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Saturday, February 11, 2006

V-Day indulgence while staying on track

Originally published Feb. 11, 2006, in Our Town for the Tracy Press.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and I’m very excited. Before having gastric-bypass surgery, V-Day excited me because it meant a gold box of See’s Candies truffles, a dozen red roses and dinner at Fabio’s, with the restaurant’s famed chocolate mousse cake for dessert. Cliché, yes, but I loved every bite of it. Roses are still a favorite, but See’s Candies is no longer in the game plan. I’ve become vigilant about avoiding sugar and staying on the straight and narrow path when it comes to eating.

Since moving into a condo a month ago, I’ve also become more domestic. I spend a lot more time in the kitchen, at least. All this time in the kitchen has been good: I eat better, and I’ve had lots of fun experimenting with bariatric-friendly recipes. So it’s no surprise that, when planning a romantic Valentine’s dinner for my husband, I would dig out my dog-eared copy of “Before and After: Living & Eating Well After Weight Loss Surgery” by Susan Maria Leach for inspiration.
I settled on Shrimp Creole, which I’ll serve over rice for my husband and over steamed zucchini for me. Dessert will be chocolate genoise — a very moist cake made with little flour.

The further out I get from surgery, the more I realize that my day-to-day battle with food doesn’t differ much from anyone else’s. I can eat more now than I could six months ago, and that means I now have to carefully watch my portions to avoid overeating. I also have to watch the amount of fat I eat and limit snacking so I don’t go overboard on calorie consumption.

I think a lot of New Year’s resolutions go out the window around Valentine’s Day because people decide to give themselves a free day of eating and never get back on track. Soon, they stop going to the gym, stop caring about what they eat and end up exactly where they were the previous year.

That’s why a recent e-mail from a Weight Watchers representative caught my eye. Instead of admonishing people to steer clear of holiday decadence, WW spokeswoman Wendy Yellin offered tips for building planned indulgence into a weight-loss plan.

“If you avoid things that you love (like chocolate), you set yourself up for failure and bingeing,” Yellin wrote. “We want to teach folks about portion control and how to enjoy life while they are losing weight.”

Yellin has two different ideas of what people could do to prevent Valentine’s Day from getting them off track.The first is about common sense: Exercising a little extra each day for a week can help negate the effects of one day’s indulgence, as can scaling back the calories. If you typically enjoy a 16-ounce Starbucks Coffee mocha, you can save between 300 and 400 calories for each day you abstain. If you skipped Starbucks all next week, you could build up a bank of almost 2,000 calories to allow for any Valentine’s indiscretions.

Yellin’s other idea is to make lower-calorie versions of decadent desserts so you can indulge without shame.The recipes she shares — all available at — are not bariatric-friendly, but they do look yummy, and I’d love to hear from any readers who test them.

Shrimp Creole
Serves four

Bariatric ½ portion: 117 calories, 3g fat, 7g carbs, 15g protein

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup chopped onions
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup diced green bell peppers
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning blend, such as Tony Chachere’s
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce, plus extra to taste
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1½ lbs. large shrimp, peeled and deveined

Saute the onions, celery, peppers and garlic in the olive oil in a covered nonstick skillet over medium heat until the vegetables are softened. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, Worcestershire, Creole seasoning and Tabasco. Cover the pan, reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Blend the cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water, stir into the sauce and cook until the mixture thickens. Season with salt, pepper and extra Tabasco to taste. Add the shrimp, cover and simmer four to five minutes, until the shrimp is pink and just cooked through.
Copyright: “Before and After: Living & Eating Well After Weight Loss Surgery” by Susan Maria Leach

Chocolate Genoise
Serves 10

Full portion: 107 calories, 7g fat, 7.5g carbs, 5.2g protein

Take this basic chocolate layer cake over the top by making it into a sugar-free black forest torte. Spoon a little sugar-free pie filling over a wedge of chocolate genoise, dust the edge with confectioners’ sugar and top it with Splenda-sweetened whipped cream. This cake must be refrigerated after the first 24 hours because Splenda is not a preservative.

Vegetable oil cooking spray
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup Dutch-processed cocoa (Droste is an excellent brand)
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup Splenda Granular
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons salted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray, line the bottom with a round of wax paper and spray again.Sift the flour and cocoa together into a large bowl using a fine mesh strainer and set aside.
Combine the eggs and Splenda in a glass bowl, beating with an electric mixer on high until double in volume, about five minutes. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water to slightly warm the egg mixture and continue beating for another five to seven minutes, until the mixture is the consistency of softly whipped cream. Beat in the vanilla.
Lightly fold the flour and cocoa into the eggs, about one-third at a time, using a large rubber scraper and cutting through the batter, being careful not to deflate the mixture too much. Fold in the butter until just incorporated and pour into the prepared pan.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, turn out onto a cake rack and carefully peel off the paper.
Copyright: “Before and After: Living & Eating Well After Weight Loss Surgery” by Susan Maria Leach

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Pie
Serves 10

7 POINTS* per slice

½ cup reduced-fat peanut butter
4 ounces light cream cheese
4 ounces fat-free cream cheese
12 ounces fat-free sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup light whipped topping, thawed
5 tablespoons mini chocolate chips, divided
6 ounce pie crust

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together peanut butter and both types of cream cheese until smooth. Gradually beat in milk and lemon juice; fold in whipped topping and 4 tablespoons of mini chocolate chips. Spoon peanut butter mixture into prepared pie crust; sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon of chocolate chips over top. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator at least 4 hours. Chill overnight if you prefer a firmer pie texture.

Chocolate Turtle Cookies
Serves 24

2 POINTS* per cookie

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2/3 cup sugar
¼ cup reduced-calorie margarine
¼ cup fat-free cream cheese
1 large egg white(s)
2 tablespoons fat-free skim milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 spray cooking spray
24 pieces caramel candies
24 pieces pecan halves

Combine flour and cocoa in a small bowl; set aside. Beat together sugar, margarine, cream cheese, egg whites, milk and vanilla extract in a large bowl; add flour mixture and blend well. Chill dough at least 30 minutes, or until firm. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly coat two baking sheets with cooking spray.Shape dough into 1-inch balls; place on baking sheets about 1 to 2 inches apart. Press a caramel into each cookie and flatten; top each caramel with a pecan half. Bake for 10 minutes. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheets and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.