Saturday, April 30, 2011

End of Month Check In

 Earlier in March, I ran a post on the 30 Healthiest Foods, To date, there are still 4 foods I haven't eaten from the list:  lentils, bulgar, wild salmon, sardines.  The last two, to be honest, I don't plan on eating. I've had bulgar and lentils before, but want to find a new way to eat them. 26 out of 30 is not too shabby, I guess.

Still at only 19 pounds down, but my body is definitely changing. The shorts I finally fit into last week are now loose. I just wish the poundage would go away more quickly.  In a Time Out For Me post from early April, I vowed to schedule my exercise to make sure I do it. I did do this, however, I was probably only 65 % successful. Something I will continue to work on.

Going vegetarian again tomorrow. Should be interesting. Trying to meal plan now which I hate.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Great Green Beans

Lat night we had some really good green beans. I used Trader Joe's haricot vert green beans (the really skinny whole ones).  I steamed them in the wave for about 4 minutes. Then I sprayed them with nonstick spray and sprinkled them with Mrs. Dash original salt free seasoning and garlic powder. I mixed them up with my hands to spread around the seasonings, and  I baked them on 400 for about 5 minutes till done. They were yummy!  They would have been terrific with a little fresh parmesan cheese shredded on top. Mmmm...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Oven Roasted Carrots and Kale Recipe Review

I tried this recipe for Oven Roasted Carrots and Kale that my sister Tricia sent to me. It is a recipe that was posted on She usually sends me really good recipes, and I like kale,  so I was eager to try this one.  I have to admit that the flavor was wonderful, and like Georgie suggested, a sprinkling of parmesan cheese was a good addition. This recipe as is gets 4 spoons.

 The recipe is great as is, but I think the next time I make it,  I will make a few changes. For one thing, I will double the kale that I use. It cooks down so much that I felt like I needed more. With an ANDI score of 1000, the more, the better as far as I am concerned. The need for more kale is not a criticism of the recipe, just a personal preference. I did overcook the kale as it was a little crunchy, kind of what I expect that kale chips might be like. I was expecting more softness and less crunch. I also will need to watch it more closely while it cooks. All ovens are different and mine tends to run hot. I also may add a little water or vegetable broth to help prevent over cooking. I used the curly kale, but I wonder how the recipe would be with what they call "dinosaur" kale?  I have never even seen this kind of kale, but I know it exists. This is a good basic recipe that I think lends itself easily to experimentation, so that's what I'll do next time. Thanks Georgie and Tricia!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Menu Plan April 25th- May 1st

 Monday - LO pizza for kids, (V/S) boca burgers, kale and carrots (new recipe), fruit

Tuesday - turkey breast, green beans, broccoli, fruit

Wednesday - LO turkey, LO veggies, fruit/ dogs for kiddos

Thursday - roast chicken, greens, carrots, fruit/yogurt

Friday - Potato soup (new recipe)

Saturday - mango chicken sausage (TJ's), hamburgers, tots, baked beans, fruit/yogurt

Sunday -This starts our vegetarian summer-
              Big Salad (S/V), (K) fish sticks, mac n cheese, broccoli, fruit/yogurt

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Another Trader Joe's Find

I love Trader Joe's....quality food, mostly USA grown, low cost, and  healthier than most food products at the regular grocery store.  My new find is TJ's whole wheat lavash bread. 

The finished "chip"

If you cut them in half, they are the perfect wrap size. Brushed with olive oil or sprayed with non stick spray, cut into big squares with a pizza cutter, sprinkled with your favorite spices, and baked at 350 for 4 1/2-5 minutes, it's a delicious snack. These "chips" are also great with salsa and hummus (Yum!). One of my favorite spice mixtures to put on the bread is a mixture of garlic powder, oregano, and TJ's salt free 21 salute seasoning. I think it would also be great sprinkled with a little parmesan cheese. A cinnamon-sugar mix is good too if your in the mood for a sweeter treat. The options are endless.

Perhaps one of my favorite things about this lavash bread is that there are only four ingredients, so I know exactly what I am eating. They freeze well too. So, if you don't have a TJ's, look for whole wheat lavash bread at your favorite grocery store and pick up a package on your next trip. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

HFCS and PHO, Thy Names Be Mud!

High fructose corn syrup, or corn sugar as the Corn Refiner's Association likes to call it, is horrible for you. It is hard to stay away from since it's in everything, but it can be done. Check out this awesome article about HFCS from one of my favorite blogs, The Picky Eater:  A Healthy Food BlogClick here to read Picky Eater's article. It make HFCS easy to understand.

