Monday, January 10, 2011

Weight? Wait! Don't tell me!

Eat. Live Be. for a better 2011.

On November 11, the day before my daughter's birthday and two weeks before the start of the "Eating.... make that Holiday Season," I stepped on the scale and decided enough was enough.
I have been "up" 8 pounds every year for five years. We don't have to say the number. Everyone knows their multiplication tables.
"Why are you going to Weight Watchers, now? Just before the Eating.... make that the Holiday Season begins? Why not wait for January?" I was asked.
Because if I can eat mindfully during November and December, I know I can continue the rest of the year. And it's not a New Year's resolution to fall by the wayside by January 10.
So, when I was contacted by locally-owned (Minnesota and Wisconsin) Gold n Plump to see if I had any interest in their new "Recipe Ready Ground Chicken" products, it was a sign - that Claudia and leaner-living might just work out. (I confess - I am huge hunter of "signs" when I make decisions.)

Gold n Plump was generous - eight pounds of ground chicken came to my doorstep. I posted the fact on Facebook and Pat from Mille Fiori Favoriti commented, "I see Italian Wedding Soup in your future." And so it came to pass that I made Italian Wedding Soup with ground chicken instead of beef. I played with my meatball recipe. No more bread soaked in milk. Bread crumbs were added instead to give the meatballs more heft.
Italian Wedding Soup is native to many regions in Italy - my gradmother was from poverty-stricken Basilicata and made hers with pork. But the important thing is the marriage of the meat and the vegetables in the broth. I've made it many times with ground turkey and knew the ground chicken would work.
It did.

Italian Wedding Soup is usually made with itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny meatballs. My chicken mixture was too sticky (I could have added more bread crumbs - but I really wanted them light and meaty and not rock solid) so I (in all my wisdom and lack of patience) made giant honkers of meatballs that may make Italians shudder but were nonetheless delicious - and yes, light.
I roasted fennel, onions, garlic, grape tomatoes and some mushrooms in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes. I then threw the roasted vegetables in a stock pot, added about 4 cups of water and simmered all for an hour. I later added chcken broth but in my new "mindful eating" stage I wanted to make sure this soup was laden with vegetables.
While the soup simmered, I combined one pound of chicken with 1/3 cup of bread crumbs, 1 small minced onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 egg, a few tablespoons of freshly shredded Parmesan cheese, a hefty dose of dried Italian seasoning, a little salt and pepper and formed mishapen, ugly-but good meatballs. I baked them for 30 minutes in the same 350 degree F oven (why I baked them and didn't just throw them in the soup - I'll never know - habit, I guess.)

Then, I did throw the edgy-looking meatballs into the soup, simmered for 30 minutes, stirred in a bag of spinach and was done. And happy. And was sated without being full.
I continued to use the ground chicken. You'll see - I'm getting there. (Remember my semi-resolution to try to be more succinct? Well, it's January 10th and I am here to tell you - it's not going to happen.)

To mix up the meals and not eat the same meat for a week, I made a meatless meal. Proud Italian Cook's stuffed peppers with vegetables and barley. Only, I ate it as a salad. And it satisfied. I do 1-2 meatless meals a week and have for years. (So, how'd I gain all that weight - no, not potato chips and ice cream - it was copious amounts of pasta, rice and bread that did me in! And I enjoyed every mouthful and intend to continue my love affair with pasta.)
And then I turned to fish. Kevin at Closet Cooking had a Halibut with a Garam Masala Halibut with Curry Tomato Sauce (I love cooking from blogs) that looked warming and comforting. When I discovered halibut was $24.99 pound, I picked up tilapia!
And it was indeed warming and comforting. Key ingredients to cooking during the Minnesota winter.
The ground chicken became a taco salad. I quickly discovered that ground chicken is a chameleon and soaks up seasonings well. If you want your ground beef to impart its own flavor - then ground chicken is not your best bet. But if you are doing a dish that has strong seasonings, ground chicken works just as well.

