Customizing Convenience Comfort Food

pancake plate
Here’s my totally customized Toasted Coconut Pancake, made from a mix. It smells as good as it looks, and fits perfectly into my carb cals per meal structure because I made the exact serving size I needed!

 

So, who doesn’t love whipping up pancakes, biscuits, muffins, etc. from those fabulously quick and easy baking mixes for breakfast?  Or dinner… or whenever you want, really.  Everyone I know does!  But using them when you’re trying to watch calories isn’t all that easy.  There is often no way of figuring out how to get the suggested serving size when using the recipe given on the package; the suggested serving often has a lot more calories in it than you may want; the recipe often makes a huge number of servings, and unless you’ve got a ton people at you table you may not want that much food sitting around, or going to waste; and following the suggested recipe often means adding ingredients that will heap even more calories on top of those already in the mix.  So, I know lots of you avoid using mixes- we all crave the tantalizing goodies the offer, but at what cost?

Well, who says you have to follow the label’s suggested serving size…  or the directions, for that matter?  No one- that’s who!!

 

saxonadvancedmath
There will be NO advanced math… This book marked the end of my ability to homeschool my girls in math!

I say we can determine our own serving sizes, and directions- as long as we can do some really simple math!!  Now, don’t faint or stop reading, I promise we’re not going to have to brush up on trig, calculus, or anything ridiculous like that.  Just simple multiplication and division- and calculators are definitely allowed, even encouraged! This is Abbynormalmath, and that’s just how we roll! So, stick with me here, and you’ll be customizing those baking mixes in no time, saving lots of calories, time, and even money. Yes, money, because when you use precisely what you need, not an entire recipe that may go to waste, mixes go a lot further!

 

Now, we’re going to use a lot of equivalent measurements, but don’t worry- at the end of this post I’ll give you a table you can use to make conversions in all of your customization adventures.  In the meantime, I’ll do them for the examples we’ll work through together.

 

tjspancake mix
I just couldn’t resist- I was going to find a way to make this work! As usual, I’m not paid to recommend or favorably review anything. My thoughts on this subject are here.

So, let’s get started!  A few weeks ago I found this amazing looking Toasted Coconut Pancake Mix, but the suggested serving size contained 220 calories….  muah, muah, muah… that’s just about 60 cals more than I like to devote to a carb-y kind of item in any meal.

Alas, it looked soooooooooo yummy… and comforting.  But thanks to many (way too many) agonizing math lesson sessions with my dad and hubby, (bless their hearts) I knew I could adjust the serving size and get it to right around the max of 160 cals I wanted.  And these pancakes really are to die for!

 

 

pancakemixnutrition
Notice I got tired of having to locate my calculator every time, so I finally wrote the answers on the package. I’m ashamed to report I didn’t do this until I’d used up well over half of the mix. It takes me awhile sometimes.

Now here’s the math part, so get your calculator and don’t worry- I’ll walk you right through it!  The nutrition label says 7 tablespoons (or 57 grams) of the dry mix contains 220 cals.  Well, I figure I want my pancake to have about 3/4ths that many calories, or 75% of 220 cals.  So, I punched into my calculator:

57 (grams) X .75

and the answer I got was 42.75. I rounded that (because my scale isn’t quite that sensitive) and got that I should use 43 grams of the mix.  I figured the calories in this serving size the same way:

220 (cals) X .75 = 165 cals

 

 

Or, if you don’t like weighing your ingredients, you could instead punch in:

7 (tbsp) X .75

which gives you 5.25 (tbsp) so you’d round and just use about 5 tbsp.

Now here comes the part where we might have to experiment just a bit.  Since we’re not using the directions, we have no idea how much liquid to add, that will make the batter the correct consistency.  I used a very small bowl, placed the mix in there, and used a tiny (very adorable) whisk, and added water, 1 Tbsp at a time, whisked to see how it looked, then added another, until I got it to where I liked the way it looked and acted when I stirred it.  It turned out to be approximately 2 & 1/2 Tbsp that made it seem about right to me.  The results were perfect, and I consider that success!! So now that you know how to do this, you can apply it to almost any mix.

 

wafflemix
Here’s another favorite mix of mine- it’s the exact same mix they use for waffles at the breakfast buffet at the hotels we stay at, and I love them!

Now that we’ve gotten a simple custom modification down, let’s move on to a slightly more complicated example-  one that involves egg… s… well, parts of eggs.

Looking at the nutritional info, in the pic below, I see that the suggested serving size fits fairly well into my plan, so 1/3 of a cup of the mix makes me a pretty happy girl.

