Monday, March 30, 2015

5:2 Scottish Stew (201 calories)

A few weeks ago I attempted to make a 200 calorie stew roughly based on Lavender & Lovage's Highland Stew. I didn't have any barley at the time, so I really upped the lentil amount and the whole thing ended up a pile of brown-gray mush. Tasty mush, but it did not look very appetizing!

So I went back to her recipe and worked a lot closer to it this time, mostly just changing the weight amounts to cup measurements. And we ended up with a delicious and colorful dish! Next time I will probably switch to red lentils so the cooking time isn't as long, and regular barley (if I can find it!), but in the meantime I wanted to share the current recipe.

5:2 Scottish Stew (201 calories)

(For those of you counting calories, I've added the amount for each ingredient so you can easily make tweaks without having to re-calculate everything. Anything marked with an asterisk* will vary a lot based on what you buy, so make sure to compare your label.)

4 cups water (0)
2 cups potato, small cubes (200)
1 cup diced onion (60)
1 cup carrots, chopped (52)
1 cup celery, thinly sliced (20)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic (0)
1 Tbsp./3 cubes chicken bouillon (20)

1/3 cup dried green or brown lentils (93)
1/3 cup quick cooking barley (160)
4 oz. turkey kielbasa (200*)
1/2 tsp. salt (0)


1) In a large pot, add the water, potato, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and bouillon. Bring to a boil over high heat.

2) Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the lentils. Simmer 45 minutes.

3) Stir in the barley and kielbasa and cook for 15 minutes. Serves 4.

Calories - 201 for 1/4

Friday, March 27, 2015

5:2 Update - Week 10, 2 months

So, I was originally planning on posting a 5:2 update every three weeks with a list of the meals we made for diet days (as well as a progress report on how much weight & inches I've lost so far). But as I looked over our meal plans for the last few weeks, I realized it just looked like a list of all of the recipes I've posted here recently! And that's pretty boring. For the sake of adding a photo, I will say that my favorite recipe since the last update was probably the Chicken & Mushroom Chow Mein.

5:2 Chicken & Mushroom Chow Mein (191 calories)

The other problem with measuring and posting an update every 3 weeks is that it sometimes coincides with my bloaty week, and you can't get any kind of realistic numbers until that's over. So I'm thinking every 4 weeks would be a better time to do measurements & updates, and then I don't have to worry about that little issue. It looks like that will usually fall right around the month mark (since I started 5:2), so that's nice timing too.

Progress ~
I've lost about 5 lbs. since my last update for a total of 14 lbs! I've also lost another inch off my hips and thighs.

Backsliding ~
Lately I've been averaging about 1.5-2 lbs. a week, but week 8 I actually lost a crazy 2.5 lbs! And so the next week I thought, 'I should live it up a little! I don't need to lose that much a week.' Unfortunately that week we also had ice cream, jelly beans, and Nutty Butty Bars in the house, and so 2 weeks later I was only down 1 lb. While I'm bummed that I basically lost a week or two of progress, it was a good reminder not to go overboard on the non-diet days, and to limit how many bad foods we have at once!

I'm pretty excited to see what the next few weeks brings! Planning meals is usually the worst part of 5:2 to me, but I've got lots of new ideas brimming right now & can't wait to share the results.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

5:2 Green Bean Pancakes (100 calories)

I know, green beans + pancakes sounds a little gross. But these aren't syrupy sweet pancakes, more like a thin eggy omelet. Whatever you want to call them, I have been enjoying this recipe from Soy & Pepper for a while now. But I had to change things up a little, of course! First, I like to mix each pancake individually so I know exactly how much to use (and so I can play around with add-ins, as you'll see below). And while they were good with soy sauce on top, they are incredible with teriyaki sauce mixed in!

Green Bean Pancakes (100 calories)

(For those of you counting calories, I've added the amount for each ingredient so you can easily make tweaks without having to re-calculate everything. Anything marked with an asterisk* will vary a lot based on what you buy, so make sure to compare your label.)

