Something’s going on in my drawers. My dresser drawers. During the inky darkness of night, someone is breaking into my closet and stealing my comfy jeans. You know, the ones that fit so nice they make your bum look swell but still have a skosh room so you can actually sit down and enjoy a meal without fear of wardrobe malfunction. Some dastardly villain is sneaking in when I’m sleeping and substituting those jeans with a tighter pair! That must be the explanation. Surely it couldn’t be connected to anything I’ve done over the past six weeks or so. I started to notice something was up it when my pants decided to bite back a little after yet another holiday party. Then yesterday I caught a rearview glance of myself in the mirror. There seemed to be a new part of my anatomy right above the waistband. I wouldn’t exactly call it a shelf of flesh, more like a chair rail, but it was there just the same. EGADS! Where’d that come from? It went all the way around too! After realizing the likelihood of an elaborate plot to steal my pants and replace them with ones a half-size smaller was, well, unlikely, I decided that it was probably time to reign in the bountiful consumption of late. Perhaps happily stuffing myself with all things holiday-related had something to do with this new anatomical edition. And maybe it was time to take a more measured and less caloric approach to feeding.
I’m quite familiar with the necessary steps I have to take to remedy this situation. I’ve walked them more times than I care to relate here. The good thing is I’m pretty happy with the shape of my shape at present (or rather, prior to the belly chair rail addition.) And I know that for me, the best way to get back to making those comfy jeans comfy again is to burn up more of those pesky calories that I consume. Now trust me, that doesn’t mean I’m going to find countless ways to make celery and lettuce more interesting (although I do know some ways, which usually require ingredients that helped construct that little something extra now living around my middle.) Nor am I going to start an extreme exercise plan like those advertised at 2 a.m., which are guaranteed to result in my standing in a pool of sweat (which is icky, and it would ruin the rug). What it does mean is making sure to keep my body moving in ways I’ll enjoy and therefore maintain, and going through my recipes to find wonderfully tasty, hearty and healthy meals to satisfy my taste buds. Fad diets are not my plan. I’ve been around that scale way to many times to believe they’ll work more than the time it takes my body to dehydrate, and re-hydrate. Good, healthy food is the only way for someone who lives for food, watching what goes in, and making sure the body works it off sensibly so it doesn’t adhere itself to the hips and hind. Sure, I’ll probably slip a day here or there, but as long as I don’t too frequently, in a month or two I’m betting that the new extension I’ve built on my waistline will be gone. Which should give the authorities just enough time to catch that someone who’s been breaking into my dresser drawers.
So, healthy, hearty and low-calorie recipes that you’d actually want to eat? I’ve got you covered. Those who’ve followed me for a while might have noticed that I include approximate calorie values at the end of my recipes. That is, when doing so isn’t too terrifying. So to start off 2013 and kick start the quest to drop those additional holiday pounds, I’ve created a new page on my blog – Dishes under 400 . Hopefully you’ll find these a helpful and tasty way to start off the new year and remove any new additions to your waistline too.
To start it off, here’s my take on Mushroom Barley Soup. It’s relatively low in calories for such a rich and hearty soup, and proof that moderation isn’t such a bad thing after all.
Mushroom Barley Soup
Makes 7-8 cups
This soup was inspired by some grilled marinated Portobello mushrooms I had leftover from dinner the night before. I had been making another mushroom barley soup recipe for years, but was always left a little bored by it. Basically, I wanted something meatier, and the grilled portabellas did the trick. If you happen to have some leftover roast, brisket or steak, you could use that in here and skip the first step of making the grilled mushrooms. Or add it all in together. It would bump up the calories a bit, but would sure be tasty.
For the marinated grilled portabellas
2 Portobello Mushroom Caps
½ tsp Herbs de Provence (or ¼ tsp dried thyme, ¼ tsp dried rosemary)
¼ cup soy sauce
2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1 tsp balsamic crème (if you have), or 1 tsp honey
1 tsp garlic oil (or 1 tsp olive oil and 1 tsp minced garlic)
A few grinds of black pepper
For the soup
2 TBSP olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 ¼ cups)
2 medium celery ribs, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 10 oz. package sliced cremini mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
¼ cup medium-dry Sherry
½ cup barley
4 cups beef broth
1 1/2 cups water
3 carrots, sliced
¼ tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried parsley (or ¼ cup chopped fresh)
2 tsp tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
Step 1 – The Portobellos:
Scrape the gills out of the portobello caps (a spoon works nicely here.) Place the caps in a dish deep enough to hold them and the marinade. Wisk together the next 6 ingredients, pour over the mushrooms, and flip the mushrooms over so they coated on both sides. Let sit for 30 minutes to an hour.
Spray a grill pan with cooking spray (or fry pan or griddle if you don’t have a grill pan) and heat over medium-high. Remove the mushrooms from the marinade (save the marinade, you’ll need it again) and lay the mushrooms cap side up on the grill pan. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper, and grill for 3-4 minutes. Turn and grill for another 2-3 minutes until just tender. Remove to a board, slice the mushrooms in half, and then each half into slices. Add sliced mushrooms back into the marinade and let sit.
Step 2 – The Soup:
Heat 2 TBSP olive oil in a medium sized stockpot and sauté the onions and celery with a pinch of salt until soft and just starting to brown. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes. Add sliced cremini mushrooms, a small pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper and sauté until most of the moisture from the mushrooms has evaporated. Off heat, add the Sherry, then return to heat, add in the marinade from the mushrooms and bring to a boil, cooking until the liquid is reduced by about one-third. Add in the beef broth, water, tomato paste, carrots, barley, dried thyme, rosemary and parsley and sliced grilled mushrooms. Return to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for 1 hour. Taste for seasonings and add more salt and pepper if needed. Calories: about 85 calories per cup.