And then the family announced I hadn't made Sloppy Joe's in years. 'tis true. I haven't. So I did.
With the Gold n Plumps ground chicken. I like using something that gives me 33% less fat than beef. After all, I am trying to get rid of about 33% of my body. I exaggerate a bit. So now you know, I am not succinct and exaggerate.
After browning the ground chicken, the family wasn't sure about the lack of "brown" in the browning process.

And then I added the other ingredients. (Recipe was from Pioneer Woman.)
And through the magic of cooking - the ground chicken turned into a Sloppy Joe!

Gold n Plump has many recipe varieties. Fresh or frozen and ranging in price from $2.99-$3.99 per pound. The chicken is all-natural and raised on family farms. I do like that. For the past three years, I have gotten 75% of my meat from a local, organic farmer. I will continue to do that. But I do supplement - particularly in the winter.
After using ground turkey instead of ground beef for ten years, it's been tasty to discover ground chicken as an alternative in many dishes. And when I do supplement from the grocery store, I look to continue to support local farmers and products. I can do that with Gold n Plump. Find additional recipes for their ground chicken here.
Disclosure: I was indeed the grateful recipient of ground chicken products from Gold n Plump but my opinions are always, most decidedly, definitely my own. I do receive many offers and tend to accept those where I have a gut feeling - I will like it!
I have thrown in my hat joining many bloggers is Eat. Live Be. for a better 2011. I've already lost a stone. I'm down 1-1/2 sizes. (Which means I can wear clothes that are too tight or jeans that fall down when I walk - both scary alternatives.) I am committed to Weight Watchers until the summer, so why join something else when I'm not really a joiner? For support, community and the knowledge that I will hit a brick wall. I had lasagna and buche de noel for Christmas (and gained the requisite pound). I intend to celebrate Carnevale with bugies. And will have Pizza du Grane for Easter.
My goal is simple: It's not a number or a size. It's to not diet, to not stuff weight loss products in my mouth but to practice "mindful eating." Choices and portion control and pasta, chocolate and champagne await me in 2011! As does Italy! (And you know I'm going to eat there!)
I need all the help I can get!


Roz | La Bella Vita Cucina said...

You've got my support Claudia! I will do whatever you need me to do be there for you on your 2011 journey towards better health, no matter how you define it! For me, I know specifically that I must lose at least 75 pounds or I will die. That simple. I don't care what size is labeled with that number of pounds, but I know that my high blood pressure and cholesterol levels will reduce and my heart will not have to work so hard . . . . in the long run, I will not have worn out my heart when I'm (hopefully) 75 years old someday. So I do have a number, but not a size to reach for. Best wishes dear friend! Roz

Arlene Delloro said...

I'm still laughing at your description of "honker of a meatball." They kind of look like matzoh balls, but I'm sure they were delicious. I'm a Weight Watcher and often use ground turkey. I don't think I've ever seen, much less used, ground chicken. I'd probably like the taste better. I'll have to keep an eye out.

FOODESSA said...

Claudia...don't you sometimes wish that the month of July would be the new January. LOL
Talking about weight when there's an abundance of light dishes is so much easier...isn't it?

Your rendition of wedding soup is very comforting and especially made with organic chicken mini-meatballs...yummy!

All this said, 'Viva la vie' and 'Que sara sara' my dear. Together let's try our best not to punish ourselves too much and enjoy the day to day ;o)

Ciao for now,

Island Vittles said...

Congratulations on surviving the buffets and desserts of Christmas -- to come out down a stone is a major accomplishment and testament to your willpower and determination!

I have lost about 40 lbs since last summer -- mostly walking the dog and portion control. I too decided enough was enough! (but I still splurge when I want to...)

Delicious food like you're showing us here will go a long way to keeping you on goal. All the best! Theresa

Apparently, I have trouble with brevity as well ;)

Kim - Liv Life said...

Excellent job, Claudia! I'm with you all the way. I've put on a few myself and with a new vacation planned for summer I'm starting now to lose a few and tone it all up! Mindful choices is a good way tho think.
And I'm thinking this soup looks really good! I've never actually made any version of it, so I think I found the one I will!

Kate @ said...