1/2 cup green beans, cut into 1/4" slices (20)
1 egg, lightly beaten (70)
½ Tbsp. teriyaki sauce ("Soy Vay" brand, 5*)
Cooking oil (5)

Green Bean Pancakes, prep

1) First you'll need to cut up your green beans, which is the most time consuming part. I use kitchen scissors to quickly snip them, & you can do two at once. Cut enough to fill up 1/2 cup (or cut up a bunch ahead of time and measure it out).

2) In a small bowl or cup, lightly beat your egg and mix in the green beans and teriyaki sauce.

3) In a small non-stick frypan (about 8"), add 1/4 tsp. (or a spray) of oil, then spread it around and wipe it out with a paper towel to leave a trace amount. Heat the pan over medium heat.

Green Bean Pancakes, cooking

4) Add the egg mixture and spread out the green beans evenly in one layer. Cook for about 1.5-2 minutes, until the bottom is set and lightly browned. Flip and repeat for the other side. (For additional pancakes you may need to reduce the cooking time slightly.)

Calories - 100 per pancake



These pancakes are delicious for breakfast or lunch, or I've also used them as a side dish! Just cut one in half and overlap to fit nicely on your plate.

Green Bean Pancakes, as a side

And you can have a lot of fun subbing half of the green beans with other ingredients. This is a great way to use up a little bit of leftover meat, veggies, mushrooms, or rice. What I do is fill up about half of my 1/2 cup measuring cup with another ingredient, then top it off with the cut green beans and cook like normal. (Of course you'll have to adjust the calories a bit to match.) Here is a pancake that is half mushroom rice and half green beans ~

Green Bean & Rice Pancake

And you know what is surprisingly tasty mixed in? Hot dogs! I use half a hot dog and cut it length-ways into fourths and then slice that up thin so I have lots of tiny pieces. This is my favorite combination so far.

Green Bean & Hot Dog Pancake

Mmmm, these are so unique and tasty, I hope you give them a try! I've got another 100 calorie recipe in the works that I'll be sharing soon.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Chicken, Corn, & Roasted Potato Chowder

While Just One Cookbook mainly focuses on Japanese recipes, in the past she occasionally shared other favorite recipes, like this delicious Chicken & Corn Chowder with Roasted Potato. It quickly became a favorite in our house too, though I did make a few small changes (like using way less broth). I was surprised to calculate the nutritional info and see that even with heavy cream, a big bowl is only about 330 calories! Of course, it's so good, you'll probably want to go back for seconds.

Chicken, Corn, & Roasted Potato Chowder, 1

(For those of you counting calories, I've added the amount for each ingredient so you can easily make tweaks without having to re-calculate everything. Anything marked with an asterisk* will vary a lot based on what you buy, so make sure to compare your label.)

1 lb. potatoes, cut into ½” cubes (422)
1 large onion, diced (60)
2 Tbsp. olive oil (240)

5 cups water (0)
3 cups cooked, shredded chicken (11 oz., 374)
1 can cream style corn (301*)
1 can whole sweet corn, drained (272*)
4 tsp./cubes chicken bouillon (20)
1 tsp. ground Thyme (or 1 Tbsp. fresh) (4)

1 cup heavy cream (800*)
1 tsp. salt (0)
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper (1)
6 Tbsp. Real Bacon Bits for garnish (or crumbled, cooked bacon) (150)


1) Preheat the oven to 375 F. Arrange the potatoes and onion on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil, and mix well to coat. Roast for 45 minutes, tossing every 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. (This can be done ahead of time and frozen to make dinner super quick!)

2) In a large pot (4 quart), bring the water to a boil. Add the potatoes, chicken, both cans of corn, bouillon, and thyme to the broth. Bring it to a boil again, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. While simmering, skim the foam from the top for a cleaner broth (optional).

3) Add the heavy cream, salt, and pepper, and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. Serve into bowls and top with bacon. Serves 8.

Calories - 331 for 1/8

Chicken, Corn, & Roasted Potato Chowder, 2

Friday, March 20, 2015

Asian Chicken Over Noodles (Fail)

The sauce on this Slow Cooker Chicken with Cashews recipe looked so tasty, I gave it a try for my weekday lunches (minus the cashews, because I didn't have any on hand). I generally don't like the texture chicken gets in the slow cooker, so I decided to just make it on the stove. And there is really no reason to throw this one in a crockpot ~ after browning both sides of the chicken, just add the sauce, warm it through, and the chicken is cooked through anyway. The result?

