Free Range Nurse

Cooking therapy from a former travel nurse

Slow and Steady Wins The Race? January 27, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — freerangenurse @ 4:32 pm

I am in week four of my year of me and so far I am down 5 pounds.  Not exactly where I want to be, but it’s better than five pounds up, I guess.  I am still having a hard time eating all the points I’m given.  Part of the problem is reminding myself to eat breakfast.  I’m just not hungry until about 11:00 and by then, it’s lunch time.  I am eating breakfast most days, but since I am choosing healthy options, I only tend to spend 5 or 6 points on that meal.  My snacks are usually veggies or fruit or the rare baked chips and salsa.  Lunch is usually light, consisting of a turkey sandwich or fish and sauteed veggies, dinner is the most points heavy with 10-11 points.  All told, I generally eat 27-29 points per day.

I really am trying to convince myself that it’s not about the weight, it’s about getting healthy.  Really, that is my goal, but part of being healthy is not being so overweight.  I want to start seeing the results of all my efforts.  I want my body to fall into line and start dropping weight that reflects the changes I’ve made.  I want to feel like I can use my flex points one week and not worry that it’ll mean that I gain weight.  Normal people eat queso once in a while and don’t have to sweat that it will undo all of the healthy choices they’ve made that week.  I read on the Weight Watchers site that they want you to use their flex points and that the program is designed for you to use them and still lose weight, but I just don’t trust that it will happen, yet.  Maybe once I have a loss over three pounds, I’ll believe it.  Although, knowing me, it’ll just make me more driven to work harder and go for 4 pounds.

Look, I know I didn’t get here overnight and I’m not going to reach my goal in a blink either.  I’m just sharing with you, cyberworld, the frustrations that come with changing one’s life.  I blame this latest mood swing on the gym showing the best places for nachos on the big screen t.v.!

Peace and healthy eating!


Miracle Lasagna

Filed under: dinner — freerangenurse @ 5:40 am

Turkey Lasagna
Why is my lasagna a miracle?  Well, for one, it is Weight Watchers reasonable.  Secondly (and most unbelievably), it has vegetables that went undetected by my husband, who NEVER eats vegetables.  Oh sure, he picked the big chunks of vegetable out, but the ones in the sauce actually made it where no vegetable has gone before.  I found the recipe in a special issue of Cuisine Magazine called Cuisine Lite.  I made one or two modifications to suit my taste, so feel free to do the same.

Total WW points for one serving (and the servings are pretty large) is 10 points!  Bonus is that there are so many vegetables in there, so you’ll get to track all those power foods!

Three-Cheese Turkey Lasagna

adapted from Cuisine Lite

  • 9 dry lasagna sheets
  • large container of baby spinach
  • 3/4 pound ground turkey breast
  • 1 tsp. canola oil
  • 1/2 cup each chopped onion and carrot
  • 12 ounces mushrooms, divided and chopped into medium pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 yellow pepper, diced
  • 1/2 zucchini, diced
  • 1 can low-sodium diced tomatoes, drained (14.5 ounces)
  • 1 Tbs. dried Italian herbs
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 can low-sodium tomato sauce (8 oz), divided
  • 1 1/2 cups 2% cottage cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella, divided (8 oz)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan Reggiano

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add lasagna sheets to the boiling water.  Cook for 8 minutes, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.

Brown the turkey in a large non-stick skillet coated with non-stick spray, over medium-high heat.  Mince onion, carrot, mushrooms, and garlic in a food processor or Ninja blender, add it to browned turkey in a skillet.  Cook until vegetables soften, 5 minutes.  Stir in diced tomatoes, dried herbs, pepper flakes, and black pepper.  Simmer for 3 minutes.

In a large skillet, saute remaining mushrooms (cut into medium pieces), red and yellow bell pepper, and zucchini with 1 tsp olive oil, until browned and tender.  Add spinach and cook until wilted. Remove from heat.

