little salt into the boiling water, and add enough of the noodles to feed your family. You may even want to prepare a little extra to take leftovers to work for lunch tomorrow. This meal tasted is even better today.

Guidelines for serving size to make this a Mufa Meal – 1/2 cup of pasta and 3 oz of sausage (1 link is 3 oz). You’re getting your Mufa from the olive oil. However, the wine throws the allowed calories off track – be sure to refer to The Flat Belly Diet recommendations about adding alcohol with a meal if you are attempting the diet plan.

Stop back by and let me know if you liked this recipe. Also, feel free to share a variation if you come up with any.

Cheers,

Heidi Lee

Lovin the mufas, Lovin my life

Hello, my friends.

I must say that journaling my hurdles and successes is really helping me to appreciate little things around me that I may otherwise take for granted.

That being said, here is my accountability from yesterday.

4 meals? Well, no. But at least I got in 3 quality meals – each with a Mufa and 400 calories. And by the end of the evening, I realized I had 400 calories that I could spend – Wine! 400 calories = 4 (5 oz) glasses of red wine. So I could have had 2 more glasses to meet my calorie count.

Wait – I don’t think that is really in the principles of the Flat Belly. But it sure did make the evening with PC a bit cozier 😉

I’ve mentioned yesterday’s blueberry heaven of a breakfast, and I made a healthy Run for the Border over lunch. Dinner was filled with rich flavors balanced by the crispness in the wine. Sound wonderful? Ok, I’ll share my recipe.

It happens that I collect cookbooks although I can’t follow a recipe to save my life. I use them for inspiration rather than instruction. Last night I was thumbing through #RachelRay’s Book of 10 for new twists to put on the every day boneless skinless. I happened across a yummy little number on Page 14 for Mediterranean chicken with Saffron CousCous and decided this was a great place to start. The challenge was the the recipe was too heavy in Mufas – you have to watch your intake because they really do lump on the calories if used in excess. Her version used 2 Mufas; olive oil and kalamata olives. I had to cut back.

In pie plate – mix together 1/2 C flour with a pinch of salt and a whole lot of pepper. Top it off with a sprinkle of Cayenne pepper and you’re all set. Lightly dredge your 4 breasts and give them a little shake. The recipe calls for 2 tbsps of heated olive oil, but I cut it back to 1 tbsp to allow for extra olives. Brown the breasts on each side until golden and crispy, then turn the heat down and cook thru (about 10 minutes). Remove and set aside. (If your guy seems to be sneaking a couple peeks into the kitchen, dab a little flour on your cheek. He’ll appreciate you a little later)

Now comes the fun! And here is how I avoided adding sodium rich powdered chicken broth and water. Deglaze your pan with 1 cup of water and get all that good, rich gunk up off the bottom of the pan. Pour off and set aside.

(Start Couscous – I use a Hodgkin Mill brand for time saving – basil and garlic flavored. I added 1 cup of frozen peas to the water before I followed the package directions. helps cut down on doing dishes)

Add a tad more oil to the pan, and saute 1 chopped red onion and 5 cloves of minced garlic. Sprinkle in 1 tbsp of dried thyme. Like Ms Ray, I also like to use fresh herbs – just didn’t have any.

Hopefully you notice a little bit of sticking to the pan, right? No worries – grab a bottle of white wine, and deglaze again using the wine (just over 1 cup). Wow – smell that? Add the broth back in, and toss in about 20 kalamata olives; halved. Throw in 1 cup of grape tomatoes and return the chicken to the gravy. Heat through (about 5 minutes for the perfect doneness in your tomatoes).

As I finished up dinner prep, I started to set the table. The sounds of Alex Trebec gave way to a light jazz – Huh? PC noticed all of the work I put into dinner, and he decided to set the mood for relaxation with the right background noise. I sometimes find it hard to believe that this type of man exists – and that I literally picked him out of an Online Dating JC Penneys Catalog. But here he is – over a year into our relationship and still bringing the romance and the thought. I truly am lucky.

As a family, PC, Cole and I sat around the table just a little longer than usual last night. Very nice. Then we all moved back into the dining room where the soft music was replaced by a Thursday night favorite – The #BigBangTheory. It seems both PC and Cole find me remarkably similar to Sheldon in my nerd-dom. Wow.

So how did I do yesterday in meeting my goals? I came close on the eating, and I completely missed the mark on the exercise. I did spend more quality time with my family and managed to turn work off for the evening. The good news is – PC decided to help me out with the vigorous activity a little later so I could even up my goals 😉

Cheers!