Asian Chicken over Noodles

The sauce has potential, but all I could taste was the vinegar! What a shame. I added more brown sugar and that really did help, but next time I'll definitely halve the vinegar (or less), and maybe replace the ketchup with oyster sauce. I think it's worth trying again.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Simple Miso Soup (103 calories)

Miso Soup is a staple of Japanese cuisine. It's often served with a bowl of rice for breakfast, and is used as a side dish for many meals. With a few ingredients you can throw together a big bowl of this tasty soup in about 5 minutes!

Miso Soup, 1

The basic ingredients of Miso Soup are miso paste and dashi. For the miso you can either use Shiro (white), Akai (red), or Awase (a mix of the two). I always buy Awase, but our store was out so I used half of each for this recipe. On the right you can see the instant dashi bouillon. Hondashi is the brand name, and this is the kind you will most likely find in the store. For this recipe you'll also need some tofu, green onions, and some dried wakame seaweed if you can find it. Now let's make some soup!

Miso Soup, 3

(For those of you counting calories, I've added the amount for each ingredient so you can easily make tweaks without having to re-calculate everything.)

1 1/2 cups warm water (0)
1 1/2 Tbsp. miso paste (45)
2 1/3 oz. firm tofu (1/6 of a 14 oz. block), cut into small cubes (55)
1/4 tsp. dried wakame seaweed (optional, 0)
1/2 tsp. instant dashi granules (0)
1/2 green onion, thinly sliced (3)


1) In a microwave safe container, measure out your water. Pour a little of the water (about 1-2 Tbsp.) into your soup bowl and mix it together with the miso until you create a smooth paste.

Miso Soup, 2

2) Squeeze the tofu to drain them and then add them to the water along with the wakame. Microwave for 2 minutes (longer if needed, until nice & hot).

3) Meanwhile, sprinkle the dashi and green onion over the miso paste. Just before serving, pour the hot water into your bowl and stir to mix well. Serves 1.

Calories - 103

(Note - Boiling the miso paste slightly alters the flavor, kills beneficial bacteria, and reduces it's health benefits. If you need to reheat the soup, try not to bring it to a boil.)



Since this soup is so low in calories, there is plenty of room to add in some extras! I normally make mine with 1/4 of a block of tofu, which adds 30 calories. And I'd definitely recommend throwing in some Shirataki noodles for 0 calories!

Shirataki Noodles - Zero Calories

Try experimenting with different meats, root veggies, greens, and mushrooms. Here are some other common ingredients ~

2 oz. mushrooms (13 calories)
1/4 cup carrots (13)
1/4 cup potatoes, cubed (25)
1 oz. shrimp (28)
1 oz. fish (30-40)

Add the extra ingredients to the water and microwave longer if needed until very hot. Itadakimasu!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Grilled Pork Belly Skewers

We love getting crispy pork belly skewers from our local Japanese restaurant, so Justin has been itching to try making some at home. A few weeks ago we tried this delicious recipe. The marinade was wonderful!

Pork Belly Skewers

Justin tried to cut the pork belly lengthwise into thin strips, but it was difficult to do and ended up a bit too uneven. Some areas grilled up thin & crispy while the thick spots just seemed fatty, and I really hate biting into a giant chunk of fat! As tasty as they were, I think the marinade would be just as heavenly on a leaner cut of pork next time, but I'm not sure if I can convince Justin of that! (I'll at least take over the cutting next time and cut across the meat to make small pieces like he did in the recipe.)

Friday, March 13, 2015

5:2 Thai Red Curry Soup (191 calories)

This soup is a lighter version of our favorite Chicken Satay Noodle Soup. While that soup is deliciously peanutty, this version focuses on the mildly spicy red curry kick. Shirataki noodles are the perfect substitute for the thin rice noodles!