Spread 2 Tbsp. tomato sauce in the bottom of an 8-inch, 2 quart square baking dish.  Add remaining tomato sauce to bolognese in skillet, stir until combined.  Remove the bolognese from heat and set aside.

Pulse cottage cheese, 1 cup mozzarella, and the egg in a food processor until smooth; set aside.

Layer 4 lasagna sheets over the tomato sauce, overlapping sheets and cutting ends off to fit.  Reserve cut pieces for top layer.  Spread 1/3 of the bolognese over lasagna sheets; top with half of the cheese sauce followed by half of the vegetable/spinach mix.  Repeat layers and top with another 1/3 of the bolognese, remaining cheese sauce and remaining veggie/spinach mix..  Top with remaining whole lasagna sheet and cut lasagna pieces, remaining bolognese, remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and the Parmesan.  Bake the lasagna for 25 minutes until the topping is browned.  Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Cut lasagna into 6 servings.  Enjoy!

Notes:  We were not able to use all of the cheese and sauce because our square baker was not tall enough.  The result was still plenty filling and plenty tasty.


Who Wants Beef! January 19, 2011

Filed under: beef,dinner,lunch — freerangenurse @ 9:04 pm

Chipotle Rubbed Flank Steak
Eating healthier has me eating mostly fish and chicken, but once in a while, you need some meat! I have picked up a few new cooking magazines to give me inspiration and was happy to see a recipe for chipotle rubbed flank steak with a apricot whiskey glaze in my Cuisine Lite Magazine. I grilled the steak on my cast iron grill along with a mushroom medley of portabello, crimini, and baby bella mushrooms. I sliced it thin and made a sandwich using Oroweat Sandwich thins, spinach leaves and an ounce of brie. It was the perfect midnight dinner for my night shift at work, but I’d bet it would work any other time, too.

Chipotle rubbed Flank Steak
Of course, I started to photograph it for the blog, but then was in a hurry to finish it up before work and didn’t get a picture of the finished sandwich, but I think the meat speaks for itself.

Total Weight Watchers points: 13

What I used (adapted from the Cuisine Lite recipe)

  • 1 1/2 pound trimmed flank steak (non tenderized)
  • 1/4 cup apricot preserves
  • 3 tablespoons whiskey
  • 1 Tbsp chipotle chili powder (or minced chipotle in adobo)
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp ancho chili powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Oroweat sandwich thins
  • spinach leaves
  • brie, one ounce per sandwich

Combine whiskey, preserves and chipotle powder (or chipotle chiles), set aside.  In a separate bowl combine brown sugar, chili powder, salt and pepper.  Rub flank steak with spice/sugar blend until well coated.  You will use nearly all of the rub.  Grill the flank steak over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes, then turn and grill the opposite side for 3-4 minutes.  Brush top side of steak with whiskey sauce and grill two minutes more, then flip and brush the opposite side with glaze and grill two minutes more to caramelize both sides of the steak.  Remove from heat and tent with aluminum foil while steak rests.  Grill mushrooms over medium-high heat until cooked through.  Slice meat thinly across the grain and arange 3 ounces on sandwich bun, top with mushrooms, brie and spinach leaves.  Enjoy!


Shrimp Piccata on Pasta January 15, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — freerangenurse @ 11:15 am

Shrimp Piccata over pasta

Re-learning portions has been an adventure.  It makes me think back to all the bowls (yes, plural) of pasta I used to eat.  Sometimes two bowls of spaghetti in one meal!  Ugh!  It’s embarrassing now, but at the time it was just delicious.  Of course, about 1 minute after the last forkful, it was uncomfortable.  Buttons had to be undone, posture had to be relaxed, because, my brain is apparently a long way from the stretch sensors in my stomach and the telegraph line (you’ve got yours and I’ve got mine… – 10 points if you can tell me the next line) is a little bit slow.  Now that I weigh everything, I can see how much more I was eating over what I should have been eating.  The funny thing is, I’m not any more hungry after dinner now, but I’m also not struggling to take a deep breath and I’m not sluggish and uncomfortable.  A definite improvement!

