Avocado Beef Salad
Avocado Beef Salad
February 25, 2013

A tidbit of information you may not want to admit? Studies have shown Americans gain an average of 5 to 7 pounds each winter. Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas cookies and Valentine's Day candy all contribute to those extra, unwanted pounds, but there are other factors too.

What is the main culprit?  Cold weather. When it's cold outside, we stay indoors, and our metabolism slows down. Our bodies get less sunlight, which makes us feel down so we turn to carbohydrates and sugars to give us a temporary boost. Also our bodies may be working against us to hang onto fat so our bodies stay warmer.

The cold weather can also interrupt our exercise routines. Chilly temperatures and snow may keep us from our scheduled workouts. Additionally in the wintertime cold and flu season hits us hard, and oftentimes we push our healthy habits to the wayside in order to give ourselves time to feel better.

Of course it's easier to not gain weight in the first place, rather than try to lose the pounds we packed on as we hibernated for the winter. Just in case your clothes are feeling a tad tight, here are a few recipes to jump-start your way to a slimmer you.

Breakfast - Wheat Berry Muffins

This recipe comes from my recipe collection and since it's written on notebook paper, I am assuming it is a recipe from a fellow teacher. I am a firm believer in not skipping breakfast, plus I'm hungry in the morning! These muffins are the perfect way to get your day off on the right track.

2 eggs

½ cup melted butter

1 cup sugar

½ teaspoon almond extract

1 cup wheat flour

1 cup white flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen, if frozen thaw berries)

¼ cup sunflower seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl mix flour, baking powder and salt. Add to egg mixture and stir until combined. Fold in sunflower seeds and then blueberries. Fill muffin cups ¾ full and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Lunch - Chicken Corn Chowder

I cook six nights a week, and I try to make some of those dinners last more than one night. Luckily my family doesn't complain about leftovers. I like to make enough soup to bring to work for lunch one or two days. It's healthier than a frozen meal, and it tastes better too.

This recipe comes from Cooking Light, July 2006.

6 green onions

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 (10-ounce) packages frozen corn kernels, thawed and divided

1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

2 cups fat-free milk

1/2 cup (2 ounces) preshredded cheddar cheese

Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Remove green tops from green onions. Chop green onion tops; set aside. Thinly slice white portion of each onion. Add sliced onions to pan; sauté 2 minutes. Add flour; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir in chicken, salt, pepper, 1 package of corn, and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes.

While mixture simmers, combine the remaining corn and milk in a blender; process until smooth. Add milk mixture to pan; simmer 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Ladle 2 cups chowder into each of 4 soup bowls; sprinkle evenly with green onion tops. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons cheese.

Afternoon Snack - Cherry, Almond and Cinnamon Granola

A few years ago I made this granola for the cookie exchange at my school. They weren't cookies, but I didn't hear any complaints from teachers.

Ina Garten's granola recipe is great as a crunchy snack, served as cereal in a bowl with milk or as a topping for yogurt or ice cream.

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut

2 cups sliced almonds

1½ cups dried cherries, chopped

½ cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup good honey

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss the oats, coconut, almonds, and cherries together in a large bowl. Pour the vegetable oil and honey over the oat mixture. Add the cinnamon and stir with a wooden spoon until all the oats and nuts are coated with the liquids. Pour onto a sheet pan. Bake stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture turns a nice, even golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove the granola from the oven and allow to cool, stirring occasionally. Store the cooled granola in an airtight container.

Dinner - Avocado Beef Salad

Some nights I change it up and I make a big salad for dinner. I typically make dinner salads with grilled chicken, but steak is a nice change and the buttery avocado and tangy dressing doesn't hurt either. This recipe is from Iowa Living Magazines and is one of the many magazine clippings I've saved over the years.

8 oz flank or round steak, grilled

3 cups mixed salad greens

1½ cups thinly sliced red bell pepper

½ cup thinly sliced scallions

¾ cup snow peas

½ cup chopped cilantro

2/3 cup bottled or homemade Asian salad dressing (recipe below), divided

1 fully ripened avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and diced

Season and grill steak. Let rest for 5 minutes. Slice steak thinly across the grain, set aside. In a large bowl combine salad greens, red pepper, scallions, snow peas, cilantro, and ½ cup salad dressing; toss gently. Evenly divide greens among four serving plates. Top with sliced steak and avocado. Drizzle with remaining dressing. Garnish with cilantro if desired.

Asian Salad Dressing

In a measuring cup whisk together ¼ cup vegetable oil, ¼ cup rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 2 teaspoons fresh ginger (or ½ teaspoon powdered ginger), 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil until well combined.