Fun with Food Day

Had fun trying out some new food ideas the past few days.  I had an idea to try ‘baked oatmeal’ the other day, so I took one serving of already prepared oatmeal (leftover from the day before) and added one egg white, 1/4 cup of cottage cheese,  one Tbsp flax meal, cinnamon, 16 chocolate chips, and 1/2 mashed banana.  Mixed it all together and baked it at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes.  It was good, and very filling, but kinda ‘pricey’–came in at right around 300 calories.  Needs a little tweaking, but I thought I’d throw the idea out there for those of you who like to experiment.

My BFF mentioned that she was making spaghetti, so of course that put the thought of spaghetti into my brain.  Spaghetti with real ground beef, not all the other stuff that I use like shrimp or chicken or veggies.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  So I got some ground beef at the store the last time I was there–the leanest they had, something like 3 or 7%.  I already had a partly used can of Trader Joe’s marinara sauce that I like so well (the kind that is 25 calories per 1/4 cup.)  Here is the recipe I came up with.  It was absolutely delicious.

Spaghetti Sauce

8 oz. extra lean ground beef

4 slices turkey bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

3 brown mushrooms, sliced and chopped

2 carrots shredded (I use a mandolin)

1 can diced tomatoes

1 1/2 cups TJ’s marinara sauce (that’s all I had)

spices to taste (I added dried chopped onions, dried oregano, garlic salt and pepper)

Cook the turkey bacon pieces in a skillet.  Remove from skillet, and add chopped mushrooms and cook a bit.  Then add the shredded carrots and cook a little longer.  In the meantime, put marinara sauce and tomatoes into a big pan, and add the bacon pieces.  Add the partially cooked mushrooms and carrots to the sauce.  Use the skillet to cook the ground beef.  I mashed it around so there were not too many big pieces, but you can do it however you want.  Add the ground beef to the sauce, and let simmer for as long as you want.  I was hungry, so it was only for probably 20 minutes or so…

This made 6 large servings of sauce (about 3/4 cup each, and came out to 110 calories per serving.  Most worthy, in my opinion.

I am having two friends over for a little Christmas get-together, one on Monday and one on Tuesday.  Both of them are Weight Watchers, but neither have gone as ‘radical’ as I have.  I know some of you are getting a laugh out of me calling myself radical, but I think you know what I mean.  Neither of them have ever completely committed to changing the way they eat for the rest of their life.  Both of them (like me) love desserts.  So it is always a fun challenge to me to try to make a really good dessert that is also ‘healthy.’  I have had this issue of ‘Clean Eating’ magazine hanging around forever.  It had a recipe for ice cream sandwiches that I really wanted to try, so this was the time.  I’m not going to copy the recipe here because it belongs to the magazine, I guess.  But the recipe for the cookies used agave syrup, which I really haven’t used that much.  And the ‘ice cream’ was really frozen yogurt, which you make yourself, AND HERE IS THE INTERESTING PART (in case your eyes have glazed over at all this boring food talk.)  To make the frozen yogurt, you start by making ‘strained yogurt.’  This is essentially like making your own Greek yogurt.  I tried this once before and I just made a mess, but I followed their directions, and the yogurt came out thick and creamy, just like Greek.  The exciting part of this is that if you don’t have greek yogurt available, you can make your own.  It is also cheaper to do this.  So, to strain yogurt, put 4 layers of cheesecloth into a strainer.  Be generous with the cloth.  Place strainer over a bowl.  Add yogurt  to the cheesecloth-lined strainer, bring the 4 corners of the cloth together and twist slightly to cover.  Allow to drain 4-8 hours in refrigerator.  THAT’S IT.  You could keep the liquid to use in smoothies if you want.

The frozen yogurt is simply a combination of strained yogurt, agave syrup and vanilla.  I will let you know how these taste, and try to take a picture of them.


40 thoughts on “Fun with Food Day

    • This time I did have it over the ronzoni brand spaghetti–very high in fiber. But generally I don’t eat pasta. Or if I do, it is just a very small part of a dish that is mostly veggie. I only made one serving of pasta, because my plan was to use the rest of the sauce over veggies. I am also going to use some of it as the base for a veggie soup that I will serve to one of my friends.

      I like your idea though. Have you seen the ‘spiralizers’ that the raw people use? Makes spaghetti out of zucchini. And I really like raw zucchini on my salad, so this idea really appeals to me. Another ‘toy’ on my wish list!

