Brunch for a Cause

Cafe MomentumThis morning my family and I had the privilege of dining at a Café Momentum event. Café Momentum is a group of amazing people who are providing culinary training and life skills to some of Dallas’ at-risk youth in detention. These are great kids that maybe took a wrong turn, but that doesn’t mean they can’t learn from it and become stronger and better through this program. The group is currently building a restaurant in downtown Dallas with classroom facilities and everything, but in the meantime, local chefs are opening up their restaurants for monthly pop-ups to raise funds for the program.  Tickets are tough to get – you have to be fast when they go on sale – but we have been able to attend a couple of events.

granola parfaitThis morning was the first brunch event for Café Momentum and it was held at Chef John Tesar’s restaurant Knife. The meal was truly amazing. We began with croissants and muffins, Bloody Marys and Mimosas. The second course was house made granola with vanilla yogurt and a blackberry and raspberry parfait.  The vanilla yogurt was tart and mixed beautifully with the natural sweetness of the pureed berries and was beautifully presented in a stemless wine glass. The next course was a watercress, goat cheese and walnut salad.  I will confess now that none of the ingredients are usually what I go for. However, it was scrumptious and I ate every.single.bite. Yep, it was delicious and I hope Chef recreates this dish at the house (hint, hint!).watercress salad

The main course was off the charts! Truffled scrambled eggs, house made sausage, biscuits with sausage gravy, and bacon! You could literally smell the beautiful, savory scent waft from the open kitchen. The sausage was house-made and had a sweetness that made it difficult to not devour. My son was hilarious.

Ohmygod truffled eggs and sausage gravy, also known as heaven

Ohmygod truffled eggs and sausage gravy, also known as heaven

He is firmly in “camp bacon” and was disappointed when the menu did not include bacon. His outburst of glee when he saw perfectly crisp, likely house-cured bacon on his plate was hysterical and those around us couldn’t help but laugh. That being said, seriously, even the bacon was perfect. The biscuit was divine and the sausage gravy was the best I’ve ever had. The final course was banana “pudding,” which was a layer of custard, a layer of caramel and a lighter than air layer of banana flavored mousse, topped by house-made miniature vanilla wafers. Literally, I force-fed myself those final bites despite my being full. I might have needed a moment by myself after that, I definitely needed a nap… hahaha.

Café Momentum’s new dedicated space will be open in December and to kick it all off, Rachel Ray’s show is featuring this program on her show next month some time. While banana puddingwe dined, there was a film crew interviewing the guests, the workers and the dreamers behind this vision. One of the things I am most impressed with is the commitment to pay each of the interns in the program a living wage. In Dallas, a living wage is calculated as $9.17 per hour. A living wage guarantees someone clothing, food and shelter. It doesn’t guarantee someone a new iPhone or the latest $200 sneakers, but the necessities.  Because of the donations, they pay the interns $10 per hour!

The program has unequivocally been a success and it would be amazing to see this movement throughout the country. I have to believe that it would lead to a sea-change on how we view and treat at-risk youth. They are worthy of second chances and a shot at dignity. We just have to offer it.

Alex makes sure to thank Chef Tesar for the amazing breakfast, and get him to sign his menu. :)

Alex makes sure to thank Chef Tesar for the amazing breakfast, and get him to sign his menu. 🙂

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Roasted Red Pepper & Ricotta-Stuffed Chicken Roulades with Lemon Butter & Cauliflower Puree

I’m always on the lookout for new ideas for dinner.  There are many requirements I have:

  • One portion of the entire meal has to be less than 450 calories, what I’ve typically got left by dinner time
  • It should feel like I got a good-sized portion – none of this two bites and I’m done with dinner foolishness
  • I’d like the cost to be low (I have race fees to pay for, gotta save some bucks! LOL)
  • The kids have to be willing to eat it
  • My husband has to be willing to prepare it.  Have I mentioned I can’t boil water?!?

I found this recipe in Clean Eating’s July/August 2014 issue.