Tonight’s dinner started out as a bit of an indulgence.  I was wanting pasta with my shrimp and a nice sauce to go with and I had a pretty good amount of points left for dinner.  Once I put the recipe in Weight Watchers Recipe Tracker and made a few tweaks, it actually came out very points friendly at only 11 points per serving, including the pasta!  Did I mention it has wine?  and BUTTER!  I would dare say it has too much butter (cue sound of tires screeching to a halt)!  I dialed back the butter in the recipe below and I bet you won’t miss it, because you’ll still taste it.  So without further ado, here’s your pasta and butter dish!

Shrimp Piccata on Pasta

(makes 4 servings)

adapted from Epicurious

  • 1 pound of shrimp (I used pre-cooked, peeled shrimp)
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cups white wine
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1/3 cups fat free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 8 ounces capellini
  • I also added some red bell pepper, diced (for color)

Bring some water to boil in a large pot.  Once boiling, add pasta and cook until al dente.  Remove from heat, but do not drain.

While the pasta is cooking, combine 1 Tbsp of the butter with the flour to make a thick paste, set aside.  Heat wine, stock, garlic, and lemon juice over medium heat until boiling.  Add flour/butter mixture and whisk until incorporated.  Continue to boil until thickened, about 2 minutes.  Add the capers, parsley, remaining butter (red peppers, if you are using them) and shrimp and toss to coat.  Heat only until shrimp is warm, don’t over cook unless you like rubbery shrimp.

Drain pasta and divide evenly among four plates.  Using a slotted spoon, remove shrimp and place over pasta.  The remaining sauce can be divided among the four plates.  Serve with a nice salad, or my favorite stand-by, sauteed spinach.  Enjoy the decadence of an 11 point meal!


Seared Tuna January 14, 2011

Filed under: dinner,lunch,seafood — freerangenurse @ 2:13 pm

Seared Tuna

One of my favorite pre-weight watchers foods, that is actually one of my favorite post weight watchers foods has to be seared tuna. I love Ahi tuna’s mild flavor and melt in your mouth tenderness. I even love Ahi completely raw where the flavor is even more mild and fresh and the texture is like that of a perfectly medium rare tenderloin – not mushy, just spoon tender. Yum! I occasionally buy sashimi grade tuna and either sear it or just chop it up with some Japanese spicy mayo and eat it on a cracker with some avocado, but today I decided to have seared tuna for lunch.

I poked around the internet looking for inspiration, all the while thinking about coating the tuna in sesame seeds, but feeling like it needed something more.  I came across this recipe from Steamy Kitchen and incorporated some of it into my version.  I didn’t have any wasabi lying around, but I did have some teriyaki marinade from Central Market.  I read the ingredients from the bottle of Asian sesame seeds I had and noticed that it contained some spices (garlic, sweet red pepper flakes, green chili flakes, turmeric, and ginger) along with the seeds.  The following is what I ended up with.  It is paired with 2/3 cup of sushi rice and a stir fried zucchini with 1/3 of a red bell pepper.  The tuna was definitely the star! Total WW points for the whole plate, 9 points. Yes, NINE, for the whole meal. Woohoooo!

Note: If you are afraid of eating raw/undercooked fish, just turn the heat down a little and cook it longer, but please try it a little rare someday.  It really is a completely different taste, less fishy,  and as long as you are eating sashimi grade, it is safe.  Twenty years of eating raw tuna and I’m still kicking!  The Japanese have been doing it for slightly longer.