5:2 Thai Red Curry Soup, 1 (191 calories)

(For those of you counting calories, I've added the amount for each ingredient so you can easily make tweaks without having to re-calculate everything. Anything marked with an asterisk* may vary a lot based on what you buy, so make sure to compare your label.)

4 cups water (0)
2 Tbsp. soy sauce (20)
1 Tbsp. smooth peanut butter (90)
1 Tbsp. tomato paste (15)
2 tsp. red curry paste (10*)
2 tsp. chicken bouillon (10)
1 tsp. minced garlic (0)
1 tsp. grated ginger (1)

3.5 oz. Shirataki noodles (0)
3.5 oz. cooked chicken, chopped or shredded (119)

2 cups savoy cabbage, shredded (38)
1/3 cup apple juice (40)
1 green onions, thinly sliced (5)
1 cup bean sprouts (34)


1) In a medium sauce pan, add the water, soy sauce, peanut butter, tomato paste, red curry paste, bouillon, garlic, and ginger. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium.

2) Drain the Shirataki noodles and rinse well, several times. Add the Shirataki and chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes. While the soup simmers, skim off the foam for a cleaner broth (optional.)

3) Add the savoy and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the apple juice. You can use the green onions and bean sprouts as a garnish or stir them in. Serves 2.

Calories - 191 for 1/2

5:2 Thai Red Curry Soup, 2 (191 calories)


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Secret Ingredient - Shirataki Noodles

Did you know there is a noodle with zero calories? Shirataki noodles are made from the root of a yam (the konjac) and are almost all fiber. They are thin, white, chewy, and take on the flavor of a sauce or broth. I had used this Japanese ingredient in block form before, konnyaku, but had not tried the noodles until our recent low-calorie diet kick.

Shirataki Noodles

When you open the package, the liquid has a bit of a fishy smell. Rinse and drain the noodles several times before cooking, and after boiling the smell is gone. You can also use them in a stir-fry, but so far I have only tried them in soups. The texture is chewy, like the rice noodles you find in Pad Thai or Pho. There are also "Tofu Shirataki" variaties that mix in a little tofu to mimic the color and texture of egg and wheat pastas.

One word of warning ~ since these noodles are so high in fiber, eating too much at once can give you an upset stomach if you are not used to it. I tend to eat way less fiber than I should (like half of the recommended amount), but I used a 7oz. pack of noodles in a 4 serving recipe with no problems. When I ate half a pack my tummy got a little grumpy though! I should probably start eating these more often!

You can find Shirataki noodles at the Asian market (and some grocery stores) in the refrigerated section. At my store they are near the produce section, alongside the tofu, and only $1.50. Friday I will share a yummy soup that I made with these, so go grab a pack!

Monday, March 9, 2015

5:2 Chicken & Mushroom Chow Mein (191 calories)

So far my only successful 200 calorie meals have been soups, so I was thrilled when this Chicken & Mushroom Chow Mein turned out so well! Using noodles felt a little risky since they take up half the calories on their own. I wasn't sure if 1 oz. of noodles per person would be enough (2 oz. is a typical serving), but with the cabbage and veggies mixed in there was more than enough. Next time I might even knock the noodles down 1/2 oz. and add in a little more broccoli and chicken. Yum!

5:2 Chicken & Mushroom Chow Mein (196 calories)

(For those of you counting calories, I've added the amount for each ingredient so you can easily make tweaks without having to re-calculate everything.)

4 oz. dry Chow Mein noodles (400)
2 Tbsp. soy sauce (20)
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar (15)
1 Tbsp. oyster sauce (25)

1 tsp. oil (40)
1/2 cup broccoli (13)
1/2 cup carrot, sliced (26)

8 oz. fresh, sliced mushrooms (50)
2 cups savoy cabbage, shredded (40)
4 oz. cooked, chopped or shredded chicken (136)


1) Cook the Chow Mein noodles according to the package. (I'd recommend tasting a piece to see if they are done or need a little longer. The package may only give directions for noodles that will be stir-fried afterward.) Drain the noodles and cut into shorter pieces, if desired.

2) Meanwhile, in a small bowl or cup, mix the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and oyster sauce and set aside.