 

 

wafflemixnutrition

 

 

waffleinstructions

Looking at the recipe, I see it calls for 2 cups of mix- so, no problem- I know that the 1/3 cup portion of the dry mix I want to use is 1/6th of the 2 cups of dry mix the recipe calls for- so all I really need to do is make 1/6th of the entire recipe.

Therefore, I’ll just use a 1/6th portion of each of the rest of the ingredients. Right?

 

Well, yes!  If I could figure out what 1/6th of the 2 eggs the entire recipe calls for measures. And how to measure less than a whole egg evenly- you know, with that whole they don’t really mix up so you can easily just pour a little bit out, without the entire clump plopping right out, all together thing happening.  Good news- I can take care of both of those things! To solve the problem of how clumpy raw eggs are when you try to pour them, I use Egg Beaters instead of whole eggs, which eliminates fat and makes the measuring thing a whole lot easier- they pour and measure beautifully!

 

carouselcake
Yes, this a very large part of why I needed to lose weight! These creations started with scratch-made pound cake, no shortening, butter only, whole eggs, pure extracts, you know, the real deal. I won’t even start with what’s in the icing recipe!

As far as how to figure how much 1/6th of 2 eggs measures, I just happen to know from my former life, as a cake baker and decorator, that an average egg measures 1/4 of a cup.

 

That’s 4 Tbsp.  So the entire recipe calls for 2 eggs, or 8 Tbsp.  1/6th of 8 is 1.333 Tbsp.  1 Tbsp = 3 teaspoons.  So I’ll use 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp of Egg Beaters in my customized recipe.

 

 

Next, the entire recipe calls for 1 & 1/4 cup water, which is 20 Tbsp.  20 Tbsp divided by 6 is 3.33 Tbsp, so I’ll add 3 Tbsp + 1 tsp.  I’ve been known to eliminate that + 1 tsp of water, and add 1 tsp of vanilla extract instead…  and maybe add a sprinkle of cinnamon too…  options, it’s all about options!

Finally, the entire recipe calls for 4 Tbsp of butter, which is 12 teaspoons. 12 divided by 6 is 2 tsp of butter that would be added to my customized recipe. Now I need to make a decision… I’m really not ok with including that much fat, as it would bump the calories up by 67, and when added to the 170 cals that the dry mix contains, I’m way above where I want to be.  So, I’ll eliminate the butter and spray the waffle iron very lightly with non-stick cooking spray instead.  The waffles aren’t quite as crispy, but I’m ok with that if it allows me to lose or maintain my weight.  It’s totally up to you, though- if a waffle that’s 237 cals fits into your program, then add the 2 tsp of butter- I definitely would! This is all about making it the way you need to, to fit into your program or requirements, and knowing how to make adjustments to any recipe, to do just that.

So, my final customized waffle recipe is:

1/3 cup waffle mix
1 Tablespoon + 1 tsp Egg Beaters
3 Tablespoons + 1 tsp water

Or, substitute 1 tsp vanilla extract for 1 tsp of the water

 

syrup
Love this stuff! I just can’t use regular syrup, and this is the best tasting sugar free version I’ve found. The fact that it’s butter flavored makes me a really happy girl. : )

Now, just follow the prep instructions on the can and make your customized waffle recipe that suits your needs.  I like to divide the batter and make 2 waffles out of this- they won’t fill in the entire mold, and they’ll look irregular, but I kind of like that anyway.  It does add some extra places for things to be a little crispy, and I’m ok with that too! Top with fresh sliced strawberries, peaches, or some of my favorite sugar free syrup, and you’ve got yourself a really nice treat!

 

 

 

So, there ya go,  now you can use what you’ve learned and apply it to any mix so you can make customized adjustments and make the portion size that’s just perfect for you!  Happy baking and eating!!

 

Here’s a chart that will help you make adjustments:

Volume Measurements

1 & 1/2 tsp = 1/2 Tbsp
3 tsp = 1 Tbsp = 1/2 ounce
2 Tbsp = 1/8 cup = 1 ounce
4 Tbsp = 1/4 cup = 2 ounces
5 & 1/3 Tbsp = 5 Tbsp + 1 tsp = 1/3 cup
8 Tbsp = 1/2 cup = 4 ounces
10 & 2/3 Tbsp = 10 Tbsp + 2 tsp = 2/3 cup 
12 Tbsp = 3/4 cup = 6 ounces
16 Tbsp = 1 cup = 8 ounces
1 cup = 1/2 pint = 8 ounces
2 cups = 1 pint = 16 ounces
4 cups = 2 pints = 1 quart = 32 ounces
16 cups = 8 pints = 4 quarts = 128 ounces = 1 gallon

Measuring Eggs, by Volume and Weight

1 extra large or jumbo egg* = 1/4 cup = 4 Tbsp, by volume
                            = 2.4 ounces = 67 grams, by weight

* 1 extra large egg measures .23 cups and weigh 2.25 ounces, while 1 jumbo egg measures .26 cups and weigh 2.5 ounces.  So, I'm taking an average, as they're both very close to 1/4 cup, and I'm guessing there is some variance since eggs aren't produced in exact sizes.  So, this is not an exact science but it's a close enough kind of a thing!