Seared Tuna
Here’s what I used:

  • 1 95g piece of sashimi grade Ahi (yellow fin) tuna
  • 1/4 cup Central Market Teriyaki Sauce/Marinade
  • 1/4 cup Adams Reserve Asian Spice Rub (purchased at HEB)
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • sea salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper

Heat a well seasoned cast iron skillet (or stainless steel) over medium to medium-high heat and add oil.  Meanwhile pat the tuna steak dry, then place it on a shallow dish with the teriyaki sauce to marinate briefly, turning to coat each side.  When I say briefly, I mean no more than 2 minutes per side.  On another shallow dish or plate, spread the Asian rub and place the tuna on the seeds, turning to coat all sides.  Sprinkle a little salt and pepper and pat, to adhere the seeds/seasonings to all sides.

Place the steak into the pre-warmed pan and cook for about 2 -3 minutes, then turn and cook the opposite side for 2-3 minutes.  I like to sear mine all the way around, so I also use tongs to hold the steak on its side and sear each side for about 1 minute each.  You don’t want your heat too high because you don’t want to burn your sesame seeds, causing them to taste bitter and burnt, so if you are cooking your steak until it is cooked through, turn your heat down a little.  Once the tuna is seared all the way around, you can tent it in some foil to keep it warm while you stir fry your veggies.  I cooked mine using 1 tsp olive oil and medium-high heat.  If you are making the sushi rice, you will need to start that well before you start the fish as it takes the longest to cook.  I hope you will try this slightly exotic dish, because I really think you will like it.

Seared Tuna

I know my tuna looks very raw in these pictures, but remember, I like it all the way raw, just cook yours a little longer to taste.


Spicy Fish Tacos January 13, 2011

Filed under: dinner,lunch,seafood — freerangenurse @ 12:46 pm

Fish Tacos
Okay, this might be one of my new favorites because it is tasty, low in WW points and easy to make.  I made fish tacos last night using mahi mahi and a recipe I found at epicurious.  The mahi mahi fillets are only two points each and I didn’t even eat a whole one!  One tricky aspect of calculating points on this one was the use of a marinade made of olive oil and spices.  I checked with the Weight Watchers web site and community boards and while most people said they don’t count the points for marinade, I opted to count some.

The tacos are a nice blend of spicy and sweet, crunchy and tender.  I hope you like them as much as I did!

Here’s what you need:

  • 1-2 mahi mahi fillets
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 4 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • corn tortillas
  • cabbage, sliced very thin
  • carrots, petite dice
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp minced red onion (I omitted this)
  • 2 tsp minced jalapeños (I used canned diced jalapeños)
  • 2 tsp chopped cilantro
  • Asian sesame seeds
  • coarsely cracked black pepper
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • pico de gallo (I omitted this)

Combine the cabbage, 2 tsp lime juice, honey, red onion, jalapeños, cilantro, sesame seeds, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Toss to coat evenly.  Set aside in the refrigerator.

In another bowl combine the olive oil, lime juice and spices to form a medium thick paste.  Cut the fish into small, 1/2 inch strips and mix with marinade.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  You won’t need to add any oil, as the fish will have been coated in it.  Once hot, remove the fish from the marinade and place in the preheated skillet.  Cook, turning fish occasionally until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes.  You’ll see that the fish turns white and the segments begin to flake apart.  Heat corn tortillas in the microwave, or do like I do and heat them directly over a low flame on the stove.  Place 3-4 pieces of mahi mahi in a corn tortilla and top with a generous portion of slaw and pico.  Enjoy your low points dinner!

Total WW points for two tacos: 10 (it is really probably a little less, unless you eat all of the slaw.  I only counted 1 Tbsp of the oil, again probably over estimating)
Fish Tacos


Resolving To Be Patient January 11, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — freerangenurse @ 4:38 pm

Yesterday was a day of mixed emotions.  Looking back, I feel kind of ridiculous about the whole thing.  I went to the gym after working Sunday night to meet my gym buddy and fellow Weight Watcher, Eileen.  It was the big one week weigh-in.  I was pumped!  I just knew I had lost three pounds.  I’d been good all week, using only an average of 30.2 of my 40 allotted daily points, had only had one “skinny” Texas Martini at happy hour this week and had worked out six days out of seven!  I was walking tall and feeling good….until I stepped on the scale.  It turns out I lost 1.8 pounds.  I know, I should have been happy, right?  That’s what everyone told me, and I was…sort of.  Mostly I was disappointed and discouraged.  I mean, I was happy I lost, just not happy with the amount.

