Culinary Confessions: What I Ate in a Week

Culinary Confessions

“Culinary Confessions” is a series that opens the books on our eating habits and shares our shopping, cooking, dining and diet strategies with you.

Taking care of our bodies is an inexact science. While we can guesstimate the nutritional data of our food and exercise, we can’t possibly track the numbers flawlessly unless we own extensive medical equipment.

We can, however, keep a pretty good diary of what we’re eating and how much we’re exercising to get a better grasp on our health status and needs. That’s a practice I’ve adopted in the past year as I’ve targeted better overall health, and it’s a disciplined process that’s helped me lose more than 75 pounds and more than a few inches off my once-concerning waistline.

This diary tracks and reveals to you everything—and I mean everything—I ate during one whole week, Monday to Sunday in late January and early February. While the exact meals I consume vary widely from week to week sometimes, this is a pretty standard summary of how I eat in a week at this time in my life.

Before we get to business, here are a just a couple of things to understand about what you read below.

MAKE THE MOST OF IT: You’ll notice what might seem to you like some random meal choices at points, such as homemade meatloaf sliders, and you should know that this reflects my creative approach to cooking. We do not waste food in our house. I repeat: We do not waste food in our house. Period. If something does go bad, we throw it out. Otherwise, we eat all leftover homemade food, and we take to-go boxes for our restaurant leftovers and then consume them later. You waste a lot of money if you leave food on the table, and you’re squandering valuable opportunities to cut down on having to come up with new meals from scratch, either from a restaurant or your own kitchen. The leftover meatloaf became easy sandwiches nearly a week after the first meal was made.

THE HOME-COOKED ADVANTAGE: You’ll note that some meals, snacks and desserts are simple foods that have easily countable/quantifiable calories, while others do not. This reflects the importance of eating whole foods and making food at home. Dining out often leads to a tremendous increase in calories and other nutritional data such as sodium. When I eat out, many restaurants don’t provide me with calorie, fat, sugar and other numbers to report them exactly. Sure, My Fitness Pal and other tracking apps can estimate, but a cheeseburger at one restaurant and a cheeseburger at another will differ in nutrition facts. Of course fast food restaurants and some others do provide certain data you can plug into your diet diary.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: You’ll see that I only eat out a couple times—at most—in a week. Normally, I eat one meal from a restaurant in a given week. That gives me better control over what I’m putting into my body because I’m making most things from scratch at home. However, in addition to a couple of restaurant meals on this particular week, two things impacted my diet diary. I ate one additional meal and dessert on Friday evening at my parents’ house that was outside my normal simple eating plan, and the Sunday on this week happened to be Super Bowl Sunday. On that day, I allowed a little more #FoodieScore freedom and snacking than on a normal day.

THE RIGHT FORMULA: Finally, please understand that I do not subscribe to any kind of belief or plan that counting calories or eating only certain foods will by itself help you improve your health. I do not endorse Weight Watchers or any fad diet. Instead, I believe awareness of what we eat is our greatest ally, because it allows us to balance our eating with our exercise in order to be healthier than we would be if we just ate what we want every time we want. I do have a short list of nutrient-friendly foods I highly recommend as the basis for a better diet if you’ve struggled with choices and portions as I have for many years. These foods are low in calories and sugars, while high in other beneficial nutrients.

In the end, doing the best you can to make more good food choices while also exercising consistently is the best equation for healthier living, and I’ve seen proof of that in the past year as I’ve dropped 25 percent of my body weight with that approach.

 

 

* I have included calorie information below where possible. If you’re interested in more specifics about calories for certain items, comment below or email me. I’d be glad to share what I know!

 

Day 1—Monday

EXERCISE: Walked 3 miles

Breakfast – ½ cup oatmeal cooked in water with 1 teaspoon honey, 1 banana and water (261 calories total)

Lunch – 2 pieces 12-grain dry toast, 2 steamed egg whites, 1 raw chopped carrot and water (284 calories total)

Snack – ½ cup dark chocolate hummus, 7 butter crackers (222 calories total)

Dinner – 1 grilled chicken breast, cooked spinach, brown rice, dinner roll and water (450 calories total)

Dessert – homemade chocolate pudding with vanilla wafers (300 calories total)

 

 

