Nadia’s Mom’s taco spaghetti sauce: A twist on two old favorites

As you’ve noticed by now, I’m the cook in my house. But that’s not to say my lovely Wifey Nadia has nothing to bring to the (dinner) table.She makes the most perfect bacon, can whip up a mean hummus and is a damn fine baker. She is also an excellent sous chef.

Another wonderful thing she makes is “taco spaghetti,” a simple pasta sauce seasoned with a Lawry’s “TACO” spice packet. I’m not a fan of the Montreal steak seasoning everyone pours on everything, but I do love the taste of the taco mix. It’s the flavor of the burritos of my youth–beef seasoned with this stuff, a sprinkle of cheese and a flour tortilla. Authentic suburb Mex.

Nadia’s ace recipe is a meat seasoned with the packet added to just enough tomato sauce to loosen it up. Poured over spaghetti, it’s a filling meal. I took it one step further recently, adding two cartons of quartered mushrooms, shallots to the meat (lean ground beef I had in the freezer, though next time I’ll use turkey), and I garnished everything with scallions and two tablespoons of shredded cheddar (about 55 calories).

It’s a twist on two old favorites that I love. If you want a little something extra, serve it with a slice of ghetto garlic bread (wheat or white bread, a thin smear of butter, a sprinkle of garlic salt and heat!). It’s good stuff.

With that, I’m taking a vacation. I’ll be back next week with the first post of Week 31: Super soups. The turkey kale lentil soup was legit.

Can’t wait to share!

Week 30, Meal 3: Mixed veggies

Chef Brian gave me the option of using bomba rice or jasmine rice for Week 3, Meal 3: Vegetarian paella, but I really wanted the bomba to keep this as authentic as possible.

Lucky for me, Dave was willing to take me on  a whim to La Espanola Meats in Harbor City to pick up the rice and nosh on some righteous paella. Theirs came with a charcuterie plate (with marinated olives I’m still dreaming about) and was packed with rabbit, chorizo, chicken and shrimp. It’s only served on Saturdays and if you’re anywhere close, you need to check it out.

But for the finale to our vegetarian menu, we’re ditching the meat and piling on the veggies. Everything is fresh, yet I’d file it under “stick to your ribs” because it’s so filling.

Follow the jump for the recipe and the how-to.

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Week 30, Meal 2: Super fly stir fry

I complained to Chef Brian when he sent me the vegetarian menu because I’m just the worst when it comes to stir fry. I’ve burned the bottom out of two woks and anything I make in one turns into soy-flavored charcoal.

I borrowed a good wok from my buddy Kevin, all the stars aligned, and I knocked this one out of the park (thanks to a stellar recipe, for sure). The sauce is the star here–tangy, spicy, sweet–and the tofu, slightly crisp from a flash fry in the wok, soaks all of it up.

Here’s Week 30, Meal 2: Veggie-tofu stir fry with umeboshi plum vinegar soy sauce.

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Real Simple magazine: Eggplant lasagna

In my continuing effort to cook most of my meals at home, I went through this month’s cooking calendar on the Real Simple magazine’s website. I put a menu together for the week and plan to link to the dishes each day, just to get back into the habit of blogging meals. This weekend I plan to pick up veggies at the Farmer’s market (SOCO Collection’s spread was incredible last Saturday) and I’ll finally knock out the remainder of the vegetarian menu.

But until then, here’s a vegetarian dish from Real Simple that I was iffy to try, but thankful I did. It’s eggplant lasagna, made with slabs of eggplant (they call for it to be broiled, but I threw mine on the grill), a simple tomato sauce and creamy, herb-spiked ricotta.

Add a side salad drizzled in balsamic vinaigrette and this is both hearty and healthy–for under 400 calories. Here’s the recipe for eggplant lasagna from Real Simple magazine.

My favorite macaroni and cheese is about 450 calories per serving!

I’ve been trying to hit the gym at least three times per week, so it’s essential to cook my meals ahead of time. One of my favorite things to make are baked pasta dishes because you can make many portions at once and it usually tastes better after a day or two in the fridge.

One of my comfort food favorites is macaroni and cheese, and my favorite healthier version of macaroni and cheese is from Men’s Health “Cook This Not That.”

Their recipe, which you can grab by clicking the link above, uses a lighter bechamel sauce instead of lots of butter and heavy cream to thicken things up. I used whole wheat pasta shells and whole wheat white flour to make the roux. The pasta is boiled and then combined with the cheese sauce.

Even though everything is already cooked, baking the mac and cheese really brings it all together. Finish off by browning the bread crumbs under the broiler. Each bite is creamy, crunchy, cheesy and delicious.

They serve their recipe as 6 servings; a 480 calorie slice. I split it into 8 servings to save some calories for about 440 calories per serving. Their recipe calls for prosciutto, but we had some bacon laying around and I threw it in. Next time, I’ll use the prosciutto to save calories, or swap that altogether for roasted chicken.

