Amy Culver - The Queen of Lean
March 01, 2009    

Recipe websites

Pancake recipe

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Amy Culver

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Recipe websites

"What's for Dinner?"  Have there ever been three more stressful words?

If you are like me, knowing what is for dinner each night can make your whole day go a lot smoother.  You know what you can eat for lunch because you know how many calories you will have for dinner.  You know if you'll need to stop at the store on the way home and you know just how you'll have to arrange the rest of your evening in order to accommodate the time needed to fix dinner.

And the best part of knowing what's for dinner each night?  I have found that when my family knows what's for dinner they seem to enjoy it a lot more.  They can avoid having something similar for lunch and they can spend a bit of their day whetting their appetites.

Meal planning, of course, is the key.  I plan my meals one week at a time.  This allows me to create a complete shopping list as well as to pre-plan what needs to be taken out of the freezer beforehand.

Now, I will admit that six days of the week, dinner is a breeze.  But there is that one day, the day when I actually have to plan all of these dinners.  I have told my husband that THAT is THE MOST regularly stressful part of my week.  Everything flows from that one step.  And we all want to do our best to keep it fresh and interesting, right?  Of course, there are some homes where "if it's Tuesday, we must be having meatloaf" works just fine, but, for dinner at least, most of us like a bit of variety.  And let's face it, meal planning is enough work just balancing variety with appeal to the whole family.  But if you're reading this newsletter, you are also concerned about getting nutrition in your meals while also limiting overall calories!  Yikes – what are we to do???

Well, I'd like to share with you some of the sources from which I regularly get new ideas for dinners.  I'll also share with you my opinions and experiences with them.  I'll mention what I like about them and which of their features are less helpful for my personal nutritional goals.  Although now and then I do actually buy a cookbook or search for a specific type of recipe online, most of my best ideas come from email subscriptions.  All it takes is a quick review of whether or not a particular recipe fits my needs.  If so, I print it.  If not, I delete it.  Those that I print-out, I file in a binder that I keep with my cookbooks. 

First off, there is Kraft Foods.  There are some really fun things here as well as videos on the how-to's.  Their recipes, of course, are going to feature their own products, but I substitute all the time with no problems.  For example, a recipe might call for their brand of Lite Italian dressing, but I use whatever light Italian dressing I have on hand.  Not all of their recipes are low-calorie and the ones that aren't typically don't include nutritional stats.  But they do have a good database of healthier recipes that do have nutritional data.  When you subscribe on-line, you'll get an email newsletter a couple of times a week and you'll also get a high-gloss quarterly magazine with lots of pretty recipe pictures and good ideas.  It's great around the holidays when you might want to do something a little fancy.  The magazine often includes coupons.

Another email newsletter I receive is from the Hungry Girl site.  She has a heavy focus on Weight Watchers points values so her recipes are typically low in calories and fat and high in fiber.  One thing she does really well is to create lower-calorie versions of favorite foods.  She does this with a whole range of foods from creamy coffee drinks to onion rings.  She does rely quite a bit on artificial sweeteners and low-carb alternatives, more so than I would prefer.  She is also an excellent source for the latest news on new products.  Her emails are sent daily (Monday through Friday) with a different theme each day.

Self is another of my favorites.  When you subscribe you get about two emails a week, one with a fitness technique and one with a recipe idea.  Their recipes are always full of lots of nutrition, but they can be a bit heavy on the calories.  They always list the nutritional data of their recipes.

And last we have Real Simple.  Like the Kraft site, their focus is not always on nutritional data.  They send all types of tips from recipes to organization, but you can pick and choose which emails to receive when you sign-up.  Their main focus is on quick and easy recipes which contain few ingredients, so you need to verify that they are also within your nutritional guidelines.

I have incorporated several recipes from these sites into my regular dinner routines and have found only one or two that I wouldn't use again.  They are all fairly simple and quite flavorful.  It is free to subscribe to their newsletters and E-mails and they can really add a bit of inspiration to your family meals.

note: I do not have any financial arrangements with any of these companies, they are just some of my personal favorites.

Pancake recipe

I'd like to share with you a new recipe that I am just mad about these days.

It is a pancake recipe.  I have been looking for a long time for a simple and easy to eat breakfast.  I get up for my workout pretty early in the morning.  My goal is to meet my gym buddy at around 6:30 – 6:45.  Breakfast for me consists of a cup of coffee and something that I can walk around with and eat while I get dressed, etc. 

A protein shake along with my coffee is just too much liquid and I find the typical protein bar to be too full of un-pronounceable ingredients.  Besides, I have found that with protein bars you have a choice of taste, high sugar, or artificial sweeteners. 

I wanted good taste, low sugar and nothing artificial.  Oh, and it had to be 150 calories or less!  I didn't mind if I had to make it myself in batches, but I still needed a recipe.  I did some searching and found lots of good recipes but they all tended to be rather high in fat and calories as they typically contained lots of peanut butter. 

One day I was chatting with my sister-in-law, Melanie, and she mentioned these pancakes.  They are from the South Beach Diet.  The entire recipe is 288 calories, and 28 grams of protein.  Wow! 

Click for the South Beach Diet Recipe Oatmeal Pancake.

I eat half a recipe each day.  I prepare a triple recipe batch at one time so that I have 6 days worth ready to go.  Since I'm eating half of the recipe, each day I end up with 144 calories and 14 grams of protein. 

I freeze them in single-portion sizes and take one portion out before going to bed and let it thaw in the refrigerator over night.  In the morning, I microwave them on 50% power for 1.5 minutes.  This makes them just warm enough (not too hot) and I can carry them around.  Needless to say, I don't add butter or syrup, I just eat them plain.

They keep me going very well through my workout each day.  I have added in a little bit of apple (2 small apples) and wheat bran (3/4 cup) into each triple recipe batch to boost the fiber a bit.  So, yes, Virginia, there is a perfect morning meal!

• Easy for "on the go"
• High in protein
• High in fiber
• Low in calories
• Low in sugar
• Low in fat
• Tasty
• Nothing artificial
• Satisfying
• Affordable

Who could ask for anything more?!?!

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