Food: Today’s Just a Hungry Day at Panera

So here I sit in one of my local paneras. I had a lunch meeting where I talked more than I ate — so I decided that food before teaching fitness might be a good idea. I also have a homework assignment due in my nonprofit management class that I intended on completing while here— yeah that clearly is not working out.

However, after my blah review of the blah Panera Summer Shrimp Salad sandwich (see that HERE) a reader asked what I normally eat. Well that is a great question. So I really do kinda eat the same five things at Panera. As a lap-band patient at any time leafy greens, raw veggies, and breads may or may not work. However, I do stick mainly with cafe salads (greek specifically and cafe soups here at Panera. I tend to get the “Pick 2” option as well. However, today I am not only starving but not feeling well. A dangerous combo for a band-ster. So I decided to pick the lowest calorie soup option and pair it with a very boring sandwich.

So today’s Pick 2 is — Vegetarian Low-Fat Black Bean Soup and 1/2 a classic grilled cheese. I also treated myself to a shortbread cookie (horrible stats, just horrible — but then again I haven’t eaten today) and an unsweetened Hibiscus Iced Tea (with one packet of equal in it — I know I know fake sugar will kill me — but I saved calories to eat the REAL sugar in the cookie).

I had intended on photographing the fresh plate with my phone — but my buzzer malfunctioned so I missed the original call. And by the time I looked up from my work (e.g. Facebook and downloading the new Nathalie Maines album (of Dixie Chick fame) it had been sitting there for a while and I was ravenous. So the photo is of a mostly demolished plate. I also like dipping my bread chunks in the soup — so yeah thats a hunk-a burning carbs sitting in a bowl of carb goodness.

Unlike a lot of people who are in fitness — I eat like a normal person. As a lap band patent I throw up so much food, I just go for anything that might stay in my stomach. So I eat rice, and black beans. A LOT. I eat bread sometimes — certainly with delicious cheese and my fiance’s homemade garlic olive oil. I drink full sugar sodas, and I put white sugar & real half/half in my coffee (there are somethings I can do fake sugar with – like diet coke or in ice tea — coffee is sacred and deserves the good stuff). And even with ALL OF THAT on a normal basis my doctor is disappointed in my diet because I am starving myself. Not on purpose — but just because I forget to eat — or something doesn’t work and out it comes. So sometimes in a day I might have had a bowl of cream of wheat and a Starbucks coffee drink. So yes world — fat (since size 10-12 is clearly HUGE media and internets :P) people can suffering from malnutrition!

Anyhow so back to my carbalicious meal. I didn’t even think how carb heavy it was until now honestly, but that will be good as I will have fuel to take a fitness class AND teach one. Here are the stats [it is 22 TOTAL Weight Watcher Points for everything listed (soup, sandwich, shortbread and ice tea (which is 0 poins)]:

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So I get 35 points a day and I STILL have 13 points left over not counting any activity points. I suppose the point of this is not only to talk about kinda what I may get on a random rainy Thursday at a quick service place. But to discuss how sometimes you can eat what you like — and still be okay. Again, I have 13 points left because what you see above is ALL I’ve eaten today minus a few bites of another bowl of soup. Now this is not idea — and normally I would have eaten some sort of morning meal and a real lunch. But life got in the way. Anyhow, I plan to do a few more of these random postings about things I — as a real person (who likes carbs) eats. Until then…enjoy my massacred plate!

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Politics of Food — Hungry Enough to Care?

*** This post appears on a blog that I am required to write for a class that at this point in the semester I only marginally tolerate.  However — I thought it was a good post.  That and it took me long enough to write I thought I should get a few more miles out of it.  We are required to write in a “What; So What; Now What” format — which you will see below.  However — the point is that we have a major policy issue on our hands.  Food insecurity.  What in the hell we do with it — I don’t know.  As you can see from the end, I’m mad as hell and I don’t have an answer. This problem is not as simplistic as organizational change.  It won’t be solved by taking a personality inventory on how you solve problems.  This is a real issue — where real people in this nation are hungry, sometimes hungry, or are unhealthy due to their ability to purchase foods [that is not just obesity, but also developmentally challenged due to malnutrition].  So what do we do — and is the nation hungry enough to care about this issue? ****

 

What?:

For most Americans — the idea of hunger conjures up a photo of a modern day Christian missionary in sub-sahara Africa.  The man or woman is pleading with you to open your purse and sponsor a child for a few cents a day.  Then they pan to a small child who looks completely emaciated and devastated. Videos like the one above are truly heartbreaking. However, is this the only face of hunger?  Is this the only face of people who are searching for their next meal?  No.