I don’t know how many of you know how Weight Watchers works, but basically, you are given a number of daily “points” along with a weekly allowance of flex points.  You can also earn activity points based on the type and duration of exercise you do.  These points are then traded for food.  Some foods are free (most fruits and veggies) and the rest have a points value based on the fat, protein, carbs and fiber content.  Choose wisely, young grasshopper, and you can stay full and satisfied while staying within your points.  This is exactly what I did.  I made conscious decisions to eat healthy foods and chose not to have the indulgences I usually allow myself.  I could have, for example, had a regular martini, or two at happy hour and definitely had the points accumulated for it, but chose to get the sugar-free option.  I could have stopped off at Starbucks before work and had a grande chai soy latte, but didn’t.  I only used my daily points and sometimes found myself well below them, albeit unintentionally.

My disappointment stemmed from a fear that if I ever did use all the points I’m allowed, that I would not lose, or worse yet, that I would gain!  I felt a little defeated and couldn’t seem to shake it.  The odd thing, is that where I might have given up and eaten something comforting (read bad for me), I instead ate almost nothing that day.  The nurse in me knows that any time you start a diet, or in my case a change in your normal way of eating, where you consume less calories, you convince your body to hold on to its stored fat.  I know this only lasts for a week or two before the ol’ body falls in line and realizes there’s a change in how it’s going to be managed.  I know this, and yet, I was devastated.

I am so thankful for my Facebook friends.  They, who have been cheering me on daily when I post about going to the gym or eating something healthy, were also there to pick me up yesterday and tell me to be strong and keep it up.  I’ll admit I whined excessively and I needed to have myself verbally bitch-slapped out of my mood.  So thank you to Eileen’s husband, David who told me I was done whining.  That I didn’t put the weight on overnight and I wasn’t going to get rid of it overnight.  Thank you to Frank, who reminded me what I already know about my body holding on to the calories that it thinks won’t be coming anymore (and they won’t, dear body, but we’re going to learn to live without as many of them).  Thank you to every “you can do it” and every “don’t give up” because, even though sometimes we think we stand alone, it’s nice to know that we don’t.


Modified Chicken Caprese January 7, 2011

Filed under: chicken,dinner — freerangenurse @ 1:12 pm

Chicken Caprese
The other day while surfing cooking blogs, I came across a recipe on Steamy Kitchen that intrigued me.  It was basically a Caprese salad on top of a chicken breast.  Unfortunately for me, the tomatoes at the grocery store were more orange than red and were probably not going to have the delicious, juicy sweetness of a ripe summer tomato.  I did pick up a carton of grape tomatoes and those are almost always tasty and sweet.

I modified the recipe a little by brining the chicken for a few hours.  For those of you who don’t have to watch your sodium intake, brining is a wonderful way to enrich the juiciness and flavor of a boneless, skinless chicken breast.  I have the details of how to do it here.  After brining, rinse the chicken in cold water to remove the excess brine.  If you don’t brine, that’s fine (I made a rhyme!) too, just omit that step.  I really should be watching my sodium, but for goodness sakes, I can only take so many changes at a time.

The Weight Watchers point count is 10, but that can vary depending on your chicken size.  The chicken breasts I bought were huge, with one almost weighing in at a pound!  I took a puny one and cut it down to 7 ounces and that was plenty.