Easy on the wallet, good for you and it hits the spot! A win-win-win!

Fat Dude On A Diet: Report card No. 2

I’ve been wanting to write another “Fat Dude: Report Card” for nearly a year, but the time never seemed right.

Originally this blog was supposed to be a year-long herculean effort to get fit (or die!). On that schedule, I published my first report card in February 2011, when I was still generally going strong with the effort to blog three nights  a week and walk everyday.

I used to feel like I had failed myself, being unable to keep up on this self-imposed schedule in order to accomplish my goals. This has been a rollercoaster ride, and I’ve grown a lot through this process. In short, I wouldn’t trade those failures for success. I’m happy to have come up short, because what I learned from it will ensure success in the long run.

In these times of modern convenience and demands, I’ve learned that you have to take the time to treat your body right with good food and exercise. Both are important; necessary. The idea I repeatedly remind myself of–both as motivation when I’m already kicking ass, and when I need an ass-kicking to get back into it–is this: How can you meet your obligations to family and work when you are not meeting your obligations to yourself?

It’s a question that has lit a fire within me. I want to feel better. And I do.

But I know even better days are ahead as long as I stay motivated to eat healthy be preparing my own meals and exercising regularly. So, if there ever is a right time to check in officially, it is now. I’m ready to kick it up a notch in the gym and switch from  a full-body routine to exercises that target different areas on different days. This will work more muscles within each muscle group for better results long term and will also allow me to shorten my workouts so I can fit everything I need to do within the days I need to do them. (I can only imagine what adding a child to this mix will do, which is why I’m pushing myself now to get on track before the wife starts lookin’ to get cookin’ in the next couple years.)

It’s not always easy. There are days where forces outside of my control dictate my schedule, what I eat, or both. There are  days where I’m not up to it. Heck, there are weeks where I’m not up to it. But the important thing is to call your own bullshit and force yourself to keep on going. As I’m seeing now that I have the pictures side-by-side (a size-smaller shirt in the second picture), slowly but surely, the hard work is paying off.

I started this blog on Nov. 8 at 258 lbs. Today, I weighed in at 230.7, a total loss of 27.3 lbs.

My body mass index went from 39.6 to 36. Today, I’m at 35.4. I’m still considered obese, (under 30 is “overweight”, around 25 is the goal) but I’m closer to being healthy than I was before, and that’s what matters to me most.

It’s a sprint from here until Coachella in mid-April. My goal is to be in the low 220 lbs. by then.

I know I haven’t been cooking regularly for the blog, but I’m still trying to find the balance between work, blogging, freelancing, the gym and Wifey Nadia’s schedule. I’ll borrow a wok from a friend this week and get back on the menu by knocking out at least the stir fry from  the vegetarian menu.

Until then …

Almost there …

A new blog low! Knock, knock, knockin’ on the 220’s door.

Almost there …

I started this blog in Nov. 2010 weighing 258 lbs. Today I weigh 230.9. That’s a total loss of 27.1 lbs.

Eat This Now: Plate lunch with Island Chicken at Da Luau

Click here to read about my love of Island Chicken at Da Luau Hawaiian Grill (Foothill Ranch and Irvine) at OC Weekly’s Stick A Fork In It.

Killer Shrimp: If you can’t stand the heat …

My best friend Clint and his girlfriend Diana visited SoCal this weekend for the first time in several years. I love when he comes down because we usually go on a tour of his favorite L.A. and O.C. eats. There’s a stop at Morton’s for a burger and a little Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffle action. And on this trip, I took it upon myself to introduce him to Break of Dawn.

But one place we’ve left off the rotation for some time is Killer Shrimp, a Marina del Rey/Studio City joint that slings spicy bowls of broth teeming with succulent shrimp. In the last few years the locations closed, seemingly for good. Clint had heard through the grapevine the Marina del Rey location had reopened and a little Google action confirmed the good news.

After a few years away, an old favorite has returned. Continue reading

I’m joining OC Weekly’s Stick A Fork In It blog!

If you follow my Facebook page, you would have seen that a couple of days ago I posted about some exciting news to come.

And now it’s official. I’m headed back into the world of Orange County food blogging, this time with the crew from OC Weekly’s awesome Stick A Fork In It blog. The thing I miss most about working at The Reg is the food stuff, so needless to say, I’m excited to do it again–and especially so with such a talented group of food writers.

That being said, nothing changes here. My primary goal is to lose weight and get all sexy by the big 3-0 in October. But, I still eat meals out, and it would be a shame not to write about them. I asked to join Stick A Fork In It because there was no place I’d rather be writing about great local eats. And I’m honored that they’ve taken me in.

My first post should run sometime next week, and will likely be about my undying love for the Hawaiian plate lunch. I’ll post links to my stories there on this blog too, but until that first post, here’s a link to the post introducing me to their readers.

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