Day 2—Tuesday

EXERCISE: Walked 3 miles

Breakfast – ½ cup oatmeal cooked in water with 1 teaspoon honey and 1 teaspoon flax seed, 1 banana, 1 cup Greek yogurt and water (381 calories total)

Lunch – 1 piece 12-grain dry toast, 2 steamed egg whites, veggie straw chips and water (284 calories total)

Snack – ¼ cup pecan halves (200 calories)

Dinner – 1 grilled chicken breast on 1 sandwich bun with 1 tablespoon barbecue sauce, ¼ cup sautéed mushrooms, sautéed onions, 1 serving of mac and cheese, 1 serving of baked beans and water (950 calories total)

Dessert – 1 slice Atlantic Beach (lemon) pie with ¼ cup 2 percent milk

 

Day 3—Wednesday

EXERCISE: Walked 3 miles

Breakfast – ½ cup oatmeal cooked in water with 1 teaspoon honey and ¼ cup pecan halves, and water (371 calories total)

Snack – 1 cup black coffee with 1 cup 2 percent milk and 1 1/3 tablespoons instant mocha mix for iced coffee (192 calories total)

Lunch – ½ cup cooked, seasoned beef with sautéed onions in 1 hot dog bun with 1 raw chopped carrot and water (350 calories total)

Snack – 5 saltine crackers with 2 tablespoons peanut butter (230 calories total)

Dinner – 1 seasoned grilled chicken breast and sautéed onions with ½ cup shredded cheese and black beans on two flour tortillas, and water (690 calories total)

Dessert – ½ cup Oreo mint chip ice cream (400 calories)

 

Day 4—Thursday

EXERCISE: Walked 3 miles

Breakfast – ¼ cup plain oatmeal made with water and 1 small banana, Belgian waffle with ½ tablespoon butter and a honey syrup drizzle, with a no-sugar iced coffee of black coffee with ¼ cup milk (580 calories total)

Lunch – 1 can tuna with no extra seasoning and 5 butter crackers, 1 serving unsalted peanuts and water (380 calories total)

Dinner – 2 fried eggs, 2 dinner rolls with 2 tablespoons apple butter, 2 slices low-sodium bacon, 1 cup grits cooked with milk and butter, unsweet tea (702 calories total)

Dessert – 2 small Nutella pecan cupcakes (350 calories total)

 

 

Day 5—Friday

EXERCISE: Walked 4 miles

Breakfast – 1 cup blackberry Greek yogurt with 1 teaspoon flax seed and 2 cups coffee with light cream (150 calories total)

Lunch – Kim’s Kitchen cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and mayo, and fried squash with ranch dip, and water

Dessert – 1 cup homemade peach cobbler

Dinner – mixed salad with cheese and light ranch dressing, 1 toasted croissant with honey butter, and water

Dessert – homemade banana pudding

 

Day 6—Saturday

EXERCISE: Walked 1 mile

Breakfast – 1 square homemade Belgian waffle with 1 teaspoon honey syrup and 1 strip low-sodium bacon and black coffee (110 calories total)

Snack – Downtown Deli & Donuts peanut butter and jelly doughnut with ½ cup coffee with light cream and 1 sugar

Lunch – Willy Taco blue corn tortilla chips and salsa, 1 crispy avocado taco and 1 Carolina BBQ taco, and water

Dinner – 1 mug tomato soup made with milk, toasted cheese sandwich made with 1 piece cheddar in toaster oven, and unsweet tea (425 calories total)

 

 

Day 7—Sunday

EXERCISE: Walked 2 miles

Breakfast – latte made with black coffee and three tablespoons cream, ½ cup plain oatmeal made with water (300 calories total)

Lunch – leftover meatloaf sliders with mozzarella cheese on browned rolls, 1 hot dog on 1 bun with mustard, French fries and unsweet tea

Dessert – 2 small homemade rice cereal treats

Snack – homemade party mix

Dinner – 3 slices homemade pizza with bacon, and unsweet tea

Dessert – homemade peach cobbler with one scoop vanilla ice cream

 

Do you track what you eat and how you exercise? We’d love to learn about your approach to healthy eating. Share your story with us in the comments on this post, on our Facebook page, or by emailing us here. Thanks so much for reading and eating with us!

Rich and Simple Pumpkin Pie

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Along with turkey and stuffing, any official Thanksgiving meal I eat must include a Pumpkin Pie. But I enjoy Pumpkin Pie so much I’d joyously eat it any time of the year, especially throughout the fall.