“I have enough to pay my rent, but not enough for food.” –“Who’s Hungry in America” Second Harvest

There are people right here in the greatest Nation, who are hungry and/or food insecure.  As of 2006, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has introduced language to describe various ranges of food security and insecurity.  The USDA now defines food insecurity as: “the condition assessed in the food security survey and represented in USDA food security reports–is a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.”  Hunger is defined by the USDA as: “an individual-level physiological condition that may result from food insecurity.” (Source: USDA Economic Research Service, “Definition of Food Security“)   The ranges the USDA has adopted are as follows:

Food Security: High food security (old label=Food security): no reported indications of food-access problems or limitations; Marginal food security (old label=Food security): one or two reported indications–typically of anxiety over food sufficiency or shortage of food in the house. Little or no indication of changes in diets or food intake. Food Insecurity: Low food security (old label=Food insecurity without hunger): reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet. Little or no indication of reduced food intake.  Very low food security (old label=Food insecurity with hunger): Reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake. [SOURCE]

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Fit Eating: Panera Bread Co.’s Power Salad

If you can’t tell already, Panera is my go-to fast(er) food restaurant. There at least incorporating a veggie or fruit is made easier than at most joints, and you can craft your meal to be healthier than normal. The downside in my opinion is that:

  1. The dressings for salad’s at Panera are tasty and delish, so I eat them — I know I could cut major calories going with a oil/vinegar combo — but my tastebuds aren’t having it. I believe that as long as you account for those extra tasty calories, then eat them. I do get extra dressing mostly because raw veggies do not work well with my Lap-Band (see THIS previous blog post for more information on the lap band and eating issues), and if I have to take a calorie/fat intake hit to get real veggies in my system — then that’s what I’ll do.
  2. The bread: some folks are low/no-complex carbs people. They shun bread, the white potato, crackers, chips, et al. I am not that girl. My grandmother onetime was consoling me when I was having a down day as a child due to my weight. She pointed out a very thin fit person and asked me if I knew what was going to happen to her in old age. I rattled of something about her being fit and trim and healthy. To which my grandmother responded that yes — she ate well, worked out, refused to eat things that might have given her a bit of pleasure all in persuit of health and a great body. But in the end — she was going to die just like all the overweight folks. What Grannie was trying to say is that for some of us, maybe giving up ALL that we love is a silly concept. If you like cupcakes, go to your local baker and get ONE — don’t bake a dozen in your home that you might eat all yourself during an episode of Scandal (best show ever, FYI). My fiance and I did that yesterday — we are in the process of picking favors of wedding cupcakes with our baker, so we went in and each got one we hadn’t tried. We don’t do this ever week, maybe once a month at most. But when we leave — there are two cupcakes in a bag. For us to share, and see if it makes our cut. I’m happy because not only did I get a tasty treat, but then once it’s gone — it’s gone. I count it into my Weight Watchers’ tracker as best I can, and then I move on. So if you like that portion of baguette at Panera with your meal, over the apple (me and raw apples usually don’t work sadly) then get it — count it in your Tracker, and move on.
  3. The cost: Panera is quite expensive folks, in comparison to other dine and dash restaurants. On one meal, a person could easily spend $10+ depending on the choices that they make. As a PhD Graduate Student, I know all too well about counting costs and watching what you spend. However, what I have decided is that if I *can* afford Panera over some other restaurant — then I will choose it. However, I have a list of other healthier options from places for when I’m on a tighter budget or not close to a Panera (e.g. the Grilled Chicken Sandwich at Wendy’s with a side salad or baked potato as the side + Diet Coke) .

So along with the Hidden Menu launch nationwide, Panera also used January to relaunch their Salmon offerings, and to launch a Spinach Power Salad. According to the website, the new salad contains

fresh baby spinach, roasted mushrooms and onion blend, diced egg, Applewood-smoked bacon, frizzled onions & smoky Vidalia onion vinaigrette.

They suggest using it in the “You Pick 2” offerings with the Bistro French Onion Soup. The “Pick 2” program pairs a 1/2 salad, cup of soup, or 1/2 a sandwich together at your choosing. Prices are lowest if you pick cafe styled foods (think the basic greek salad, and a turkey sandwich) and rises with every premium or signature offering you select. And that is exactly what I had for lunch last snowy Friday afternoon.

I did make a few changes. First, I did add a second serving of dressing. I still appreciate this method because it is measured out. Instead of dumping half a bottle on my salad, I know I am really just adding 2 additional tablespoons. Second, I added a serving of salmon on my salad. I happen to love salmon, but my fiance does not. So when I can have it while dining out — I typically choose to do so. It adds a punch of protein, which is a focus of lap-band patients — and helps keep me full longer. When the salmon is not available at Panera, I tend to add chicken to my salads.