 I try to stay away with most things too that have "partially hydrogenated" oils in them.  These oils are heated till they are a partial solid. They, too, are in many many products. This article from Eric Armstrong is a great one that explains PHO in a nutshell. Read and be informed, for knowledge is power. The more you know, the more equipped you are to make better and better decisions...especially regarding your health.

Monday, April 18, 2011

One of My Favorite Things...

One of my new favorite things is a set of storage containers that I got at Walmart of all places. They are Better Homes & Garden Flip-Tite containers.  They come in many different sizes including spice size, which is often hard to find, and cereal size, which I don't have yet. I love the way the lid works as it really creates an  "air tight."container.

This has transformed my top pantry shelf where I keep most baking supplies.  This is just the beginning of my pantry reorganization.  Me...organized?  Who'd of thunk it! Check it out.  And, for my Kentucky family and readers, please note the Maker's Mark bottle prominently displayed.  YUM!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

About Couponing...

I was interested to see the new show, Extreme Couponing, which premiered last night on TLC.  It was exactly what I thought it would be:  mostly about obsession with a few good tips thrown in.  Yes, of course, the amount of money saved by these women is amazing, but it's all about how much can I save? , never mind whether you normally eat the item you are buying but are only getting it for the sake of the deal.  One woman looked at the Finish on the  shelf and turned to ask who she was with, "I have coupons for these, but do you think that the 40 boxes I've got at home is enough?"  I do!  These women , in many cases, have also gone to storing extra items in their kids' rooms under their beds or in their own bedrooms on shelve in plain sight...sticking their loot everywhere and anywhere they can find room. I don't have room to buy in bulk that much! All for the sake of saving the money. Now, I am all for saving money, but to hear these women talk and to  watch these women with their hearts racing as their bills go up, and racing still as their coupons are entered and their bills go down, you realise their obsessiveness over couponing. They can't wait to see how low their final bill will be. Being fair, a few good tips were given such as requesting rain checks on items that are on sale, but which the store is out of, using the Internet to get coupons, and using the in store rewards cards (all of which I do).  To me, it seemed like I was watching that show about the hoarders.  I did not care for it.

This show reminds me a lot about my beginning with the coupon world.  When we moved to Arizona, I was trying to make new friends, so when the gal across the street invited me over to show me her coupon system, I went. I thought I might make a friend and learn something along the way.  She used the Couponsense program and touted how her grocery bill for her family of four was never over $50.00 a month.  I was amazed until I saw her pantry.  It included things like 30 boxes of Hamburger helper, 15 pouches of pasta mixes, and more cereal than I could count. Never mind that they were sugar-filled or the kinds her family doesn't usually eat. The only thing that mattered is that she got them each for like 50 cents a box...score!  The thing that jumped out at me immediately is that I'm not buying or eating Hamburger Helper just because I have a coupon for it and can get it for 25 cents a box. Even before my family was choosing a  healthier eating as a lifestyle, we didn't normally eat a lot of  boxed, prepared foods like that. About the only boxed food we  currently have like that is Kraft Mac n Cheese, which I use in a time pinch for the kiddos.  In my neighbor's grocery shopping and the shopping of the women on Extreme Couponing, what I noticed missing the most was fresh fruits and vegetables. Neither woman on the first episode seemed to have any in her cart, and that bothered me.

Now when I first started using coupons as a young mother, I tried to make a price book which lots of money saving websites recommended.  I lost interest quickly and as I shopped more, I simply became aware by eyeball comparisons when I shopped in different stores whether what I was paying was a good deal or not.  I also tried to go to 4-5 stores (gas was cheaper then) to shop and save money that way. What I learned was it was too time consuming for me and just not worth it (especially when gas prices would go up).  Now I shop at mainly 2 stores on a weekly basis: Trader Joe's and Fry's (Krogers for my friend back home). However, I usually make it a couple of times a month to Whole Paycheck (our affectionate term for Whole Foods) and Target. There are items I buy at each store because they either have specialized item I want or because they are cheaper than the regular grocery store, but I usually stop by them when I'm there anyway or nearby. I usually don't make a special trip. 