Heidi Lee

Ode to a Mufa and the Flat Belly in each of us

Here I am, coming to the confessional again and I’m not even Catholic. Is that allowed?

I’ve not kept to my commitments towards better health – Yet. And the good news is that I am starting to understand why I haven’t put this personal goal first on my list – I’m too busy for me.

We can start out by defining the Mufa and why I’ve chosen to incorporate it into my eating rituals. Then I’ll dive into owning up to my mistakes as well as my little victories – sound good?

“MUFAs (pronounced moo-fah) are monounsaturated fatty acids, plant-based fats found in some of the world’s most delicious foods–avocado, nuts and seeds, oils, olives, and dark chocolate!” (Prevention Magazine) The Mufa is also a principle built into Prevention’s Flat Belly Diet – we will spend more time with these principles as the weeks progress, but the concept is to target the fat where it hurts us the most – The Belly. Not only does a flatter belly make us feel more confident in a tight pair of jeans, but it also helps in the battles against diabetes and other killers.

So here goes – my journal through the quest for good health

Last week in my Pot & Kettle declaration of guilt I made the commitment to:

  • Eat my 4 small meals per day – A Mufa in every meal
  • Do 2 miles of vigorous in-home walking
  • Have dinner with my family
  • Take care of me first

Let’s break this down a bit so I can celebrate any little success while also identifying Opportunities to be better.

I have successfully taken time out with my family – Prince Charming and my son, Cole. Last night we went out for Wings and Beer after Cole’s guitar lesson. Success! Dinner with the fam.

Oh crap – wings and beer? Nothing close to a Mufa in there – just a great big dish of high cholesterol and a little extra padding being added  around the middle. But it was fun, and we all had a moment to appreciate.

I’ve fit in my in-home walking twice this week, and PC (short for Prince Charming) and I took a brisk stroll through NYC. Hooray! Fitness and Activity!

Darn-It. Our brisk walk landed us right at an Italian wedding reception with the most delectable dishes I’ve experienced in ages – pastas, appetizers, filet mignon – and plenty of the liquid grape. But there is a light in there somewhere….<thinking…thinking> Yup – found it – my pasta salad had wonderfully salty kalamata olives. My Mufa, my friend. I had roughly two tablespoons of olives which is just the right amount for healthful eating. Unfortunately, I squeezed way too many calories around the Mufa so I probably diluted the benefits.

And goodness knows I did enough dancing to work off the second piece of cake I had to eat since PC seemed to opt for the Gin & Tonic instead of the sweet stuff.

So I’ve had a few successes, and I’ve seen where my social calendar has stepped in the way of my path to a healthy lifestyle. But let’s look for a moment at those other 168 hours or so since I made myself the promise – I still haven’t gotten myself on board and I’ve allowed:

  1. Work to occupy more than 11 hours per day – cramming pretzels in between conference calls to stop the hunger pains
  2. Professional deadlines to come before personal commitments
  3. Business-related stress to excuse adding in an extra glass of red wine in my evenings
  4. Colleagues and peers to consume my family time rather than cutting off my work day at 5:00 (well, ok, 7:00 until we get this proposal written).

As I look above, I’m proud of my little milestones, but I see I need to strengthen my back bone a little to master my own objectives. I need to crack down on my calendar and develop a little bit more will power. I can do this!

And as for my Mufa, I miss you, my friend. When you and I are together as nature intended, I have more energy. I feel better and I have a clear focus. When I invite you into my diet, my relationship with PC is better (he loves you as much as I do). When I allow you, my Mufa, to mingle with my first meal of the day – I sail through the rest of the hours with renewed commitment.

This morning’s first light is with you, and my chosed form is The Cashew. My breakfast – 1 whole grain organic waffle topped with 1 cup of warm blueberries and 2 tablespoons of chopped cashews. Delightful. Wash it down with a glass of Almond Milk for calcium, and I’m ready to conquer the world.

Thank you, #FlatBellyDiet, for introducing me to my new friend.

xoxo

Heidi Lee

Reference: http://www.prevention.com/flatbellymufaslideshow/

Failure? Or Opportunity for Improvement?

Hi All!

