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Good news and good food

Sometimes life allows for overindulgence.

I love to eat, and I love to especially eat carbs–in particular foods like pizza, fresh bread, pretzels, and jelly beans. But it’s hard not to overeat when you are eating things you really love. And so I, like many Americans, have a bit of a weight problem.

I saw my doctor yesterday for a physical, and while my cholesterol and blood pressure numbers are pretty good, I’m about 40 pounds above what’s considered a good weight for my height. I’m only 10 pounds above what is considered borderline overweight, and so I really don’t have TOO far to go.

But the best part? My doctor said he does not believe in diets. He says I should not deprive myself of any food item because then I will resent him and resent myself and be miserable in general. Everything in moderation, fair amount of exercise, and all should be well–as long as I drop a pound a month or so. Totally doable, right?

So the numbers were mostly good news, but the food news was even better. Because it’s coming into summertime, and there are so many summer foods I love–ice cream, burgers, corn, tomatoes, melon. Ah yes. But there is a small catch–I can’t let myself get out of control, because freedom to eat is not an absolute. In other words–moderation.

Which also means that, fear not, Mikey’s Kitchen readers, I’m going to write about all of the great summer foods that lie ahead. Let’s get to it!

Mikey’s This and That

A few random food observations on a snowy Madison Thursday afternoon…..

*Is there a reason why many canned soups have this gummy, almost plastic sheen of a taste these days? This is particularly true of so-called diet soups which I think use gummy fillers to make up for the loss of fat–i.e. loss of flavor. But they wind up making a chemical concoction that has totally turned me off of canned soup. I’ve been trying to make more of my own, which always tastes better, but it’s not always easy to find the time. Thankfully football season is over (well not really thankfully) which means more cooking for the week on Sundays with the wife.

*Salads just are not appealing in the winter. I sometimes find myself not getting enough vegetables in the winter, and a big reason is that I have almost no desire to eat healthy salads. That’s a summer thing, right? Maybe I need to make more soups. Where have I heard that before?

*I can’t believe Kristen fell on a sword on Top Chef: Seattle last week and didn’t throw Josie under the bus as she should have. I pegged her as the potential winner. I haven’t watched Last Chance Kitchen…but maybe she still can win if she won her LCK battle. But wow, Josie. Please go away.

*Speaking of Food TV, did you guys catch the first episode of that Rachel vs. Guy Celebrity cook off show on Food Network? That’s one of those reality shows that grabs its players from the depths of wherever they get contestants for Celebrity Fit Club. This season they’ve got the likes of Carney Wilson, Hines Ward and an actress and a socialite I’ve never heard of. And then there was Gilbert Gottfried. The poor dude doesn’t know how to boil water. So the first episode, he makes a peanut butter sandwich. Then, as he’s battling another contestant for elimination in the same episode, he makes a peanut butter sandwich AGAIN. Dude, who is your agent and why would they put you through that?

*I often profess my love for Trader Joe’s on here. But I’ve come across something that’s amazing even by their standards. This Speculoos Cookie Spread. It won their award for customer favorite product of 2012, so I bought a jar. Holy smokes. It’s like peanut butter-like crack in a jar. I don’t even know what it is made out of…but it’s like a “butter” that is sweet and has cookie pieces and hints of cinnamon and….well, just go try it, and if you don’t love it, then you don’t like food. It’s impossible to not like it.

Mikey’s Tips for Summer Foods

I’m a firm believer in eating lighter and/or eating less during the summer months. Naturally, we are more active during the summer anyway, but it’s harder to be active when you’ve tacked on 10 to 20 or more pounds over the winter months. Eating lighter in the summer makes sense because, well, it’s too freaking hot to be gluttonous. I’m not saying I don’t chow on burgers, fries and shakes occasionally, I just do it less in the hotter weather, or eat less of what’s on my plate. But here are a few more tips for you….

1. Eat cold food. Salads, pasta salads, or sandwiches are not always girly. In fact, I think I need to do a few posts on sandwiches that are dude-friendly. But as I showed before, pasta salad can also be dude-friendly.

2. Eat my freaking gazpacho. Seriously, you have to try this. I think I’m going to whip some up this weekend.

3. Drink fruit smoothies. These are refreshing and and great in the summer with melon and berries in season. And hey, I won’t stop you from adding alcohol if you feel like it.

4. Stay hydrated. This is good for two reasons–you won’t keel over from dehydration, and you’ll eat less.

5. Heck, eat ice-cream for dinner. Unless you’re trying to set an example for your kids, why not? Plus, there are all of those awesome soft serve stands open in the summer.

6. Cut back on carbs. Grill some meat, grill some vegetables, and cut back on the bread and rice and potatoes. You will feel lighter, trust me.

Losing that holiday weight

Yeah, I know. This is not what you wanted to hear from a food site right after the holidays. But the truth is, we’re all in need of larger pants after a month of indulging. Heck, I wrote on here a couple weeks ago that I bought bigger pants at Old Navy before going to my favorite Wisconsin cheese store. I’m wearing them now, in fact. So yeah, now it’s time to try and shed a few pounds. Of course, that doesn’t mean this is going to suddenly be a blog about weight loss. But here are a few guy-friendly recipes I posted on
Grub For Guys, especially good if you have a bigger bulge right now…..

