Taco Thursday with a Side of Metamorphosis

This weekend I did something I’ve always wanted to do – I hosted a cooking class and it was so fun!!  I am going to be totally honest with you – if I am home cooking alone – I am hosting a cooking show!!  I walk through everything step by step as if I’m on camera!!  I know – straight looney tunes.  However, I’ve always thought being a cooking show host would be totally cool!! Maybe one day I will have the nerve to try out for one of those shows on the Food Network or something.  I don’t think that I’m an excellent cook or baker – but I can cook a pretty decent meal.  I like to keep my family and friends happy with my baking skills and I did win 2 ribbons for placing in local baking contests!!  One thing that this surgery and journey has taught me is that I can be adventurous when it comes to cooking and trying new ideas and recipes.  I’m lucky that my husband and kiddos put up with trying new things!!

On Sunday I hosted two friends of mine who are on the same journey as I am.  Dean McGuire and his mother Mary Lou McGuire joined me around 1pm in my tiny kitchen.  Dean is about 1 year out from having Gastric Bypass Surgery.  He has lost an incredible 240 pounds.  Yes – you read that correctly, it is NOT a typo – 240 POUNDS!! HOLY COW.  Dean and I have been friends since I moved to town about 9 years ago.  He is on the Board of Trustees at my school.  He is also one of those people that volunteers to do any and everything to make his community great – so we get a long just great!! He started a local bariatric support page on Facebook.  I posted on there that I wanted to host a cook class for people like us and he and his mother took me up on it!!

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Mary Lou and Dean – my cooking demonstration buddies!!!

On the menu?? Turkey Tacos, Cauliflower Rice, and my low carb cookies.  I decided on these tacos because it is a meal that my whole family enjoys.  I also like it because each person around my table can chose to eat said tacos anyway that they like.  For me and my #lowcarb lifestyle – I chose to eat it with no taco shell or wrap.  I eat mine on a bed of spinach!! My kiddos skip out on the meat and eat beans, cheese, and all the sour cream they can fit into their mouths on a whole wheat wrap.  Hubby – he makes a couple loaded tacos on the wraps!!  I have seen a lot of chatter on some Facebook support pages about people cooking multiple meals at night for their families.  Something that they can eat and then something different for their families. Ummmm…I’m sorry – but ain’t nobody got time for that.  Aside from my immediate post-op diet when I had to stay on liquids for awhile and then soft foods – I have never made separate meals for my family and I.  I do however, chose meals that we all can enjoy but maybe just in different ways.  My family enjoys pastas, lasagnas, and other non-low carb foods and I modify those meals to fit my diet – it’s been working really well!!

I was excited to have cooking company come, and I was most exited to share with some people that are on the same journey as I am.  Dean has struggled with his weight almost all of his life.  Like me, Dean was always the “fat kid” growing up and had tried every diet out there.  He has always been frustrated with his weight but decided after the winter of 2014-2015 to actually do something to make a permeant change.  Some of you Downeasters might remember that the winter of 2014-2015 was one for the record books.  We received historic snow totals and some of the coldest days I’ve ever experienced in Maine.  Dean owns a snow plowing and lawn mowing business: McGuire’s Seasonal Services.  As you can imagine he spent pretty much that entire winter behind the wheel of his plow truck.  Tipping the scales at 400 pounds and sitting in your truck for what seems like months straight – is not conducive to a healthy lift style.  Dean consumed lots of fast food meals and downed countless gallons of Mountain Dew to stay awake.  When spring finally made it’s way to Maine – Dean knew it was time to find help.  He contacted the Eastern Maine Medical Center’s Surgical Weight loss program and began his journey.  Dean knew how amazing the people at EMMC were because his mother – Mary Lou – had bariatric surgery 6 years before.  He knew he would be in good hands – he just had to convince himself that it was time for a total change and overhaul of his lifestyle. After speaking with his PCP and learning that he might not make it to his 40th birthday because of his unhealthy weight and lifestyle – really lit the fire that fueled his passion to regain control of his life and start living again.

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HOLY SHOT.  The above is obviously the before – or is it a totally different person?? It could be the person’s below dad?? Nope – that’s my buddy Dean – in both pictures.  Dean would be my friend – and I his – regardless of what he looks like.  I’m so happy that he decided to take control of his life!!

Dean followed the program to a T and had Gastric Bypass Surgery in November, 2015. Even before the surgery Dean was fully committed to losing and keeping the weight off.  He has completely changed the way he looks at and feels about food.  His life has completely changed in both small and major ways.  He feels that now he is simply living life.  He’s traveled to Vegas and hiked through the Grand Canyon.  He has been kayaking – something that he was never comfortable doing before mostly because he didn’t think he could do it comfortably.  His job is becoming enjoyable again – not as physically demanding as it was before.  Most importantly – he has learned how to love and how to allow someone to love him.  As a result – he got married to the love of his life – Teresa!!

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The very happy newlyweds!!  Dean and Teresa were married on October 8th in a private ceremony and then a really fun reception at friends’ home.  It was a great party!

To say that it has been a whirlwind year for Dean is probably a gross understatement.  I asked him what the most significant thing he accomplished this year was – his poised response: “…valuing myself enough to care about myself has helped in every facet of life.  Everything else falls into place after that.”  I feel that Dean is right on track with this.  I too have felt the same way about my journey – I really am learning to love myself and realize that I am totally worth it.  It’s taken a long while to get there – I’m learning everyday – but, boy is it worth it!