This is a simplified take on a pie recipe Molly found in a Food Network magazine. The original recipe also incorporates bourbon into the filling, as well as bourbon and vanilla into the crust. Neither of those steps are necessary, and without them the following ingredients are even more affordable and the directions are even easier.

We’ve made this Pumpkin Pie a couple times, and we’ve been very happy with the results each time. It produces a delicious pumpkin-spiced filling that’s both rich and creamy. If you need an easy pumpkin pie in a pinch, here’s our recommendation.

Ingredients

1 15-ounce can of canned pumpkin

1 ½ cups heavy cream

½ t ground cinnamon (You can also use 1 cinnamon stick.)

3 large eggs

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup packed light brown sugar

1 ½ t pumpkin pie spice

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Directions

1. Mix the heavy cream and cinnamon in a small saucepan over medium-low heat on a stove burner. Bring to a simmer and then set aside to cool.

2. Transfer the cream-cinnamon mixture to a large bowl. Whisk in the pumpkin, eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice.

3. Warm your oven to 375 degrees.

4. Pour your pumpkin pie mixture into your favorite pie crust. Place the pie on top of a cookie sheet or pan for any possible spillover and slide it in the oven.

5. Bake your pie for 1 hour or 1 hour and 10 minutes, until the crust is done and the filling is set. (We like to use a pie crust shield to keep the crust from browning too much.)

Bonus Pro Tip: Mix a half cup of heavy whipping cream with your desired amount of pumpkin pie spice in an electric stand mixer (or with a hand mixer) and top your pie with a dollop of special pumpkin spice whipped cream!

Midnight Cherry Pie

Cherry Pie Insta

Matthew has been begging lately for a fruit pie, and while I love baking pie, to be honest, fruit pies kind of intimidate me. This makes no sense, I admit, because fruit pies are usually some kind of stir, throw in a shell, and bake routine. The old fashioned pies I love best are often more complicated beasts. Still, something about fruit pies worries me. Is it the added second crust on the top, worked into a lattice or perfectly-slotted top crust? Is it the question of whether the fruit needs to be cooked before entering the crust? Is it the worry of too much juice or water? Or is it the ever-confusing problem of whether to use canned, fresh, or frozen fruit? Maybe the real reason fruit pies are so daunting is that there are so many questions and so many ways to make them! Nevertheless, I accepted the challenge to make a new fruit pie. And now that I have, it was totally worth it. This marks the third type of fruit pie I’ve made, after blueberry and apple. For this one, we used fresh dark cherries (with pits), and we amended a recipe we found online to suit our purposes. It resulted in a deliciously sweet, luscious cherry pie with full, round cherries; a flavorful, juicy filling; and a sugary, golden crust. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

 

A few tips to make your baking easier:

-To pit cherries, we took a tip from a recipe we found on Inspired Taste. If you don’t have a pitter, you can use a chopstick. Matthew was quite adept at this! And it kept our cherries mostly intact.

-Use the two-crust roll-out pie crusts you can buy in any well-stocked grocery store. It should be a 9-inch crust, and my suggestion is to keep it refrigerated before use, not frozen, as it can be tough to defrost these.

-I left out a few ingredients, including 1/4 tsp. of almond extract. Almond extract just isn’t something I use in a lot of recipes, so it’s an added expense to buy for such a small amount in one recipe. I also left out 1 tbsp. of unsalted butter, because the pie didn’t need the extra fat, and also because unsalted butter is more expensive than the kind I buy. Totally up to you if you’d like to add both!

 

Ingredients:

1 box of 2 roll-out pie crusts (keep refrigerated)

4 cups of fresh cherries (with pits removed, if applicable)

1/4 cup cornstarch

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1/8 tsp. salt

For crust topping: 1 egg yolk; 1 tbsp. heavy whipping cream; 1 tbsp. sugar

Cherry Pie Prebaked

Directions:

  1. Pit the cherries. This is best done at a table where you can sit down and work easily. Use your cherry pitter or a chopstick to push the pit out. You will need 4 cups of fresh cherries, which for us equated to about 1 pound. Put them in a bowl and set aside for now.
  2. In another bowl, stir together the cornstarch, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt. Add the cherries and toss carefully. (I used a soft plastic spatula for this.) Be careful not to pour all the extra cherry juice in when you add the cherries.
  3. Remove your 2 pie crusts from the box and unwrap one, then carefully roll it out onto a glass or metal pie pan. Press it gently into the pan.
  4. Pour the cherry filling into the crust.
  5. Roll out the second pie crust on top of the first. Use your kitchen scissors or a knife to trim excess pie shell off the sides. Fold the top crust’s edges under the bottom crust and press together, then use your fingers to create a fluted crust edge. (The original recipe suggested using your index finger to press the dough in between the first two knuckles of your other hand, all the way around the edges. This worked alright for me, but was a little tough to master.)
  6. Pop in the freezer for 5 minutes. Go ahead and preheat your oven at this time to 400.
  7. Prepare a quick egg wash for the topping: Mix the egg yolk with the heavy whipping cream, then use a pastry brush to spread it over the top crust of the pie. (If you don’t have a pastry brush, which many people don’t, you can use a spoon to carefully sprinkle it all over the pie, then spread it a little with the back of the spoon.) One important note: you will NOT need all the egg wash. If you use too much of it, it will start to pool in certain spots on your pie which will make it less attractive. This wasn’t mentioned in the original recipe, so I was concerned I was supposed to use it all, but I learned the pie didn’t need it.
  8. Sprinkle the top of the pie with the 1 tbsp. of sugar, then cut four slits in the top as shown. Place the pie on a baking sheet so that any juices won’t boil over into your oven.
  9. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350, and bake for another 40 minutes. The crust should be a beautiful gold color and the filling should be bubbling out of the top a bit. I recommend baking for an extra 5-10 minutes if you’re willing to try, because my bottom crust could have used a little more time to cook, but that’s my personal preference.
  10. Cool for 2-3 hours, or preferably overnight, before cutting. Enjoy!

Serves: 7-8

Cherry Pie Fini

#FoodieScore Recommends: Cleveland County (N.C.) Eats!

In Shelby, N.C., for the American Legion World Series baseball tournament? You’re sure to get hungry after all that baseball! Well, Shelby-based blog #FoodieScore’s got you covered with great local recommendations for where to eat while you’re here in Cleveland County, N.C. This list is just a small sampling of our favorite spots, and it is by no means a full list of all the amazing restaurants our county has to offer. We hope you enjoy!

Red Bridges BBQ

BBQ

Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge, 2000 E. Dixon Blvd., Shelby

Red Bridges is arguably one of the most popular barbecue joints in our area, as it is a two-time national award winner for barbecue. It has won Thrillist’s “Best BBQ in America” March Madness bracket competition, as well as the Garden and Gun Ultimate Barbecue Bracket. We won’t waste any more your time on reading, other than to tell you this barbecue is worth the acclaim.

Alston Bridges Barbecue, 620 E. Grover St., Shelby 

Alston Bridges offers up fast service and fantastic barbecue on the northern side of Shelby. This place has a ton of regulars that you can see filling up the parking lot at all hours of the day. (It is not affiliated with Red Bridges across town.) Its barbecue is more vinegar-based and less sauce-focused, which gives it a completely different flavor and a wonderful texture.

The Flying Pig, 901 College Ave., Shelby/Boiling Springs

Matthew is a huge fan of the barbecue (and the friendly staff!) at Flying Pig. It’s a little more off the beaten path, a true old-fashioned barbecue joint. The Q is delicious and Flying Pig offers three different barbecue sauces for your fancy.

Jammin J's

Pepperoni pizza from Jammin J’s Pizza Factory.

Pizza & Italian

Jammin J’s Pizza Factory, 1011 Grove St., Shelby

Jammin J’s is our personal favorite for delicious, inexpensive, endless pizza. Did we say endless? Jammin J’s offers buffet pizza with a range of flavors. They’ll ask when you come in what kind you’d like and immediately get it started for you. (Molly always asks for bacon, tomato, mushroom.) A few favorites are fiesta chicken and livermush pizza. (Livermush is a Southern specialty made from similar ingredients as sausage, but it has cornmeal mixed in, so the texture is a little different.) You won’t break the bank at Jammin J’s either, which is another reason it’s one of our favorites.

Pleasant City Wood Fired Grille, 233 S. Lafayette St., Shelby

You usually see wood-fired pizza grilles in larger cities, and they’re usually part of a chain. Not so here. Pleasant City is a local delight that many in our county can’t get enough of. Their pizza and beer game is strong, and it’s a great local hangout.