This is a great healthy twist on the Italian wedding soup! Good luck on your journey. I have been able to maintain my weight by cooking all the food I love, but with a healthy twist .. just like you did with this soup.

UrMomCooks said...

I am also a big believer in "signs". These recipes look delicious, but the soup is especially calling to me! Probably shouldn't be reading your blog while I am hungry and dinner is not yet started...That soup is on the list!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Keep doing what you're doing Claudia. I need to trim down too, after all the holiday cookies. I've been making Italian wedding soup with turkey meatballs and it's nearly as good as with the beef, given all the other flavorings. And it's a lot healthier for you too. I'll be following your progress.

Kimberly Peterson said...

Great job, Claudia! I admire your determination to not overindulge over Thanksgiving and Christmas, and still be able to enjoy yourself! We sometimes forget NOT to overeat.. and just get carried away by the delicious food we are surrounded by (especially since we are all talented cooks and know what tastes good!).

You have truly inspired me to get back to it. Weight loss is a struggle I think for most women. We just need to be there for each other :)

Whats Cookin Italian Style Cuisine said...

I use to have such will power the older I get the worse, high blood pressure, thyroid, osteoporsis and high cholesterol... yep this is the dedication I need to survive this year. The blogging in one year put on 10 pounds for me! I hear ya my friend. I could eat this soup morning day and night and be happy, no salt, no fat and lots of love in that bowl your grandmothers with pork had to have the richest broth ever!~ great start to a healthy 2011!!!

Torviewtoronto said...

very true Claudia mindful eating is well said

Anonymous said...

Mindful eating is definitely a reasonable goal! It's so hard for us, foodies, to stay on a real diet :) Love all the things you've done with the ground chicken, especially the soup with meatballs!

art is in the kitchen said...

Ground chicken rules! What delicious dishes! I love to use it in Thai cooking too, less calories if you don't add sugar. Thanks for the reminder! Mindful eating is always good! Cheers!

Carla Meine said...

Good job. It's what we are constantly trying to help our clients do. Lifestyle change not just a New Years resolution that ends six weeks into the year...only to end the year another 10 pounds heavier. Keep up the good work.

Sara @ Saucy Dipper said...

Mindful eating is the key. and I'm sure you can do it. For me it was about finding low cal goodies that I wouldn't feel bad about snacking frozen berries and black bean dip (not together of course).

Here's to a successful 2011!

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

Claudia, I really enjoyed reading this. We are trying to eat less and it's hard, especially when the food tastes so good.

I adore soups but have never made Wedding soup. I'll be giving it a try soon.

Mister Meatball said...

In the interest of being supportive to a loyal MM reader/commenter, I'm about to reveal something that I never have until now: Before I was able to get back to being mindful I (gasp!) elected to allow a boxed-food-by-UPS outfit to (successfully) run interference for a couple months.

Other words, you are not alone.

Good luck.

Proud Italian Cook said...

Claudia I'm with you in spirit! I'm really trying to watch it myself, I'm taking a day at a time and making smarter choices. On Sunday afternoon I made Italian wedding soup with turkey meatballs and you know, we liked it! That was a nice gift of the ground chicken you put it all to good use in different delicious ways. Keep up the good work girlfriend!!

Sarah Caron said...

I find ground chicken is hard to work with, since it does tend to be mushier and stickier (though I love eating it -- actually more than ground turkey since it's also juicier). Your dishes look delicious -- I salivated over the halibut in particular.

Drick said...

nice marriage of flavor, even with the chicken... this is one of my all time favorite soups and the chicken to me would be just as good if not better... good luck on your quest... now don't pay any attention to my pie!!!!

Michele said...

I just started WW today so I can use these white meat chicken recipes! I love the sloppy joe! Never heard of this company before, I wonder if I can get in in New Jersey.

Angie's Recipes said...

Claudia, you have my support. :-)) I ate lots of calorie bombs during the holiday seasons...and I am in need of something light.
The soup with chicken meatballs and veggies would be a great start for me.

Claudia said...

Sending hugs of gratitude for all the support!