  1. My husband makes frozen yogurt by plopping vanilla lowfat yogurt into the ice cream maker. It’s so easy and tastes really good. You can add a lot of different flavorings to it as well.

    I love that you counted out 16 chocolate chips! I do that too (although a few extra usually find their way into my mouth).

    How is the cottage cheese with the oats? I am afraid to try that.

    • Lori, an ice cream maker is definitely on my wish list. I will probably write about this recipe and its failures on my next blog!

      I think its funny you said you are afraid to try cottage cheese with the oats, because the basis of my thinking was your protein pancakes, plus a few other recipes where I have baked oats and cottage cheese and egg whites together. So I knew the cottage cheese didn’t taste like cottage cheese any more, just added a nice richness to the baked goods.

  2. I am very curious as to how your frozen yogurt turned out – I have agave syrup on my grocery list right now.

    I julienne zucchini and steam it, but never thought of putting spaghetti sauce over it – sounds good! Off to google spiralizer now….


    I did try some of the Fage (fat free/high protein) yogurt that you suggested. And I can definitely see the advantage – tastes very good and lots more protein.

    so then I poked around web sites and saw that many people strain regular yogurt for a day or two to make their own (starting with store bought plain yogurt and straining to make greek for far less $).

    then I went to Amazon and started looking at yogurt makers. And the ones that had glass jars were all making tiny servings (6-8 oz). And the makers with BIG containers all appear to be plastic. And I try to avoid plastic. (but on the other hand we all EAT store bought yogurt that comes in plastic).

    I saw the above link – makes a quart at a time IN the milk carton. And that seems smart – but then I wondered if a milk carton releases anything (wax?) as it is heated.


    • Vickie–Thanks for the crock-pot links. I had never seen that. But I really like my microwave method, and I like my glass container that I use that goes from microwave to refrigerator (see side bar instructions.) I make it almost every Sunday, and it comes out perfect every time. AND, I am excited to try straining my own homemade yogurt again. When I tried before, I didn’t use enough cheesecloth, and it made a mess. Now, when I buy a gallon of milk for $3 I will be making 8 cups of regular yogurt, and about 4 cups of ‘greek yogurt.’ I think for this price I might investigate buying some organic milk.

      • I see that you were back here – we must be ships that cross in the waves.

        I saw a LOT of references to straining with coffee filters!!! said it was much more effective and simpler than cheese cloth.

        are you ‘killing’ stuff by putting it in microwave? I realise that the yogurt does not go in the microwave and it is the part that is ‘live’ – but wondered about even putting the milk in – ?

      • I have 8 cups (1/2 gallon) sitting out in pyrex dish and will put it in crock pot when I get home from exercise (I will then be home for the rest of the day).

        By the time it ‘sets’ as yogurt and then I strain it – I am wondering how much greek style I will have – ?

        I have to stop and buy coffee filters. . .

      • In my limited experience, you will have about half the volume. Of course, the longer you strain it, the thicker it gets. Vicky mentioned making ‘yogurt cheese’ yesterday. Which would be just continuing to strain it for a longer period of time. The other day it was quite thick after only 4 hours of straining.


      • I went to food coop and told them some of the things I had read and told them I was going to try crock pot method first and then knew that I could use your method if crock pot doesn’t work.

        they suggested starting with the most live cultures possible (I also read that somewhere yesterday). there were packages with two and three and five. But eight was the most. So I bought 8 cultures package.

        and I bought a nice new stainless strainer (mine was looking a little old to have it sitting in food for a long time – straining things quickly through it is one thing – but sitting felt like another).

        and they had a reuseable coffee filter that is made from fabric.

        I put my batch IN crock pot and set the timer. so I am underway!!!

      • I have never heard of yogurt with 8 cultures! I always look for the ones with 5 cultures. Most of the information that I read said that the ‘commercial’ yogurts sometimes worked better than the ‘organic’ yogurts because the cultures are fresher. So I usually look for dannon or have even gone with the cheap store brand. I have noticed that fresh milk seems to work better–a smoother, thicker yogurt. And the reuseable coffee filter is a great idea. I bet it is the same thing as a ‘nut bag’ ( for making almond milk) that I was going to look for. I will look forward to your results. I plan to make new yogurt on Sunday. Yes, I agree with the nice strainer.