What you’ll need:

  • A chicken breast, brined if you can afford the sodium intake
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 ounce fresh mozzarella
  • sliced tomato or grape/cherry tomatoes sliced
  • basil, but in my case, I used sauteed spinach and red pepper
  • minced garlic
  • pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375.  Rinse brined chicken in cold water and pat dry with paper towels.  Season chicken with pepper, it shouldn’t need any more salt.  In an oven safe skillet, heat 1 tsp olive oil on medium high heat until it shimmers.  Place chicken breast smooth side down and leave it alone for 3 minutes, once it gets nice and brown, turn it over and sear the other side.  Rub the smooth side of the chicken with minced garlic, then cover the skillet and place in the preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes to finish cooking.  My chicken took the full 20 minutes (there were two 13 ounce breasts along with mine).  Remove the chicken from the oven and uncover.  Pour out juices and reserve for other use, if you like.  Top the chicken with sliced tomatoes and mozzarella slice and place under a broiler for a minute or so until the cheese melts slightly.  You can then drizzle a little balsamic vinegar on the top, if you like.  Serve with the vegetable of your choice or a small salad.  Thanks for visiting!


Crispy Tender Salmon With Vegetables January 6, 2011

Filed under: dinner,seafood — freerangenurse @ 12:16 pm

Broiled Salmon with wilted spinach

Now you know, I am taking steps toward healthy living.  I had to start pulling things from my regular cooking repertoire that could be considered healthy.  One of my favorites is broiled salmon.  I love broiling almost anything.  It seems to lock in the juices and form a crisp, seared texture to the meat.  I think the fat content in salmon particularly lends itself to broiling.  The resulting dish is filling, quick and easy to prepare, high in good fat and cholesterol, vitamins and nutrients and has a relatively low points value for weight watchers like me.

What you’ll need:

  • 5 ounce fillet of salmon, pin bones removed
  • 1 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups of baby spinach, washed thoroughly, excess water removed
  • 1/4 cup of red sweet pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp McCormick vegetable supreme seasoning

Turn oven on to broil.  Place salmon on a broiler safe pan and brush lightly with olive oil (you should still have the majority of the oil left over).  Sprinkle generously with Old Bay seasoning and a grind or two of pepper.  Place under the broiler with the oven rack as close to the heating element as it will go (the fish should be nearly touching the heating element).  Keep the door of the oven slightly ajar (most ovens have a built in stop for this), or you will have a house full of smoke.  Meanwhile, add the remaining olive oil to the saute pan and heat over medium high heat until the oil starts to ripple.  Saute the diced red pepper first for about 1 – 2 minutes, then add the garlic slices, vegetable seasoning and spinach.  Using tongs, turn and move the vegetables frequently until all the spinach is wilted.  Remove from heat and sprinkle a little sea salt on it.  Next, check your salmon.  It should have a nice crisp exterior, but be moist on the inside.  It only takes about 6 or 7 minutes in my oven, so watch it closely.  Enjoy your delicious lunch or dinner and if you are a weight watcher, this entire meal is 11 points.


Resolutions January 5, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — freerangenurse @ 9:13 pm

It’s that time of year, isn’t it? Time to make resolutions to lose weight, improve health, exercise more. I am among those trying to set out on a new journey to a better, healthier tomorrow.  My 40th birthday is coming up in a little over six months and it’s time for me to start taking care of the body that has been taking care of me.  I have joined Weight Watchers and Gold’s Gym for the new year and together with some dear friends of mine, I am determined to learn what, really, I have known all along – how to make and eat healthy food and incorporate physical activity in my everyday life.

Will this affect this blog?  Well, of course.  I blog foods that I cook, so if I am making healthier foods, they will be reflected here.  I will probably still do some desserts because I take those treats up to work.  I hope you’ll stick around and try some of the new things posted here.  I promise to make food that is tasty, even if it isn’t loaded with cream and cheese.  I may occasionally cook up something decadent, because part of re-learning healthy eating is knowing that the occasional rich dish is not forbidden, but can be enjoyed in moderation.

Cheers to all of you and to a healthy new year!


Delia, the Free Range Nurse