Michele: Gold n Plump is local but does retail all over the country - so there's a chance they're in NJ but no guarantee. Target sells Gold n Plump.

Also,local organic "farmers" also tend to sell ground chicken.

Beth said...

Mindful eating is a great resolution, regardless of whether you start it in November or January. I could use a little of that myself. Great recipes featured here!

Zoe said...

Love Italian cooking and happy to find and follow your blogs with lots of fantastic food ideas.

I wonder if all Italian eat this wedding soup for their weddings...
The meatballs look very yummy :D

Barbara GF said...

Everything in moderation, Claudia. I am with you all the way! I actually have a recipe for Italian Wedding Soup using chickpeas and tofu for a meatless "ball." How can any good Italian stay away from pasta? Everything in moderation, right?

Mary Bergfeld said...

Now you're a gal who obviously knows her chicken :-). All these dishes sound wonderful and I'd enjoy any one of them. As to your question, I really do keep one in the freezer for meetings. It is an inexpensive way to meet treat obligations for morning meetings. Have a great evening. Blessings...Mary

Reeni said...

You cooked up a storm of deliciousness with all that chicken Claudia! Some of my very favorite things - I was just thinking tonight how long it's been since I had a sloppy joe. I'm practicing mindful eating too - would like to lose a size or two by summer - I'm not in a hurry and definitely not giving anything up. Just practicing moderation and keeping in mind less is more.

tasteofbeirut said...

I am proud of your commitment! Excellent! My daughter is trying to lose some excess pounds too and so far so good, she has lost 7 pounds so far; we go to the gym on a regular basis so that helps a lot (mentally) . Love your idea to sub chicken in all these things. It is just a matter of habit.

Monet said...

I loved reading about your commitment...and your different experiments in the kitchen! I have never worked with ground chicken before, and it was neat to see the different ways you used it! I loved your tip about using ground chicken in recipes that already have a lot of flavor. I'm going to remember that! Thanks for sharing, sweet woman. Eat well tomorrow!

theUngourmet said...

My jeans have definitely gotten a bit tighter since the holidays. I've always wanted to try making Italian Wedding Soup. I love the big meatballs. Yum!

Kim said...

Claudia - Good for you starting up and sticking with a healthy eating routine over the holidays. Congrats on the weight loss. I'm very happy for you. I know you have the heart, determination and spirit to keep going. You are going to do great!

Love the emphasis on the ground chicken in this post. Ground chicken is something that my market puts on sale often and I use it a lot. Giada has an orechiette and mini chicken meatball recipe that is good (with adaptations) and she also has a chicken burger using ground chicken that is really good too. I've also seen a lot variations on a chicken parmesan burger using ground chicken. Lots of fun ways to use it. Have fun :)

Sprigs of Rosemary said...

I've seen ground chicken but never tried it . . . you've convinced me to give it a go! The double-dipping of blogging and holidays has done me in as well. (I just read about a banana diet that intrigued me -- but I won't do it; I know the good old-fashioned way is still the best.)

Velva said...

Congrats to your new resolutions for mindful eating. It can be hard, especially when you love to eat! Your dishes with the ground chicken look fabulous.

I love wedding soup. I make it often but, your soup is more creative.

btw, I have not had Sloppy Joe's in years too.


Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Claudia, I love all your recipes but that italian wedding Soup looks divine! I like a nice mountfull of meat(chicken)ball in my soup :) When I run into the "sticky" problem I do this --I fill a bowl with finely crushed bread crumbs, then after I make the mini chickenball with my usual egg, cheese, breadcrumb, parsley mixture, I quickly roll each ball in the bowl of crumbs and set it aside on a tray until they are all made. I then chill the whole tray of chickenballs. Meanwhile, I get my soup nice and bubbly hot and take the chickenballs out of the refrigerator and drop them one by one in the soup, stopping now and then to gently stir the soup. They cook perfectly this way and help flavor the broth.

Good luck with the weight loss goal! I am really trying, too. I should join WW to keep me motivated. I have a sweet tooth--no doubts about it!

Kristen said...