Here are my sources of info for this table:
http://allrecipes.com/howto/commonly-used-measurements--equivalents/
http://www.incredibleegg.org/egg-facts/eggcyclopedia/b/buying
http://convert-to.com/720/chicken-eggs-5-sizes-conversion-plus-nutrients-values.html

 

OK- I know I promised no advanced math, and really, this isn’t truly advanced, but I have one more little trick up my sleeve that’s just a bit more complex than the ones I’ve already shown you. And, it’s absolutely free- won’t cost ya a thing extra! If it’s too confusing, don’t worry about it- the stuff we’ve already gone over should help you immensely.  But if you’re interested, here’s one last bit of math magic.

What if I wanted to know EXACTLY how much of a mix I need to use, to get a PRECISE, number of calories?  I can do that!  I’ll use what my dad (who earned a Master’s degree in statistics, but must have forgotten to pass that gene along to me- ha : ) calls a proportion problem, and it’s really just a simple formula.  Ok, it does involve just the tiniest bit of algebra, because we’re going to solve for an unknown.  But it’s really cool if you can stick with me! And I promise there will be no Mr. “X” that we need to find!

Let’s look at the Toasted Coconut Pancake Mix again- what I do know, from the nutritional label, is that 57 grams of the dry mix has 220 calories.  But what I don’t know is how much of it would I use, if I wanted my pancake to have exactly 160 calories?

I can set up an equation to find that out.  First, I’ll write, in words, the proportion that’s given on the nutritional label- “there are 220 calories to 57 grams of mix” or I could say it this way, “there are 220 calories for (or in) every 57 grams of mix” and here’s how I write that in “math language”:

57 grams             57 grams
--------      OR        to
220 cals             220 cals

Next, I set the proportion that I want, equal to the one from the label- and I write it like this:

57 grams       "?"             57 grams          "how many grams?"
--------  =  -------     OR      is to      AS       is to
220 cals     160 cals          220 cals            160 cals

(Notice I did NOT use “X” just for you!  I’ve used “?” to represent “how many grams?”

So, now, we cross multiply, which means we multiply the numbers that are diagonally across from each other and set them equal to each other- like this:

220 times “?” = 57 times 160

or, as it would look in a math book, (minus the whole “X” thing of course)

(220) (“?”) = (57) (160)

And, when I multiply on the right, I get:

(220) (“?”) = 9120

Now, we need to get our “?” all by itself, on the left, so we divide both sides by 220, which looks like this:

(220)("?")     (9120)
---------- = ---------
  (220)        (220)

On the left, 220 divided by 220 is 1, and 1 times “?” equals “?”, so we have “?” all by itself!  Woo Hoo!

On the right, 9120 divided by 220 is 41, so that’s what we have on the right.

And so now our equation looks like this:

“?” = 41

Since we said that “?” means “how many grams?” our equation tells me:

“how many grams?” = 41, or, “how many grams?” is 41

So, now I know that if I want my pancake to have exactly 160 calories, I need to use precisely 41 grams of the mix.

I know, I know, that’s a bit more math than the other methods, but it really helps me get the cals exactly where I need them to be!!  Now, please don’t anyone tell my dad this- I swore up one side, and down the other, when he tried to teach me math that I’d never, ever use this, as he predicted I would- every day, for the rest of my life.  And the truth is, I don’t… I don’t use it every day!  Maybe several times a week….  Ok, Dad was absolutely RIGHT…  I use this all the time!  And I hope you will too!

OK, I’ll probably have him check my work, just for old time’s sake.  : )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minus 100 Pounds!

 

-100

Here it is!  My Weight Watchers weigh-in record from last night… see where it says Total: -100?  That means I’ve lost one hundred pounds…

I’ll say it again- 100 lbs!  (In case you’re wondering, I don’t always decorate my record, but when I do, it’s because it’s a really special occasion.)