Thought I would pop on and again share with you the Egg on my Face – would you like that over-easy?
Yesterday I made a bold commitment to follow my diet rules and my exercise path – I only won 3/4 of my battle. Yesterday I spoke, tail between my legs, of how I needed to focus on my health in preparation for an upcoming surgery. I promised myself and each of you that I would stick to my Plan for Performance

  • Exercise following some of my favorite fitness DVDs – check. Got that done with a 3 mile Power Walk using a #LeslieSansone Power Walk video
  • East 4 well-balanced, 400 Calorie #FlatBellyDiet Meals daily – 3/4 of a check. Skipped breakfast again using a Conference Call as an excuse
  • Maintain appropriate Work/Life balance for sanity and for relationships. Giant MISS! Worked until all hours of the night, and waited until after 7:30 to sit down with my son for homework help. Allowed stress of the day to overtake personal goals, and now I wake up with a feeling of failure.

So I have to ask myself this morning: did I fail, or did I truly find another opportunity for self improvement? I will focus my energy on the latter and look at the good things I did for myself yesterday.

  1. I made a commitment to take care of myself
  2. I started working towards that commitment
  3. I am cultivating a promising project at the office
  4. I got to laugh with my son while trying to design a set of Inferences
  5. I enjoyed a glass of red wine while I watched my favorite show – #TheBigBangTheory

Wow – look at everything that I did. I’m pretty cool, actually – lots to celebrate!

That being said, lots of opportunities ahead to keep getting better. I intend to keep working at it. To quote a favorite philosopher, “Do, or do not. There is no Try.” (brownie points to anyone who can name that quote)

My friends, is anyone else willing to share their own opportunities? I could sure use the company and the encouragement. Let’s hear from you, fellow toad kissers!

xoxo

Heidi

Hi Pot, I’m Kettle. You’re Black

Dear Pot,

Right away I must beg forgiveness – it seems that we girls have our own versions of Boy Dumb. I’m quite guilty this morning.

Yesterday I shared the trials of my friend Jake, and of how Jake couldn’t ask Cindy to join him at the gym. Sounds pretty basic, right?

Let’s put a new twist on this story since my own personal prince charming also stresses the weight of physical fitness as a life priority. The difference is, he isn’t afraid to remind me often. While I have all of the best intentions, I also have many excuses. So this morning, Jake, please know that I am in the dog house with you.

Early on, I shared with you all that I am using the Flat Belly Diet and also several in-home workout DVDs to get back into shape. As I’ve rounded the corner of 40, so have my hips, my thighs, and Lord hope not my bra size. Whether we want to call these challenges reasons, justifications or excuses – quite simply they are unacceptable. However, I’ll share with all of you, Dear Friends, in case you see any resemblance. I’d love to know that I’m not alone.

Over the past 3 weeks, I’ve had a corporate reorganization thrown in my lap. I’ve been yanked from my professional home and dumped off into a foreign igloo. Of course, I threw myself into my work which means:

  1. I’ve worked 14 – 15 hour days and forgotten my family
  2. I’ve neglected my exercise which means I’m getting really crabby
  3. I’ve ignored an eating program that I love. So now I work all day and get crabbier because I’m hungry
  4. I’ve made work my first priority rather than my health so my doctor is yelling at me
  5. I’ve gone without sleep due to anxiety from all of the above.

OK, so I suppose I am Girl Dumb. I have a wonderful man gently reminding, assertively nudging, and then forcefully shoving my exercise and my eating back into my life – all because he loves me. I can give him all of the excuses in the world, but he knows the real reasons. I’ve quite simply become exhausted. The funny thing is, if I were keeping up with my exercise and my eating program, I’d have a hell of a lot more energy and probably grow a cape and fly.

The scary thing for me is that I only have about 2 weeks left where I can exercise whole-heartedly. You see, I’m having a “procedure” the first week in November – Doc is putting pins in my feet to help slow the rheumatoid arthritis. I will be wearing a boot for half of the winter that simply doesn’t match anything in my wardrobe (including my best Nike get fit gear). So now it is go time. I need to get my body and my mind as healthy as possible to speed my recovery.

So how do I do this? I commit. When I commit to something I go head first and all-in. So today I promise first to myself and then to those in my life who love me – Today I will eat my 4 small meals per day. Today I will do 2 miles of vigorous in-home walking. Today I will have dinner with my family. Today I will take care of me first.

And I’m making this commitment because I have to love me first – if I don’t, how can I expect others to?

Anyone care to join me? Let’s hear from you about mind and body fitness goals between now and the New Year. No sense in putting off until January 1st, right?

Kind Regards,

Kettle

artwork borrowed from http://civitaquana.blogspot.com/2010_05_01_archive.html