I do clip coupons, but what I mostly find is that the coupons available from on-line sites or in newspaper circulars, are not usually coupons I would use.  The coupons I tend to clip from these sources usually are for things like soaps, shampoos, toothpastes, detergents, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and paper towels.  I also use the in store digital coupons offered online at my grocery store. I check the coupons I wish to use, and then upon buying the items and checking out, the coupons are applied clipping at all. I like that, but you just have to look at your bill as the cashier checks you out to make sure your digital savings are applied. I have never had an issue. I also use the coupons sent directly to me from the grocery store. Those are helpful because they tend to be based on items I normally buy.  My favorite way to save by couponing is to take advantage of my store's "We  accept all competitor coupons" offer whenever it is available. This saves me because I can used any other grocery store's coupons at my store..very helpful. Another helpful tidbit is to go directly to the website of your favorite product(s), sign up for the site, and request or simply print coupons for those items you use most. I do this all the time and it does work.

I am always adjusting and revamping my couponing skills and I always look for new ideas and ways to save. The important thing is to find something that works for you and your family. Not everything will work for everybody, so it's important to keep searching and learning...Please share any ideas and helpful hints you have, because I'd love to hear them!

Happy shopping!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Roasted Veggies

Inhale. Mmmmm. My house smells soooo good. I have a roast in the crock pot for the kids and it's aroma seems to be permeating everything. It was one of the foods that my oldest missed when he had braces on because it was hard for him to eat. Now, sans braces, he asked me to make it. I will not be eating choice. I will be serving it with the best roasted veggies ever! I originally made them with pork as they came with a pork roast recipe I tried one time. Now, I skip the pork roast and make them with everything from chicken to pork chops to turkey breast.  It works well with just about everything. If you try it, you will not be disappointed. My kids ask for it all the time.  It's something everyone love, and to get 5 people to all agree on something, in and of itself, is quite the accomplishment.

Roasted Veggies

red potatoes
carrots (the thicker the better)
big sweet onion
olive oil
garlic powder (I used to use garlic salt, but now just let people salt their own if they need it)
rubbed thyme

Wash and scrub however many potatoes you want to use. They go quickly at my house, so I use a lot. Then  use a peeler to get the skin off your carrots.  Next I cut up the potatoes into quarters, sometimes larger if they are small potatoes. I also am careful to remove any "bad spots" and then set them aside.
Next I cut up the carrots into chunks (personal choice how big) and set them aside.  You can actually roast them raw like this, but I prefer to boil them a few moments on the stove top so they can cook in the oven for less time. After boiling the veggies (I do carrots first and then potatoes), I drain them, drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle them generously with thyme, garlic powder, and pepper.

While my veggies boil I saute a sliced sweet onion in olive oil and sprinkle it with thyme and garlic powder. All veggies go onto a large baking dish. I drizzle with olive oil one more time and reseason them, and cook 350-400 degrees till done (about 30 minutes if you pre-boil the carrots and potatoes.Test doneness with a knife). Then I broil for a minute or two to brown  the tops of the  veggies.  It may sound difficult, but its not , just a little time consuming . As you get used to making this fabulous dish, it will go quicker. One thing for sure, these veggies are so delicious that prep time is totally worth it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Blue Jean Dreams...

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh (big sigh)!  My weight loss is staying steady at 18 # gone, but the weight I do have seems to be reproportioning itself.  Yesterday, here in the Valley of the sun, we awoke to cold temps and rain.  It was in the 40's, and you could actually see your breath. Really funny considering 4 days ago it was 100 degrees. Crazy!  Anyway, I was taking the twins out and decided I needed to wear long pants and a jacket, so I had to dig a pair of jeans out of my winter clothes stash that I had already put away.  I grabbed my favorite pair of jeans...a pair I have not been able to wear for the past 3 years...and psyched myself up to try them on. I had already prepared myself for disappointment. Much to my surprise, I pulled them up with ease.  I didn't even need to lay across the bed to button them!  This was huge for me, and I was tickled!  I have held onto these jeans "just in case" I could get back into them one day...Yay me!

Spoon Reviews

So I realised after giving the recipes in my previous posts a certain number of spoons, that I never actually gave an explanation of the review standards. Since I undoubtedly will be reviewing more recipes in the coming months, I thought it best to state the standards upon each will be reviewed. I have even gone back to old recipes and spooned them as well.  So here goes it:

5 spoons = Oh  my gosh this was sooooooooooo awesome!  I can't wait to eat this again! It really knocks my socks off!

4 spoons = Great!  Yummy in the tummy...a definite keeper recipe! Will deinitely make again...putting it on our regular rotaion list!

3 spoons = Good. I enjoyed this recipe. I may/may not make it again, or if I do make it I might tweak it a little...