So, how did I do this?  Well, there are lots and lots of things that helped me, many specifics of which I’m going to share in my next post, but I just couldn’t wait to share a few of the ones that have been super important.

There are three crucial things that allowed me to achieve what I never could have dreamed possible.

First of all, I’ve had an amazing support system!

 

Bob

 

My husband has been willing to put up with my cooking “experiments,” some of which were absolutely horrendous, but fortunately, many more were pretty good.  Completely re-learning how to cook took some practice!  He never complained, and ate whatever I made- what a blessing!

 

 

 

Bob & Allie
My favorite two goofy Santa’s helpers, at the retirement home Allie works at on Christmas morning. It was so much fun!

 

Allie and I have been going to Weight Watchers meetings, shopping, eating, cooking, and losing weight together, from the very first night when we began this journey together.  And Ashelyn has been my constant cheerleader, along with my entire extended family- parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, so many of my friends, and my Weight Watchers leaders and fellow members.

 

 

 

 

DSC07195
My gorgeous girls- some of my best cheerleaders!

Seriously- there is absolutely no way I could have done this, apart from support! It hasn’t been nearly as hard as I thought it’d be, but it wasn’t easy either, so without encouragement, support, patience, and acceptance, it would’ve been almost impossible not to give up.  I still have a way to go, but I’m looking forward to reaching my goal.

 

Secondly, as far as food goes…

 

chocolate bar

 

I certainly haven’t ever felt horribly deprived!  I found things that satisfy the sweet tooth, but aren’t so high in calories.  Who would’ve thought you could have truffles and lose so much?  (Try the Skinny Cow mint chocolate ice cream sandwiches too- they’re amazing!)

 

 

 

 

SCBrownies
Allowing yourself to feel completely deprived of things you love is a recipe for disaster!

 

So many really good alternatives- you might ask, “Seriously, salted caramel brownies?”  YES!  Can I have the whole box? Nope.  But I can have a couple with a big glass of ice cold milk- if I’m careful with my points the rest of the day.  And I am.  Every day- I have something sweet every single day.

 

 

 

dressing

 

I was determined not to settle for anything that I hated eating- “diet” salad dressings were always my pet peeve.  Most are honestly just nasty, but I’ve found a few that I truly love, like this one!  I’ve found this brand at Wal-Mart and Target super stores.

 

 

 

 

deviled eggs

 

I still eat most of the things I’ve always loved!  Not losing weight was not an option, but neither was giving up all of my favorite things- so I just learned to make them in different ways.

 

 

 

In the case of my deviled eggs, I use a combination of Low Fat and Fat Free mayo- honestly, I can’t tell the difference between these and the ones I’ve made with regular mayo.

FFMayo
A little of this…
LFMayo
and a little of that… and you’ve got something you can’t really tell isn’t regular mayo!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve found lots and lots of products that don’t taste like what I’ve encountered in the past, i.e. “diet” foods.  The new products I’m finding now may not taste or act exactly like full fat / calorie versions, but they’re really good, and I’ve learned how to use them in ways that mean I honestly don’t miss the full fat products.

 

Here’s a perfect example:

mozzarella
This mozzarella is just 45 cals. per ounce, compared to around 80 for most reduced fat versions. But…

 

pizza
… does this look like reduced fat cheese to you! It melts and acts almost exactly like the “real” stuff, and browns too. Oh, and it tastes fantastic!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, third, there’s exercise…

 

H2O fitness

I’m not going to lie- activity is probably my least favorite part of the program, but having pretty workout clothes helps!  Water aerobics, or H2O Fitness class, does make this part more fun than almost any other kind of exercise I’ve tried- you almost can’t hurt yourself while exercising in the pool, and there is absolutely no sweat involved. That’s as good as it gets for this girl!

 

 

 

DSC06321

Well, OK, a nice bike ride with the hubby on a cool summer evening, providing there are no bugs, low humidity, and no rain…  that’s been a great way to get some activity in also.  A pretty bike never hurts either.  Are you noticing a trend?  Pretty things to wear and ride help!  I don’t think I’m going to get a horse out of this, but can you blame me for trying?

 

 

These are just a few of the things I’ve learned over the past 20 months or so. There are so many more I want to share, and I can’t wait to write posts about all of them!  I just really want everyone on the journey with me to know that losing and/or maintaining a healthy weight doesn’t have to be boring or miserable- you really can have delicious food, that makes you feel full and satisfied; you just have to learn a new way of going about it.  So, if you’re in, come along with me as I continue to learn, and grow, (in knowledge, not size! : ) and love cooking, eating, and losing more weight- I’ll show you how you can do it too!

Blessings!!

Abby