3) In a large pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the broccoli and carrot and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4) Add the mushrooms and cabbage and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and toss with the noodles and chicken, then toss well with the sauce. Serves 4.

Calories - 191 for 1/4

Friday, March 6, 2015

Low-Calorie Store Buys

Trying to cram in as much as I can to my 600 calorie diet day allotment, I'm always on the look-out for some super low calorie snacks. Here's a few of the store-bought treats that I've discovered.


Sugar-free Jell-o cups - 10 calories

Sugar-free Jell-o cups - 10 calories

The 5:2 diet started in the UK, which means you occasionally run into an unfamiliar name for a common food. Like a zucchini is a "courgette", snow peas are "mangetouts", and eggplant is "aubergine". When I saw some girls raving about 10 calorie "jelly pots" for desert, I knew I had to snatch some up, and correctly guessed they were sugar-free Jell-o cups. (Although I kind of love calling them "jelly pots" now!) These are not something I'd drool over on a normal day, but on diet days they are *delicious*! And pretty much a freebie.


Sugar-free Popsicles - 15 calories

Sugar-free Popsicles - 15 calories

A great treat when you are craving something sweet and cold! You can easily find fruit flavors this low, but unfortunately the chocolate types run closer to 50 calories.


Raisins (40 calories) & Goldfish (50)

Mini box of Raisins - 40 calories
20 Goldfish - 50 calories


I recently realized that some of the classic toddler foods run pretty low too! These are great for the times I want something to snack on, either sweet or salty, and you get a lot of pieces for a pretty small calorie count. I've also been known to grab a graham cracker for about 60, or 2/3 cup of cereal (or a chewy granola bar) for 100, but feel like these two give you a little more bang for your buck.


Progresso Light Soups - 130-210 calories

Progresso Light Soups - around 150-200 calories

While I usually cook my lunches and dinners on diet days (and regular days too), sometimes you just need a pre-made meal. I'm not even going to bother with any of those Lean Cuisine type frozen meals, because I know from past experience those things are tiny! My husband and I were both very pleased with the Progresso Light soups and found them tasty & filling. He eats these for lunch almost every diet day!

The cans in the above picture range from 130-210 calories and there are a lot of choices. If you are very strict on adding up your calorie count, the label is a little misleading though. There is a tiny bit more than "about 2 servings" in the can, but from my calculations you can add 10 calories to get the right total (or very close, it might be 1 or 2 off).


Do you have any favorite low-calorie store buys? I also know of a few low-cal fruits & simple recipes that I'll have to round up soon for you.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Zumba + Ambigrams?

The other day I was doing a search for something about Zumba (no, I don't remember what, and yes, I am obsessed) and at the top of an article I spotted this image ~



Even with all of the folds in the shirt, I could tell immediately that it was an ambigram of "Psycho"! How funny is that?

I've been searching around and haven't been able to find any info on that shirt or that ambigram, but I did find the picture on a stock photo site here with a few other views. In this one you can see the design better ~



My ambigram eye is well trained! Now I feel the need to make an ambigram of "Zumba"...

Monday, March 2, 2015

5:2 Chicken & Kale Scotch Broth (202 Calories)

No, this soup doesn't have any scotch poured in! Scotch Broth is a soup from Scotland traditionally made with lamb, barley, root vegetables, and cabbage. This version was inspired by Lavender and Lovage, but I changed up the measurements and cooking technique. This delicious, hearty low-calorie soup will warm & fill you up!

Chicken & Kale Scotch Broth, 202 calories

(For those of you counting calories, I've added the amount for each ingredient so you can easily make tweaks without having to re-calculate everything. Anything marked with an asterisk* might vary a lot based on what you buy, so make sure to compare your label.)

4 cups water (0)
2 tsp./cubes chicken bouillon (10)
3/4 cup carrots (39)
1/3 cup onion (20)
1/2 cup celery (10)

1/4 cup quick cooking barley (120*)
5 oz. cooked chicken, chopped or shredded (170)
1 cup shredded kale (35)


1) In a small soup pot, add the water, bouillon, carrots, onion, and celery. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes.

2) Add the barley, chicken, and kale. Return to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Serves 2. Enjoy!

Calories - 202 for 1/2