Roasted Red Pepper & Ricotta-Stuffed Chicken Roulades with Lemon Butter & Cauliflower Puree

Serves 4; Hands-on Time: 30 minutes; Total Time: 30 minutes

Roasted Red Pepper & Ricotta-Stuffed Chicken Roulades

Roasted Red Pepper & Ricotta-Stuffed Chicken Roulades

 

Ingredients

  • 4 cups cauliflower florets (about 2/3 of a head)
  • Zest of 1 lemon plus 2 1/2 tsp juice, divided
  • 4 4-oz chicken breasts, each cut crosswise into 2 thin pieces
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup jarred roasted bell peppers, drained and sliced
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp white whole-wheat flour, divided
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium chicken stock

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Fill a medium saucepot with 1 inch water and bring to a boil on high.  Fit with a steamer basket and add cauliflower to the basket; cover and steam until very tender, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a food processor, adding 1/4 cup hot water from the pot, 1 Tbsp butter, zest of 1 lemon, 1/2 tsp lemon juice and 1/4 tsp salt. Puree until smooth, about 30 seconds.  Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, line up chicken on a cutting board and spread ricotta evenly over one side of each piece of chicken.  Sprinkle peppers evenly over the ricotta.  Roll up and secure each piece with toothpicks.  Sprinkle remaining 1/4 tsp salt evenly over chicken. Transfer 2 Tbsp flour to a medium sized shallow bowl and dredge chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess. Mist a medium skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium.  Add chicken and cook for about 6 minutes, turning over halfway, until golden brown on both sides. Mist a large baking sheet with cooking pray and bake until cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Note: Internal temperature should register 165 degrees F when tested with an instant-read thermometer.  Carefully remove toothpicks and slice crosswise into rounds.
  3. Meanwhile, to a small heavy saucepot, add stock and bring to a simmer on medium-high.  In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 tsp flour and 2 tsp lemon juice until smooth.  Add to the stock along with the remaining 1 Tbsp butter.  Simmer for 2 minutes, until smooth and thickened.  Divide cauliflower and chicken among serving plates and top the chicken with the sauce.

Nutrition per serving (2 roulades, 1/2 cup cauliflower, 1/4 of the sauce):

280 calories, 13 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 4 g mono-unsaturated fat, 1 g polyunsaturated fat, 10.5 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 2 g sugars, 29.5 g protein, 390 mg sodium, 94 mg cholesterol

Verdict

The family loved it!  I was hesitant of the pureed cauliflower strictly because that’s such a “diet-y” thing to do.  Why is the potato such an evil little thing?  Rather than using jarred roasted red-bell peppers, my husband took a bell pepper out to the grill and roasted a fresh one from the garden.  So much tastier!  It was filling and flavorful and I would definitely put this in the rotation for the future ask Sean to keep making this.  One thing to note, though – man, there were a lot of dirty dishes! What time we saved in the preparation we gave back in all those darn pots and pans!  Also, hubby the chef said that the recipe wasn’t the easiest to follow and is definitely not for the novice cook because the process of rolling chicken can get messy. The calorie count was good enough that I am able to still enjoy four Biscoff cookies with my evening tea. 😉

 

Adventures in Calorie Counting

I admit that I am an anxious mess with my weight.  I joke that I have to keep running so that my fat can’t catch back up.  My obsession with the numbers is fueled by the metrics that are so easily available:

  • I use a scale to weigh myself to the tenth of a pound every morning and before and after a run to make sure I stay hydratedIMG_3547[1]
  • myfitnesspal.com allows me to track every calorie I consume, including the 30 calories in a daily serving of my calcium chew
  • I have a Garmin watch with a heart rate monitor that has been calibrated for my personal fitness zones to track my calorie expenditures and my miles run to the hundredth of a mile
  • I wear an all-day activity monitor to track my steps and my sleep

We are a numbers-driven society.  After having lost fifty plus pounds, I have stalled.  Seriously, like the eighteen wheeler in the middle lane of the freeway.  I have gained and lost the same half pound for at least the last twelve months.  I gave myself a break for a couple of those months as I was recovering from surgery, but I really thought my “last ten pounds” would melt right off once I got back to running in the spring.  To say I was frustrated would be an understatement and I took it to Facebook.  I had no idea that my plea for a good dietician would be such a hot button topic that morning, but apparently we are all in same boat.