The Verdict:

I am actually in love with this salad. Again, the appearance was a bit lacking — and we do eat with our eyes, but that pretty piece of salmon worked wonders.

Weight Watchers Points Values (keep in mind that you can tweak your intake by asking the staff at Panera to remove some items like the cheese in the soup, or choosing an apple over the baguette):

  • 6 points — 1/2 Spinach Power Salad with ONE dressing
  • 5 points — Cup of Bistro French Onion soup with Gruyere Cheese and Crouton Toping
  • 5 points — portion of Baguette served with meals

Taste: The dressing is great, a little sweet which pairs nicely with the rest of the dish. I am a big fan of raw spinach, because it actually 8 times out of 10 works with my band. The addition of roasted mushrooms and onions is a big hearty plus for me, and I loved the crunch of the “frizzled” onions (which reminds me quite a lot of those french fried onions that top holiday Green Bean Casseroles in my humble opinion…). Oddly enough, I am nonplused about the bacon. Take it out, leave it on — I didn’t feel like it added to the salad, but it didn’t detract either. I might consider leaving it off honestly.

This is a salad that I would order in the full size happily. I just hope they keep it around for longer than a season (if you’re reading this Panera Executives — please keep this salad, seriously. And salmon on the menue as long as possible. Thanks!). If not, I think the next salad I will try is the hidden menue turkey one, since it also uses spinach as a base. Does anyone know if you can order spinach as a salad base on a regular basis?

Pinterist Schmenterist: Semi-Home Made Budget BBQ Pork

Sometimes inspiration for dinner comes from a blog, but sometimes it comes from a great deal at the grocery store.  After teaching Zumba(R) in the Circuit, I headed over to a local discount grocery store for a few items.

It was set to snow here, and when one is living between two houses, one of them always gets the short end of the grocery stick.  See I spend some time at my fiance’s farm, and then the rest with my mother and pooch in the City.  Living between two houses is a very bi-polar thing, and I tend to find that there are less fresh foods and groceries at my mom’s house when I return from an extended stay at the Farm.  However, currently the farm is without heat — and I am a wuss.  So back to my mom’s house I go.

So I was picking up a few things that could have been missing from the house — a half-quart of milk, a box of store-brand cheerios, can of lima beans.  Just a few things I knew I could eat while on exile from the frozen-tundra that is the inside of the Farmhouse, but not too many since I hadn’t really had time to assess the fridge and pantry.  After picking up a frozen pizza for the family to eat that night (the fiance was going to come by as well), I went to scan the meat department.

This grocery store has a very basic meat selection.   They even have a 5 for $20 special, where families can pick up five different packs of meat ranging from hamburger meat to small packages of beef tips for a stew and chicken.  Again, this is a discount grocery store – and a much needed commodity in areas where people are living on fixed incomes and do not have the luxury of pricy meats.

I always check — no matter what grocery store I am in, the discount section.  And yes folks, there is one for meat too.  Now if you shop this section, be ready to either immediately freeze or cook whatever you buy.  There’s no waiting on those products.  They are STILL GOOD and SAFE for consumption, but the expiration/use by date is usually extremely close.

So in that lovely section I found a small pork roast for $2.50.  TWO -FIFTY!   Sold!

But then I got home and wondered — what in the world do I do with this.  Being the Southern Woman I am, BBQ immediately came to mind.

At first I was just going to dump the pork and some BBQ sauce in a slow cooker and call it a day, but then I began to think harder.  So here is my super simple method.

Ingredients:

  1. Piece of Pork — whatever size you like, whatever type you like
  2. 2 Onions
  3. 1 Can of Beer (whatever you have — really)
  4. 1 package of dry onion soup mix
  5. Seasoning of your choice
  6. BBQ Sauce of Your Choosing (we had a bottle of Budweiser Smoky BBQ Sauce in the cabinet that was close to expiring, so that’s what I used.  If you make your own, great — if you want to use a bottle, works too.  Add as much or as little as you like, to you and your families taste)
  • Peel onions, then cut them into rough quarters.  This does not have to be fancy, as you will be cooking them down.  Place them in the bottom of your crock pot as a bed for the pork.
  • Season the pork with whatever you like.  I used black pepper, garlic powder, and Creole Seasoning.  Pick your own favorites.
  • Place the pork on top of the onion bed, and then season the other side.
  • Pour one can of beer around the pork.
  • Mix in the dry onion soup mix with the beer.
  • Cover the crock pot and cook.  I cooked the pork/onions/beer mixture on HIGH for 1 hour, then on low for until done.  That’s just me — I want it falling apart (and this crock pot isn’t as hot as my one at the farm).
  • Check part-way through cooking and pull any bones out of your roast  (once your meat hits the point of falling apart)– if it was not boneless.  You can also shred up the meat at this time.
  • Once I was able to shred up the meat, and remove the bones, I took all of the pork and onions out of the pot and strained the juices out.  I poured out the juices and returned the pork to the pot.
  • I then added the bottle of BBQ sauce.  For my fiance, the Budweiser sauce was a little too tart — so we added in about four tablespoons of brown sugar to mellow it out.  Feel free to doctor up bottled sauce to you and your families liking.
  • Cook pork and sauce for about another hour on LOW until the flavors meld together.  Serve on toasted buns, or however you like.