You did so much with that meat and all of it good. I am looking to eat simpler and healthier in 2011, too.

Gera@SweetsFoodsBlog said...

How hard are these days with holidays and full - delicious menus! After reading the article I know is difficult to maintain the weight :)




I'm currently getting a handle on things as well, ahem!

These recipes look fantastic and filling. I adore Italian wedding soup--it's one of my favorites!

denise @ quickies on the dinner table said...

My eyes are actually tearing from reading about your "giant honkers of meatballs" LOL Watering, I tell you *sigh*

I love how you roasted both the veg and meatballs before adding them to the soup - gotta try that some time. Don't know why, for the life of me, I've never thought of that before....

Hope your health plan goes well - I need one myself :P

denise @ quickies on the dinner table said...

My eyes are actually tearing from reading about your "giant honkers of meatballs" LOL Watering, I tell you *sigh*

I love how you roasted both the veg and meatballs before adding them to the soup - gotta try that some time. Don't know why, for the life of me, I've never thought of that before....

Hope your health plan goes well - I need one myself :P

denise @ quickies on the dinner table said...

My eyes are actually tearing from reading about your "giant honkers of meatballs" LOL Watering, I tell you *sigh*

I love how you roasted both the veg and meatballs before adding them to the soup - gotta try that some time. Don't know why, for the life of me, I've never thought of that before....

Hope your health plan goes well - I need one myself :P

Emily Malloy said...

Best of luck! With your cooking talents, and WW portion control principles, you will be 100% successful!

Anna's Table said...

Claudia, I wish you much success in maintaining your resolve to battle the few pounds you've put on. You seem to have had fantastic start.It takes amazing strength to start just before the holidays. Your determination is truly an inspiration.

fromBAtoParis said...

Wow !!! I learnt a lot reading this post! I didn't know these delicious dishes !! For many years I was a bit over-weight...Then I said: "enough is enough" I didn't do a special diet..I just used common sense , not depriving me of some recompense, from time to time...but the secret for me is gym, gym, lose weight, it's good for your spirits, and health !! so now whenever I eat too much, double gym session and it works!

whatsfordinneracrossstatelines said...

I was feeling guilty over all the holiday eats myself. I've been trying to be more mindful! Congrats on getting this far, I going to put more effort in this year. I've had chicken meatballs years ago, time for a revisit!

Joanne said...

Great way to start "mindful eating". I love that you took the bull by the horns and didn't wait until after the holidays to monitor your diet a bit more carefully.
I think anything homemade is healthier for us since we can control the ingredients we know we must be mindful of.
Good luck.

chow and chatter said...

wow you got so creative with the ground chicken and thats wonderful about getting healthy :-)

Jeannie said...

Great to read about your effort to eat healthy and control your weight...with another festival fast approaching here, I too need to start practising self control where food is concerned! I love the look of those chicken balls :D

Dimah said...

Great job, Claudia! These recipes look wonderful!
Thanks for sharing!

Tanvi@Sinfully Spicy said...

Hi Claudia..I jumped over your blog while blog hopping!
Love the hearty chicken balls and the sauce you have made for them. It would be so wonderful to learn authentic italian recipes from you.

OysterCulture said...

What wonderful looking recipes, the wedding soup looks simply delicious and so does everything else. It is a cruel twist of fate that everything delicious always sticks around long after its wanted.

Fresh Local and Best said...

Losing weight is one of the hardest things to do, especially after weeks of continuous indulgence. The pasta, rice, breads and sugar always does me in every winter.

These dishes look good, and satisfying. I like that you roasted the vegetables for the Italian wedding soup. That's something new I can try.

Heather S-G said...

Practicing mindful eating is my goal, as well Claudia. I think this is a wonderful way to do just that. I like the chicken meatballs...they sound delicious...big or small ;) Everything sounds great and best of luck to you in this endeavor!! :D

Magic of Spice said...

My sons always make giant turkey or chicken meat balls...I am going to steal your words to tease them :)
Wow you came up with some great uses for all of that chicken and turkey...nice! I know you will succeed in any venture to take on :)