I felt like I had a pretty good handle on the calories in and calories out part of the equation. In fact, I was restricting myself to 1300 -1350 calories per day and not adding back anything despite the running I was doing or the cross-training on the other days. My perfectly calibrated Garmin with heart rate monitor would regularly tell me I was burning between 250 calories (on light training days) all the way to 1000 calories for a ten mile run day and yet I was only adding calories on run days longer than an hour and those came in the form of a little gel packet of carbs.

It was tough to hear friends ask me if I was consuming TOO FEW calories. The idea of consuming more calories when my weight had stayed the same at 1350 calories was ludicrous!! If I ate more, I would gain, right? I set out to research the idea before I just willy-nilly added calories and went back up to 190 pounds overnight. I learned that I wanted to be sure I ate at least enough to cover my resting metabolic rate, otherwise my metabolism would possibly slow down. Being 5’1 and over 40, that was absolutely the last thing I wanted to do. Seriously, I eat any less and those around me might not be very happy with my attitude.   I sought out an appointment at Cooper Clinic in Dallas. They are the gold standard when it comes to health and fitness and we are so lucky they are right in our backyard. My appointment was scheduled for a few days later.

The appointment was scheduled for first thing in the morning because you have to have been fasting for 12 hours. That meant no food, water, pills, exercise, nothing. I ate an early dinner the night before and went straight to bed. When I arrived, I handed the front desk my paperwork that was emailed to me a few days before. I was ushered into a nice dark room with classical music and allowed to relax to bring my heart rate back down to a resting state after the drive over. The dietician explained how the test would work and then made sure the mask fit over my mouth and my nose was plugged so that the test was accurate. The machine calibrated itself during this time to the ambient oxygen level in the room and was soon ready. The test was easy – all that was required was for me to breathe normally for ten minutes. When the test was over, the numbers were spit out on a two page report based on the test.

1498?!?

1498?!?

Who knew? My resting metabolic rate was 1498! It was a solid 150 calories per day higher than any online calculator. Despite all the dumb things I have done over the years with diet and exercise, I have a higher metabolism than average! Add in the calories I burn just working a desk job and usual activity of living, my weight loss zone was between 1500-1600 calories per day. Christie also instructed me to eat back half of ma calories burned on the “big-burn” days like my long runs. She promised that if I made these changes, I should start to see a little movement in the scale.

Two weeks later, I sheepishly admit that the test was correct. I have increased my calories, all clean and nutritionally dense, and have seen a decline in the scale of about a pound and a half. The trend is definitely downward, which makes me pretty happy. So I call this little experiment a win.

The test at Cooper Clinic ran $103 and included a short consultation with the dietician after to get an idea of what the numbers actually mean. You can get the test at a few other locations for up to $20 cheaper, but it usually doesn’t come with someone that can truly give you advice on how to interpret the numbers. I would say it $103 well spent.

Asian Noodle Salad with Grilled Chicken

My husband made the best tasting grilled chicken salad the other night.  It was the perfect mix of tangy and sweet and savory and the calorie count was perfect, since I am still trying to lose those last pounds that have made best friends with my body over the years.  This is his recipe, thrown together…  As I am not a professional recipe writer, I hope this recipe is fairly easy to follow…

Asian Noodle Salad with Grilled Chicken

Asian Noodle Salad with Grilled Chicken

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp ponzu
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp fish sauce

Cut chicken into 4 oz. portions.  Mix all of the ingredients (except the chicken) in a bowl and then place the chicken into the mixture to marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Then mix the following ingredients together in a separate bowl:

  • 2 fl. oz rice vinegar
  • 1 fl. oz toasted sesame oil
  • 10 grams garlic
  • 10 grams fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice

Set aside.

Grill the chicken, allow to cool and then cut into small strips suitable for a salad.

To build the salad, you will need the following:

  • 150 grams rice noodles, prepared according to the instructions and allowed to chill
  • 75 grams blanched snow peas
  • 15 grams green onion, chopped
  • 12 grams fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 10 grams pickled carrots, julienned

Mix all of the above ingredients in a large bowl with the dressing made earlier.  Coat everything thoroughly.  Separate the noodle salad onto three plates and then place a third of the chicken on each plate on top of the noodles.

 

The nutritionals, per serving:432 calories, 14 g. fat, 3 g saturated fat, 122 mg cholesterol, 271 mg sodium, 49 g carbs, 2 g dietary fiber, 35 g protein.