NOTE:  I didn’t time this exactly.  I’ll be honest.  I left it on overnight, and then probably longer than one hour in the sauce.  That’s the awesome thing about crock pots.  You don’t HAVE to be percise.  As long as you get that meat to its proper doneness and temperature – after that you golden.  So once the meat is properly cooked, your continued cooking time is up to you.  I love that part of the flexibility of a crock pot over an oven.  I don’t burn it if I leave it a bit longer that necessary, I just want it cooked and tasty.

I don’t have any photos, because I honestly forgot to take some during the process.  However — I wanted to share this more for my friends who are afraid of cooking or experimenting.  I took a super cheap cut of meat, and turned it into a super simple meal.  I didn’t use a recipe, I just guessed — and if it hadn’t have turned out tasty I only wasted about $3 (meat + onions, everything else I had in the house).  So experiment  try new things, try twists on old things!  

What have you experimented with that has worked out well?  Or been a total fail?

Pinterist Schmenterist: Shrimp and Cream Cheese Grits

So the Fiance and I were trying to figure out what to have for dinner, and he volunteered shrimp and grits.  Perfect!  We wanted something quick and easy, as we had spent a good part of the day outside target shooting on the farm.  Side note:  I have realized 9mm’s are not for me, I will SO stick with anything that shoots a .22!    

I had remembered this recipe from The Caramel Jar (recipe here) that I had recently pinned, and decided to make the grits like the recipe.  However, when we went to the grocery store — I never looked up the recipe.  I knew I had grits and a brick of cream cheese in my farm kitchen.  No need to look anything up…..well that was wrong.  As you can see if you click the recipe — it takes heavy cream, whole milk, and she used stone ground grits.   So what is a girl to do…find something comparable and swap! Not to mention that I’ve recently started Weight Watchers and I DO NOT want to know how much one serving of The Caramel Jar’s grits would be!   [Though I did happily find out that there are activity points to be had from my shooting outing.  I stand while I shoot (be it a handgun or my rifel), and I do try to move about a bit to get better at hitting the target!  Yay activity points!]

So I doctored a Tase of Home (recipe here) since I had most of those ingredients in our pantry or basement stockpile.  Here were our changes:

  1. I used four cups of just straight chicken broth (Kroger brand with 33% lower sodium).  I didn’t bother with the water + bouillon mix.  
  2. We had no chives, but we are a household that oddly had shallots of all things.  So I diced up a very small one, and tossed it into the warming broth before it boiled to make sure the pieces softened and fragranced the broth.
  3. I used quick grits and the world did not stop.  It’s what we had, so I went for it.  I threw the cup in after the chicken broth had began to boil.
  4. I used an entire package of cream cheese — which is 8 oz not three.  I don’t know where Tase of Home is finding three ounce packages of cream cheese, so I made an assumption they were incorrect.  It melted into the grits just fine, promise.
  5. I also added fresh ground pepper while folding in the cream cheese.  The recipe didn’t call for it, which I found odd.  I added ZERO salt by the way.
  6. We did NOT add the shrimp to the grits.  The Fiance lightly sautéed/warmed the pre-cooked (but still slightly frozen) tail-on shrimp in some butter (this is the South!  No judgement!  He was proud of himself because he’s from DC, and usually thinks Southerners use of butter its nuts.), minced shallots, and garlic.

So we ended up just scooping some of the thick and creamy grits into a bowl, and topping them with the shrimp and a spoon full or so of the softened garlic/shallots mix.  And the entire meal took about 20 minutes or so.

So this is what it turned into — a delicious melty mix of what virtually is a shrimp scampi (what I counted it in my points tracker as — that would be 7 Weight Watchers Plus Points for 6 Medium Shrimp (our shrimp were small, and small wasn’t an option, so I made a best guess) and creamy and cheesy grits (from the nutritional values given on the Taste of Home website that equals to 7 Weight Watchers Plus Points).

If you try it let me know what you think and what you changed (if anything!).

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