        I don’t think the microwave kills anything that was not already killed by the pasteurization process. I am actually going to check at the health food store and find out about buying non-pasteurized milk.


        that link is the crock pot method that I used:
        8 cups of milk in crock pot
        on low for 2 1/2 hours with lid ON
        crock pot turned off for 3 hours lid still ON
        added cultures, wrapped in towels, lid still ON and let set for 12 hours

        And I have milk that smells like yogurt – but NO set to it. If I poured in strainer with filter, it would 100% run through the strainer.

        I did not take its temperature at any point, but my guess is that 3 hours is too long to sit. that it was too cool at the point that I put the cultures in it.

        I did really like the idea of USING the crock pot – so I will try this method one more time today – but with a thermameter at each step so I can see if it is just the times that I need to adjust for my house temp and crock pot temp.

        It did occur to me that after I heard you mention letting your cure in the microwave – that I wonder if I should set it in by the fireplace (pilot light) or warm the stove for 5 minutes and then set it in there. I also did think about actually warming it in the oven too.

        I have never been able to make oatmeal in the microwave without having an explosion – so that is why I am hesitant to put 8 cups of MILK in there. I have visions of a sour smelling microwave for months. . .

      • I didn’t mean stove – I meant OVEN. Or I thought about setting it in a cooler – they stay hot as well as cold. (My crock pot would not fit in my microwave. but I saw the merit of putting it in an enclose space.) My house is kept about 63-64 degrees. And it is an OLD crock pot.

      • Vickie–gonna write a yogurt post today, and am going to try to make ‘greek yogurt, so will not post til tonight. Just guessing, I would guess that the milk might have been too hot when you added the yogurt and it killed the bacterias. But also, one time I started with expensive organic yogurt and it did not work, and a couple of posts said to start with dannon because sometimes the ‘better’ yogurts were older and the bacteria not as active…

        I have also tried multiple times to make goats milk yogurt with the same results you got. I used it for smoothies and it was supremely delicious in the smoothies.


      • I discovered that we do have yogurt incubators (sp?) – our ovens with the light ON. I prewarmed it and then put the glass pan wrapped in 3 bath towels in there. I didn’t think of this until part way through – but when I went to take it out this morning – it was nice and warm in there. My mom has an oven thermometer and I am going to get it and test. I am trying another batch (3rd) today and will see what that does.

        When I pitched the first batch – as I was pouring it – there WERE thickened patches (looking at the whole contain – it looked like pure liquid). I am quite sure the problem was too cool to incubate. Maybe not cool enough to kill, but too cool to promote much.

        2nd batch was much better. And I am measuring the liquid that comes off of it to tell you. I have it straining through two strainers (too much to fit in the one strainer).

        I did find BIG coffee filters at Gordon’s. They were $5 for 500. I used two for each strainer. They totally filled my strainer. If your strainer is bigger, you would just use more and overlap.

        Not sure what I think about having the house smell like sour milk. . .

      • Strike up the band – YES – batch #2 IS greek yogurt.

        Tastes and looks exactly like Fage as it is sitting in the strainer(s) draining. I have 4 cups of liquid out of it in 2 hours (so far).

        I absolutely can eat this PLAIN. Tastes like dessert to me.

        And I forgot to mention that I did go get 1% and that is batch #2.

        My husband thinks that I probably will have to make a batch every day (there are 4-5 of us).

        and I think I also forgot to tell you that the amount of #5 plastic tubs that I throw away (and the amount of room they take up in the refrigerator) REALLY bothers me. only #1 and #2 are recycle-able here. So $$ and green are both VERY big positive factors.

        the girls can’t eat it plain. they are used to lf vanilla. so I am looking for what to add to make the greek vanilla – ideas? (I do NOT do any type of artificial sweetener).

      • I let incubate for a full 24 hours!!! and that is actually easier for me. put it in each morning – have it done the following morning.

        And I did not take to high temp and then take back down.

        I just took it to the 112 degrees.

        So my process is VERY simple.

      • I ended up with 3+ cups of greek and 4 1/2+ cups of liquid.

        3rd batch is curing in oven with the light on (wrapped in 3 bath towels).

        and the coffee filters worked great – did not have to scrape – it sort of just slid right off of them. I think two (doubling) was the right amount.

      • I DO have very sensitive nose. the aroma is from the incubation period, not the straining.

        I read several places that it is okay to strain in temperature under 75 degrees. But if room temperature was over 75 degrees then would need to strain in refrigerator. but strain in refrigerator is SLOW. I did not try to see how slow. and I would have serious trouble finding room for two bowls/strainers in my refrigerator most days.