In planning the menu for my cooking demo with Dean and Mary Lou – I knew that I wanted to stick to low carb and high protein.  Since he’s lost 240+ pounds and is actually about 10 pounds below his goal, Dean is in the maintenance part of his journey.  He is eating about 2,000 calories a day to keep up with his very fast metabolism.  He is currently enjoying things like yogurt, fruit, cheese and protein shakes that taste like milkshakes (I totally get this!!).  For his main meals he is eating protein first and some other low carb sides.  Picking my turkey tacos is a good option for Dean is has lots of protein with the ground turkey and black beans.  The Cauliflower rice in an extra low carb bonus.  I have to tell you that Dean is a picky eater.  So, the cauliflower rice was a reach for him…but he was willing to at least try it.  It has WON him over!!  Also, these recipes are so easy to put together that even HE can do it!!!

Without further ado – here is my Turkey Taco recipe:

1 pound 93% fat free Shady Brook Farm Turkey meat***

1 can tomatoes with green chilies

1 can seasoned black beans

1 small onion chopped

drizzle of Olive Oil

1 package of Frontera Chicken Taco Skillet Sauce***

Taco toppings***

***I prefer the 93% fat free ground turkey because it taste good.  I find the 99% fat free ground turkey to be a little too dry.  The 93% fat free is also good for homemade meatballs…coming soon!!  You can use whatever you want – I’m just telling you what I like.

***I love this product!! Soon to a Product Pop-Up for sure.  This product comes from Rick Bayless – who is my Top Chef crush! I love this product mostly because it is not lots of extra sugar and processed gross stuff.  The ingredient list is 14 items long and I can say each and every one of them – huge win for me!!

***Taco toppings are COMPLETELY up to you!! Whatever works for you and your diet is what to go with.  Sour cream, cottage cheese, cheese, salsa, hot sauce, anything and everything!!  A taco is really a blank canvas for you to dress up – enjoy!!

Heat up a big skillet and add your drizzle of olive oil.  When the skillet it hot – add your chopped onion and sauté them until they start to smell good!!  Next add your ground turkey and using a wooden spoon chop the meat up.  Cook until all the turkey is browned.  Add your Frontera sauce.  Because the sauce is so tasty – you really do not need to add any seasoning!

Open your can of chopped tomatoes with green chilies and add to pan.  Open your can of seasoned black beans.  I pour them into a strainer but do not rinse.  The juice is nicely seasoned and i just strain a little bit off and then add them to the mix.  You can lower your heat and let everything jive together in the skillet.  As long as your turkey meant is cooked through – you are good to go!!

It really does not get any easier that.  As you might have noticed – I’m in to simple recipes.  With two crazy kids running around – I just don’t have the time to slave over the oven or stove.  I need things to be easy-peasy lemon-squeezy.  Anything with 5 ingredients and in one pan or pot is a winner for me!!  Also – it really tastes GOOD.  So good in fact that I’m bringing it to school tomorrow for dinner as we are having our marathon parent/teacher conferences.

Taco Cauliflower Rice 

1 bag of cauliflower crumbles***

drizzle of olive oil

Fresh cilantro chopped

Garlic salt

Cumin

2 large garlic cloves crushed and chopped

Hot sauce

Juice of 1 small lime

***Buying the bag a cauliflower crumbles is the easiest way to make your cauli-rice.  All you have to do is pierce the bag and microwave it for about 2 minutes.  However, if your grocery store does not have it on the day you want to make it (I’m looking at you, Machias Hannaford) you’ll have to make your own.  Don’t worry!  It’s so easy.  Buy yourself a small head of cauliflower.  Take the leaves off and place the head on your counter stem down.  I press down on the cauliflower head with some good pressure and it helps to break down the core!  You can simply cut up the head of cauliflower – but make sure to remove the core.  Next put your pieces in a food processor – I do this in 2 to 3 batches.  Process the cauliflower and place in a microwave safe bowl.  Once you’ve processed it all – microwave for about 2 minutes.

In a medium sized pot pour in your drizzle of olive oil and add your chopped garlic – watch your pot as you do not want burn your garlic!!  Once your garlic is fragrant add your cauli-rice and stir.  Add the chopped cilantro, hot sauce, pinch of garlic salt and a pinch of cumin.  Cook for about 15 minutes.  You’ll want to taste the cauli-rice and make sure it’s cooked enough – you want a cooked rice consistency.  Remove from heat and enjoy!!

To serve – in my house we use the cauli-rice as if it were regular rice.  So in a taco shell or wrap – you put in the cauli-rice and then add your meat and beans.  Next top your taco the way you like.  For me – I just put the cauli-rice and meat on a small bed of spinach with a spot of salsa, cheese, and a dab of sour cream!!  As you can see below – this is the perfect size for me and really hits the spot!!

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Bariatric friendly Taco Thursday meal – ground turkey, beans, cauli-rice, and a dollop of sour cream!!

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Here is our homemade taco bar!!  You’ll notice the 6 year old goes straight for the cheese and sour cream!!

At the end of the cooking demonstration – Dean and Mary Lou took home some taco fillings and some other treats.  Most importantly, I think, they took home some ideas on who to switch things up and make eating more exciting than just grilled chicken and protein shakes!!  A part of this journey that I am really enjoying is investigating, discovering, and experimenting with LOTS of different things – not just food…although that is one of the most fun. I am definitely looking at hosting more cooking demos and always on the look-out for interesting and tasty recipes.  Next time I’m thinking…spaghetti squash.  I can hear Dean rolling his eyes from here.

As always…thank you so much for stopping in and checking out my blog this week.  Please come and back – as I’m looking to do a lot of stuff around being healthy and still being able to enjoy the holidays!!  This isn’t about depriving yourself…this is about LIVING, people!!  If you have any questions, comments, or want to see something specifically – please do not hesitate to reach out to me!!

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