2 spoons = great shakes...will not be making again because it just didn't float my boat!

1 spoon = Yucko!!! Throw away this recipe and don't look back!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mixed Reviews

Well, it was an interesting and somewhat disappointing day of cooking.  I tried two new dishes: Easy Stuffed Portabella in a Cashew Basil Cheese Sauce and Simple Tofu and Vegetable Stir-Fry with Ginger.

The Portabella recipe was by far the better of the two, and yet I still had a few issues with it.  The original recipe can be found here on Angela's Oh She Glows web site.  I was doubtful about the sauce and when I made it. It's consistency was really thick like a peanut butter. I kept thinking it needed some other liquid in it to thin it out and make it more sauce like, but since this was my first stab at this recipe, I wanted to do it justice and make the sauce as close to the original as possible. The only thing I did differently was to sub olive oil for the sunflower oil, because I couldn't find any.
My mushrooms looked delicious going into the oven, and came out looking good as well. The traditionalist in me made one with a little extra shredded mozzarella strewn over the top and the other without any extra cheese.  The flavor was good, but because my mushrooms weren't uniform in size (one was thin and one was thick), they cooked differently. The thicker one was not as done as I would have like it, and both seemed watery to me.When I brought them out of the oven there were mushroom juices all over the baking sheet. I prefer my mushroom bottoms a little crispier like a pizza crust would be The flavor, however, was a winner.

Well, I dropped the thin slid right off the  dish, and the texture of the thicker one, I didn't care for.  I even tried to cook it longer. it just didn't seem to want to get done.  The cashew cheese sauce was a bright spot in the dish and really contributed a lot to the flavor, I think. After all the dishes were cleaned up, I decided that I would try it again, but I would rework the recipe to make the mushrooms crispier, possibly baking and/or broiling them prior to putting toppings on like I do with any pizza crust that I make.  And, while I liked the cashew cheese sauce flavor, I think I can take it and make it even better, or I may change the cheese sauce completely. Who knows.  On a scale of 5 spoons, this recipe gets 3 spoons. 

The second recipe it seems was from a message board maybe. I'm not sure. It was a stir-fry tofu recipe.  It smelled great, but tasted horrible: a little sour and waaaaay too salty, even for me.  I had high hopes for this dish, but the sauce was so salty, you couldn't taste anything but salt. It pains me to think of all the good veggies I washed and cut up and put in it only to be able to not taste any of them. Bummer.  The tofu was weird. I pressed it and dried it like I was instructed. It smelled like caulk or putty when I took it out of the package. Then after I diced it and marinaded it, I cooked it on the stove top to help with its consistency and to hopefully make it crispier. Unfortunately, nothing could help the flavor.  I want to try tofu again sometime, but it might be awhile. Ironically, my one child who naturally is a light meat eater (if any) said the only thing he like about the dish was the "square chicken." He ate all his tofu and left everything else. Go figure.  So DH had peanut butter, the kids had hamburgers, and I had a bowl of cereal.  It really did end up a mighty fine dinner, Miss Betty.  Only 1 spoon for this one : ( .


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Adventures in Food

You, know, I've tried many recipes over the years for whole wheat pizza crust but have never been able to make one that I thought tasted worth a darn, even when I've used whole wheat pastry flour.  TJ's wheat pizza dough that I froze into individual servings after baking yesterday is the best I've had. It thawed out beautifully and did not get soggy at all.  Once thawed, I topped it with 1 spoonful of ricotta cheese and about 1/8 c. +  of my tomato sauce.  My toppings this first time were onions, mushrooms, black olives, and green olives.  Then  I finished it with just a bit of Italian cheese blend (It's what I had on hand) and baked it on 400 till hot and melty. Once it cooled, I cut the rectangle piece (reminiscent of the Catholic school cafeteria pizzas of my youth in size and shape) into four pizza strips. Its a mind trick I use, but it makes me think I'm eating more if I cut the whole into smaller pieces. I know it's the same amount, but whatever works to make your mind feel you've had enough, right?

Tonight I am soaking cashews for a portabello pizza recipe that I hope to try for lunch tomorrow. Cashews on pizza?  Not the typical pizza topping, but I'll let you know how it works out. Tomorrow will be a culinary experiment for me. Not only am I trying a new recipe at lunch, but I'm also attempting to feed my family a tofu stir fry recipe for the first time for dinner tomorrow.  I  think my boys will be fine with it if they think it's chicken, so mums the word! One thing for sure: whether we have a yummy in my tummy food day tomorrow or a  mighty fine dinner Ms. Betty day, at least we are trying something new and healthy...and you never know what you are missing if you never choose to take a chance.  Culinary adventure, here we come!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance...

