Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Close Encounters of the Luncheon Kind

I love food.

This is probably not surprising to you.  For heaven's sake, I'm morbidly obese.  But then, I'm sure there are plenty of morbidly obese people who don't exactly love food.  Or they love-hate food.  I used to love-hate food.  Now I just love it, and have learned to use it in a way that - it seems - it loves me. 

The process of learning how to correctly use food has been multi-faceted.  There were too many things to learn, for me to grasp them all at once, or from one source.  When we started in January, Tom and I already knew a lot about healthy eating.  What we didn't know about was balance and moderation.  Sure, we'd tried.  But nothing had really clicked.  But in January, everything came together. So much so that when Tom read an article about obesity in Scientific American that came out in February, he noted that we were already doing the behavioral modifications that they had recommended for most successful weight loss:

  • Rigorously measuring calories, exercise and weight
  • Making modest, gradual changes in eating and exercise habits
  • Eating balanced diets that go easy on sugar and fat
  • Focusing on life-long habits as opposed to short-term fixes
  • Being part of a support group

And when we realized we were having such success, we wanted to share the delicious food we were cooking WITH some of the people who had been supporting us.   So on Sunday, we invited a few of them over for lunch.

We promised a healthy but filling meal, complete with calorie count (for fellow counters) - and I think we delivered!  Here is the menu we had on-hand for our guests:

I didn't manage to snap a picture of the spinach dip and chips - but it was probably the easiest food to prepare.  We steamed and chopped a little spinach, mixed in an ounce of grated Parmesan (from Milan - thanks, Brian!), a wedge of light Laughing Cow cheese, 2 tablespoons of fat-free sour cream, and a dash of garlic salt.  Then we cut up tortillas (into eighths, and each eighths into quarters) and baked them for 15 minutes with a little Pam spray.

Tom was in change of the Tom Yum soup - its base is a homemade Thai chili paste that can be stored easily, and used for other Thai dishes.  We got the recipe from the wonderful Real Vegetarian Thai cookbook, though we altered it to lower calories.  We've found that nearly all cookbooks use more oil than we need.  We're lucky to live right in the middle of Thai Town in Los Angeles, so we're able to get our hands on lemongrass and lime leaves easily - those give the soup its distinct tangy flavor.

Tom, yum!

Our next course was a mixed greens salad that was inspired by the citrus that is gloriously in season right now.  We'd found some amazing Oro Blanco grapefruit, and we picked up some mandarin oranges that paired nicely.  We tossed those together with fresh salad greens, and offered a few mix-ins for the guests, including toasted walnuts and delicious Meyer Lemon Balsamic.  The latter is available from Global Gardens, an excellent oil and vinegar company in the heart of Southern California olive country.  We discovered it on our first wedding anniversary, when we did a hunt for fresh local olive oil (after falling in love with it in Italy on our honeymoon.)  I highly recommend it!

Some of our guests liked the grapefruit as much as the dessert!

Our main course - Tillapia en Papillote - sounds and tastes like it's a lot of work, but it's actually quite simple.  Start with a large sheet of parchment paper, folded in half.  Slice up some tomatoes and onions, and plop them on the bottom half paper.  Plop your fish on top of the slices.  Plop lemon slices and herbs (parsley and thyme, in this case) on top of that.  Sprinkle with a little coarse salt, and splash with a little white wine.  Fold the top half of the paper over, and roll the edges closed like you'd roll a hand-pie.  Staple, and bake on a lipped sheet for 30 minutes at 425.  Wha-la! 

The easiest, cleanest way to fish for dinner.

For sides, we had roasted carrots and turnips with rosemary.  Turnips are a new discovery, and I LOVE them.  For starters, they're counted as a veggie, and not a starch.  They're 36 calories per cup.  And... most excitingly... you can slice them up and bake them like you would french fries.  Seriously.  Given a choice, you could eat a cup of McDonald's fries for 740 calories. Or you could eat a cup of baked turnip fries for 36 calories.  Turnips, please!

Rosemary is an excellent roasting herb for these, by the way.

We were also graced with our guest David's corn and black bean salad, which was so tangy and delicious!  I have a corn/bean salad recipe of my own, but I liked David's salad so much that I may have to make it my go-to potluck recipe.  You can see, and read, all about it, here.

For dessert, we used those amazing Gaviota strawberries I wrote about in my last entry, for sorbet.  We blended them into puree, added some simple syrup (as sugar is needed for proper freezing), and a tablespoon of vodka.  This last step has been our secret to success with sorbet; the vodka, which doesn't freeze, keeps the texture soft and scoopable.  We served the sorbet with lemon-cardamom polenta cookies, the step-by-step to which I'll share in my next entry.

So yummy. So very, very yummy.

It was so nice to share some of our food discoveries - and our passion for cooking - with some of the friends we've made at Slimmons.  (Or, in one case, the friend who brought us to Slimmons.  Thank you, again, David, for being the 007 agent of change.)

And I'm so happy to be able to say that I love food, without that love-hate feeling that used to linger behind it.  In fact, it's weigh-in Tuesday, and I know that this meal (and others like it) has a lot to do with the two pounds I lost last week, bringing my total to 29!

Dress by EShakti, Sweater by Old Navy, Scarf by Target, Gold Rush by Chaplin


  1. I didn't realize a cup of McDonalds fries had 740 calories! I would've guessed 400-500. I'll take the turnips, too!

  2. What a great post! Love the thoughtfulness of providing the menu and calories. If I didn't live in Arizona I'd be beggin for a seat at the next luncheon. lol. Lovely!

  3. How fun! I need to try turnip fries now, too! Thanks for the fun ideas, Heidi!

  4. That looks amazingly delicious!
    Thanks for coming by my blog. Will defenitely add you to my Blog Roll.

  5. That all sounds so yummy! I'm very much enjoying following you through your journey via your blog :)