After the holiday edition of Grub For Guys that we presented you with, and after all of the holiday meals you no doubt indulged in, and on, you guys probably have a few extra pounds you want to shed this time of year. Well, I know I do. So I’m back on my favorite diet, the South Beach Diet. I’m a big proponent of this diet because it works, and because it’s easy for most guys. We get to eat lots of meat, cheese, nuts, and veggies, as well as a few sugar free treats, and all in all it’s not that hard. Well, sometimes it is, because in today’s world, cutting out bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and anything with sugar is very difficult. So I’m here to give you a few great low-carb options that make life a bit easier when trying to shrink that gut…..

Mikey’s Cobb Salad

Ingredients
4-6 cups shredded lettuce
1 8 oz. strip steak
1 4-5 oz. boneless chicken breast
5-6 slices bacon
2 hard-boiled eggs
1 avocado
1 tomato
¼ cup shredded or cubed cheddar cheese
¼ cup green or black olives
¼ cup pickled jalapeno peppers
Low carb dressing such as ranch or blue cheese
Salt and pepper

Directions:
Wash lettuce and shred into two large bowls. Sprinkle steak and chicken with salt and pepper and grill over medium-high heat 5-10 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink and steak is to desired doneness. Remove from grill and keep on a plate covered with foil. Cook bacon until crisp (I use one of those microwave trays that cooks it perfectly every time). Cut avocado in half, remove pit and scoop out flesh. Slice and place on lettuce. Chop tomato and put that on lettuce. Slice egg and divide over salad. Add cheese, olives, and jalapenos. Slice chicken and steak and place on salad. Crumble bacon on top. Serve with dressing. Makes 2 servings, but you can double or triple as needed.

Grilled Buffalo Tenders

Ingredients
1 pound boneless chicken breast tenders
Salt and pepper
Cooking spray
½ cup Buffalo wing sauce (Frank’s Red Hot is great and is very low in calories, fat, and carbs)

Directions
Spray tenders lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour wing sauce into a large bowl. Grill tenders over medium high heat until no longer pink and slightly charred on the outside. Toss tenders in sauce and serve with celery sticks and blue cheese or ranch dressing if you like. P.S. Trust me, you won’t miss the deep fried version of wings one bit with this one.

Cheese/Peanut Butter Squares

If you like those crispy cheese/peanut butter crackers, and who doesn’t? I’m giving you a low-carb option that you’re going to love.

Ingredients
4 slices mild cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp. natural peanut butter

Directions
Lay cheese slices on a plate or large cutting board. Spread peanut butter over two of the cheese slices, and top with other two slices. You should now have two large square “sandwiches.” Cut each of these into quarters and serve. Makes 8 squares, but you can easily double or triple this one as well.

Muffaletta Rolls

The best part of the Muffaletta is the olive salad and the meat, right? Well, it’s also the kickass giant Kaiser rolls they use. But we have to improvise here and this is as close as we can come.

Ingredients
10 slices deli ham or turkey, or both
1 cup pimento stuffed green olives
½ cup pickled cauliflower or other pickled vegetables
1 Tbsp. juice from olives
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. Red or white wine vinegar
1 tsp. dried oregano
Dash of salt and black pepper

Directions
Separate meat slices on a large platter. Combine remaining ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until combined but still slightly chunky. Spread a bit of olive salad on each slice of meat, roll up and serve. (Note: you can also roll up in provolone cheese or combine meat and cheese before rolling up).

Turkey Brat Bites

Ingredients
6-8 Smoked Turkey Bratwurst
Mustard

Directions
Grill brats until glazed and with a few grill marks. Slice into chunks and serve with your favorite mustard for dipping.

Product review: me & goji cereal

Now this is one of those ideas that will make you smack your own forehead, and tell yourself you should have come up with the idea –make your own cereal based on various lists of ingredients. That’s the premise of me & goji, the brainchild of two friends named Alexander and Adam, who enjoy healthy food that tastes good–but also with an eye toward the fact that different people like different types of cereal ingredients.

So you go to www.meandgoji.com, and you choose a base such as flakes, or hoops or granola; and add things like dried fruits and nuts. I ordered the oat rings with dried cherries, granola clusters and almonds. And there are several things I like about me & goji. First, the oat rings are solid and sturdy and stand up to milk for several minutes. You know they are made from whole grains, yet they taste really good. The cherries are tart but not too tart, and the clusters and almonds add a nice counterpunch. The only drawback is that I would like to have more of the secondary ingredients. I’m guessing it’s about 70% oat rings, and 10% of each of the others.

It also comes in a cool capsule that you can stick easily in a gym bag and have a good snack after working out. You also get to name it whatever you want, so mine was “Mikey’s Mix.”

You also pay per ingredient, so you have some control over that. And me & goji might cost you more than a traditional box of healthy cereal, but the fact that you can custom design it and tote it easily anywhere makes it worth that. It’s also a cool thing to order for holiday gifts and/or stocking stuffers. In fact, I’m going to order some today for that very reason.

So check out me & goji, but don’t beat yourself up for not thinking of the idea first.

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