It's called the 6 P principle in our house (thanks, Dad!):  proper planning prevents piss poor performance.  It works for most things, I must say. So it was with the 6 P principle in mind that I did some food planning and preparation today. I believe it will  definitely benefit me later in the week and save me some time as well.

First, I rolled out and cooked this great wheat pizza dough I bought at Trader Joe's. 

After I baked it, I cut it up into four rectangle pieces and froze them. This will aid me when I make vegetarian pizza slices for myself over the next week. I made my pizza sauce (tomato sauce, tomato puree, garlic, oregano, and basil) as well.

 Next, I took a can of vegetarian refried beans and put it in my small batter bowl (thanks, Pampered Chef!). Then I  mixed 2 Tbsp. salsa and a sprinkling of taco seasoning with it and mixed well.  Then I made some brown rice. I used TJ's (Trader Joe's) whole wheat tortillas and put about 1/3 c refried bean mixture and 1/4 c brown rice on each one.  On  three of them, I also added a sprinkling of cheddar cheese. Then I rolled them up and froze them. So, now, I can forget about the Amy's burritos I love so much and thaw my own out when I'm wanting a burrito.  I love Mexican food, so they will definitely get eaten. The good thing about taking a little time to make my own is that I have total control and knowledge over what actually made the burrito, and I like that.  Once again, it's true:   proper planning prevents piss poor performance!

A note on Trader Joe's:   I have always liked TJ's, but lately, I am LOVING it!  There are very few things I've tried that I haven't liked. The last time DH and I were there together they had a recipe tasting. It was a TJ's mango chicken sausage baked in their wheat pizza crust, then sliced and topped with TJ's ginger mango chutney (delicious on its own!).  It was such a good dish...I just can't tell you!   I have been thinking about that chicken sausage with ginger mango chutney ever since I tasted it several days ago. I'm thinking I might get a pack to have before my vegetarian summer starts. Our plan (mine and DH's) is to go vegetarian all summer.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Menu April 4th-10th

Monday- Baked chicken breast, southern mixed greens, broccoli, fruit

Tuesday-Big salad w/ egg and ww croutons (us), Mac n cheese, LO broccoli, fruit or yogurt (kids)

Wednesday- soup and sandwiches

Thursday-tofu and veggie stir fry over brown rice, green beans, fruit

Friday- Pizza Friday (kids), LO stir fry and brown rice, fruit

Saturday-black bean soup and tortillas (us),  HB, tots, carrots, fruit (kids)

Sunday- Kung Pao (DH will do this meal)

This menu is a part of Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie. Check out Laura's cool site for organizational tips and even more menu ideas.

 I also got a really helpful meal planning template from The Project Girl.  I am currently using the second one and love it. I date them and keep them handy for future planning. It's a good idea to also put down where you got the recipe (magazine info, web address, etc.), just in case you need to find it later.  Project Girl has a neat site too. Check it out if you get a chance.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Time Out For Me

I was reading an email from that talks about giving yourself a "tune-up" much the same way you would tune up your car.  It makes a lot of sense to me to take stock once in awhile of what you can do to make your life healthier/ step at a time.  The changes don't need to be big changes, just ones that will be helpful for you.  They may not even be changes that involve food.  It can be anything as long as it benefits  you.  So, I've decided to do this once a month, officially. Then I will work on it throughout the month, and assess how I've done at the month's end.  My April tune up will be scheduling exercise time on my calendar and then following through. If it's on my calendar, there's more of a chance I'll do it. It will be a challenge because I have always had trouble doing things for myself. I'm getting better about it, but it's in my nature to think of my family first and myself last. Time out for me will force me to be good to myself just a little bit. And all of us deserve that.

Thought for this month:

There's a difference
between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when it's convenient. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results.

-Kenneth Blanchard

Friday, April 1, 2011

Hellloooooo? Anybody Out There?

Just when I was wondering whether anybody reads me or not, I got two nice comments from two different people.  : )  My number of followers hasn't changed since my blog started, and I get very few (if any) comments, so I didn't know if anyone was really out there. I'm just glad to know someone is reading me. Feedback is fun to get, and I welcome other people's ideas on topics like healthy recipes, chia seeds, etc.  So if you're out there and you're checking in periodically, THANK YOU! (And in my best southern drawl),  "Y'all come back now, ya hear?"