Toscanos Bistro, 5 E. Marion St., Shelby

If you’re looking for an Italian option, the relatively new Toscano’s is a great pick. Their pita gyros are delicious and fresh, their pizza is amazing, and their pasta plates are quite tasty.

Shelby Cafe

Cheeseburger and fries at Shelby Cafe.

American

Shelby Cafe, 220 S. Lafayette St., Shelby

You can’t come to Shelby without going to the Shelby Café. Their menu says it best: “Home Cooking Since 1922.” One of Molly’s personal favorite dishes: the Mayor’s Special, a pita bread breakfast burrito with eggs, cheese, and livermush.

Snack Shop Family Restaurant, 103 S. Main St., Boiling Springs

A great diner option near Gardner-Webb University, the Snack Shop is a near-daily favorite for many locals in Boiling Springs. They have excellent home-style food, as well as diner food such as burgers, hotdogs, and milkshakes.

238 Cherokee Grill, 222 S. Railroad Ave., Kings Mountain

One of the best restaurants around if you’re looking for something a little more fancy. Cherokee has wonderful steaks, Greek chicken dishes, killer sandwiches, delicious desserts, and more. They also have a well-stocked bar area.

The Local Market, 4629 Fallston Rd., Fallston

If you’re looking for farm to table in Cleveland County, look no further. The Local Market’s burgers and chicken dishes are fabulous, and the locals rave about their cheese curds made from locally-sourced cheese. It’s in an old house, which houses both the restaurant and a gift shop with tons of local goods.

Sweet House Bakery

Coconut Cream Cupcake at Sweet House Bakery

Coffee & Dessert

Sweet House Bakery, 304 E. Kings St., Kings Mountain

Sweet House has a delectable assortment of cupcakes (filled, iced, however you like), cookies, and dessert bars. It’s Molly’s go-to place for dessert anywhere in Cleveland County.

Uptown Sweets & Treats, 221 S. Lafayette St., Shelby

Uptown offers not only cool, refreshing frozen yogurt, they also sell local donuts made by Forest City-based Davis Donuts. We hear they also have some pretty tasty gourmet popcorn, although we haven’t laid our hands on it yet.

Swooger’s, 1016 Shelby Rd., Kings Mountain

Want to enjoy a fantastic, fresh-scooped milkshake in a retro, 1950s-themed diner? Swooger’s is your place. They also have great diner food, including a solid cheeseburger.

Hannah’s Coffee House, 1024 E. Marion St., Shelby

This coffee shop situated in a quiet area of Marion Street is the perfect place for a variety of sweet treats, as well as great coffee. The service is impeccable! You can also pull up a few chairs and play Scrabble if you like.

Broad River Co., 105 S. Main St., Boiling Springs

Over in college-town Boiling Springs, Broad River is everything you can ask for in a coffee shop. It has plenty of space and little nooks for studying, reading, relaxing, listening to music, or hanging with friends. They offer bagels and sweet treats, in addition to coffee and mouthwatering smoothies.

Miss Ina’s Fudge Pie

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One of my favorite things in the world is baking pies, especially pies with a rich history behind them. Miss Ina’s Fudge Pie is a recipe shared with me years ago by a precious, sweet lady named Ina Doster. I attended church with Miss Ina for many years growing up and she was always happy to share the recipe with anyone who asked. As my pie baking skills have grown, I have still not found an easier, simpler, or more consistently delicious pie recipe in all my baking forays.

Miss Ina told us that the recipe was passed down from her grandmother, Lula Carrol, from the late 1800s. Originally, Miss Ina says, the flour was pure and you had to add baking soda to the recipe. Today, you don’t need the baking soda, which brings the ingredient total down to a mere 6 ingredients, not including the pie shell.

You truly can’t go wrong with this sweet delight. I wholeheartedly encourage any first-time pie baker to try it, as it’s the easiest pie I know how to make. At the same time, experienced bakers will love its simplicity and comfort. Miss Ina, thank you for all the beautiful things I have learned from you. And thank you, for your trademark fudge pie.

 

Ingredients
1 stick melted margarine
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
unbaked pie shell

Directions
1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Prick holes in the pie shell using a fork.
3. Pour mixture into pie shell.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until no longer jiggly in the middle.