        My next (4th) batch I am trying 1% milk and lf generic plain yogurt to see if ‘cheaper’ does make thicker.

        and then the batch after that – will try heating the milk to the higher temp and then bringing temp back down to see if that makes thicker too.

      • Is ANY milk (cow, goat) heated to pasturize?

        I actually have an uncle that raises goats – but he is too far away for me to get milk to try.

      • If you try agave syrup, Vicky recommends using half the amount you would use if adding sugar, as it is very sweet. It is supposed to be better for diabetics, etc, as it has a slower absorption time.

        I’m glad you are having success with your yogurt. I never leave the yogurt out to incubate that long. 4 hours usually, once in a while 6. Most posts I see say leaving it for longer does not make it thicker, just more tart (which I don’t like.) And are you straining it in the refrigerator? Because I have never had a ‘sour milk’ smell in my house. On the other hand, my nose is not that sensitive.

        I am going to do a little more research on the high heat issue. Because the article you referenced is written about goat’s milk, which I have been told is absolutely NOT supposed to be heated to the high heat. But, on the other hand, you have had success with not heating your cow’s milk…

  4. HI there!

    Have you ever tried spaghetti squash??? I haven’t but its on my ‘to do’ list. Seems like it would be good with your spaghetti sauce. 🙂 Loving your ornament pics. Gonna try to post some myself.

    • Yes spaghetti sauce is very good. It is definitely squash, and won’t substitute when you are craving pasta. But I love it the way my friend serves it. She makes homemade chicken soup, and then serves the soup in ‘bowls’ made from spaghetti squash–delicious!

  5. SAID:

    “To begin, measure out approx 40 oz of milk into a heavy pot. Gently heat the milk to a temperature of 112 degrees. (If using raw milk, and you would like it pasteurized, bring milk to temperature of 161 degrees for 15 seconds. Then cool to 112 again.) It’s important that the milk be no hotter than 115 degrees or the cultures will be killed on contact. And no cooler than 100 degrees, or the cultures will not be warm enough to reproduce.”

    Vickie SAID:
    So I am wondering if your directions (heating it to 190-200 degrees)actually were for starting with RAW milk and that step is not necessary for pasturized – ???

  6. this was in a note earlier this morning – but for some reason your comments did not put it at the end – it buried it up in the middle, so here it is again. SAID:
    “To begin, measure out approx 40 oz of milk into a heavy pot. Gently heat the milk to a temperature of 112 degrees. (If using raw milk, and you would like it pasteurized, bring milk to temperature of 161 degrees for 15 seconds. Then cool to 112 again.) It’s important that the milk be no hotter than 115 degrees or the cultures will be killed on contact. And no cooler than 100 degrees, or the cultures will not be warm enough to reproduce.”

    Vickie SAID:
    So I am wondering if your directions (heating it to 190-200 degrees)actually were for starting with RAW milk and that step is not necessary for pasturized – ???

    I went to the store and bought a pyrex container that was the same shape as yours (I think that thin/even probably IS a factor).

    And I made myself GET OVER IT – and I dug out my thermometer and put the milk in the microwave.

    It was all in my head. No mess. No big deal.

    I cooked for 3 1/5 minutes, stirred and cooked for 3 more minutes (I am convinced the higher temp is for raw milk). milk was at 125 degrees, cooled to less than 115, stirred in the yogurt, wrapped in 3 bath towels and put in my oven. I had clicked the oven on for a few minutes so it was warm – but not hot (my hand was comfortable in there). I put note on oven door so that I do not forget and turn on oven.

    so now I am leaving it alone until this evening (put in at 10am my time).

    And I did look for large coffee filters at two regular grocery stores and they did NOT have anything that look large enough.

    I am running by Gordon’s because they are geared to large volume/industrial/restaurant/cafeteria type customers and I think they would have big ones and they would be cheap.

    So it is day two of the yogurt saga/journey.

    and hopefully this comment will stay at the bottom of the pile and not be inserted in the middle somewhere (I am not clicking reply – I am just using comment box at the bottom).

    • I don’t know what’s with the comments. I will be very interested in your results, because if it works it will save me some time. But I am also convinced that I read somewhere that heating to 190 changes the (molecular structure?) so that the bacteria can do their work properly. It will also be interesting to see if I have the same results with my organic milk. I am going to write another yogurt post, but probably not until Sunday.

  7. Pingback: The Definitive Yogurt Post « debby weighs in

  8. Pingback: I Tried Something New Today « debby weighs in

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