Friday, November 12, 2010

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Ok, so brussel sprouts aren't the most exciting vegetable out there. Like most people, I've never really liked brussel sprouts. I've been trying very hard to incorporate more green vegetables into my diet so I thought I would give these tiny cabbages another shot.

I searched high and low for some way to cook these things without just boiling them to death. Most people will just boil them until they are mush, put some salt on them and then complain that they don't taste good. Gee, I wonder why that would be?

I finally ran across a recipe for broiled brussel sprouts, from Brany Boils Over, that had potential. I changed it up a little and came out with a recipe that I would make again. It would make a great veggie dish during the holidays too.



Roasted Brussel Srpouts
From Branny Boils Over



Ingredients

1 10 oz Bag Frozen Brussel Sprouts
6 Tablespoons Plain Bread Crumbs
2 Tablespoons Margarine, Melted
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions
  1. Steam the sprouts in the microwave.
  2. Cut eat sprout in half lengthwise.
  3. Spray a baking dish with PAM.
  4. Place the cut sprouts into the baking dish.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  6. Sprinkle all of the seasonings onto the sprouts.
  7. Mix the bread crumbs and margarine together and sprinkle over the top of the seasoned sprouts.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes.

If you really want to get fancy you can stick the sprouts under the broiler for 5 minutes after baking. This will give you a nice crispy crumb topping.

Yields: Approximately 6 servings (1/2 cup each)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Please forgive me, I have Baked Falafel

I know I'm a LLPOF (liar, liar, pants on fire). I said I took a short break and would be back and then...nothing. I haven't posted in almost 3 months. That is completely inexcusable. I guess I should start by giving an update on what's been going on here and then, to try to win your forgiveness, I'll give you a most excellent recipe for baked falafel. You will love it, I promise.

So bake in August, when I last posted, I was still on the weight loss journey and becoming increasingly frustrated with my lack of progress. I was also a little down about our fertility problems. Well, let me tell you all of that has changed!

On September 1st I went to my fertility doctor for my routine blood draw and to begin planning my next cycle of medications. That afternoon I got a call from the nurse telling me that our August cycle had worked. We were finally pregnant! I was in shock. I had been having PMS symptoms for a couple of days and was absolutely positive that I was going to start my period any second. I even went to the store to by tampons after my blood draw. I called Vince at work and told him that I was pregnant. He was in the middle of a meeting and couldn't talk, but I think he was a little lost for words anyway. As soon as I got off the phone with him, I ran over to CVS and purchase a couple of digital pregnancy tests. I needed to see the positive result for myself. I took a total of 4 tests that afternoon. It was a shock each time to see "Pregnant" show up in the window.

On September 15 I went in to the doctor for my first ultrasound. I was 6 weeks pregnant at that point. We were able to see a little blob and a tiny little flicker of a heartbeat. On September 22 we had our 2nd and final ultrasound with the fertility doctor. At this appointment our baby looked like a little Gummi Bear with arm and leg numbs. We were able to see a strong heart beating away at 131 beats per minute.

My last ultrasound was on October 25. This was done as part the NT scan to test for Down's Syndrome. Our baby actually looked like a little baby at this point. He was jumping around all over the place, kicking at the ultrasound wand, and waving his/her arms around. He/she flipped over to moon us at one point too. It was very cute. We will not find out the sex of the baby until mid-December when we do the anatomy scan. I can't wait to see him/her again!

I've made my first maternity clothing purchases and will be wearing them very soon. My belly just keeps on growing. When I got to 8 weeks along, my doctor had me come off of the Metformin that I had been taking. As soon as I came off of it, I gained 7 pounds. My doctor and I were worried about my weight during this pregnancy so I made an appointment with a dietitian. The dietitian put me on a strict carb control diet and upped my calories to 2000 per day. I've also been told to limit my exercise to keep my heart rate under 140. I have so far lost 4 pounds, so I am doing well keeping healthy. I'm also hopeful that I won't have much to lose once the baby is born.

In other news, we have decided to do some renovations to our condo. We are meeting with a contractor tomorrow for pricing and timelines. We are going to remodel our kitchen, put in a laundry room, add a den workspace, put in crown molding and new baseboards, and put in new lighting and tray ceilings in the bedrooms. We are hoping to have all of the work finished by April so that we have time to set up the nursery before the baby gets here.

I have not been reading as much since summer ended. I have a few book reviews to give on books that I read over the summer and I'm always looking for a good read. Recommend 'em if you got 'em!

I've been going through more of my photos from various vacations and trips so I'll be making a few posts to show off some of my photography. I know it is a complete attention whore thing to do but, isn't that the purpose of a blog anyway?

Thanksgiving is in 2 weeks. That means that Christmas is right around the corner! I plan to be giving lots of updates on Black Friday sales and my holiday baking projects. I have tons of recipes to add to my list.

So, without further ado...Baked Falafel!

Since meeting with the dietitian I have been searching for recipes that are low carb and higher in protein. I found an awesome blog by a registered dietitian and have slowly been trying out her recipes. So far so good! I got this recipe from her blog and made a few slight changes to suit my personal tastes.

I found the recipe on the blog PreventionRD. Please check out her whole blog, she has tons of yummy stuff on there!



Baked Falafel
From PreventionRD


Ingredients

1 Cup Dried Garbonzo Beans (Chick Peas)
1 Medium Yellow Onion, chopped
1/2 Cup Fresh Parsely, chopped
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Minced Garlic
1 Teaspoon Cumin
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
6 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
5 Whole Wheat Pitas, cut in half
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Cherry Tomatoes
Cucumber Slices

Directions
  1. Soak the beans in water overnight.
  2. The next day, drain the beans and put them into a food processor with the onion.
  3. Pulse until well chopped and blended.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and blend well.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  6. Lightly grease a baking sheet. (I use PAM spray.)
  7. Form the bean mixture into walnut sized balls (about 20) and place on the baking sheet.
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Spread 2 tablespoons of hummus on to a pita half and then fill with 2 falafel balls, cucumbers, and tomatoes.

This recipe can be doctored up in any number of ways. Use tahini sauce instead of hummus, or use a different flavor of hummus. Use any type of vegetable you want to stuff the pita with. Very filling, nutritious, and low on points!

Yields: 10 servings

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hello again.

It has been a month since my last update. I took a much needed break from blogging for awhile. I was getting frustrated with my lack of progress with weight-loss, lack of progress getting pregnant, lack of progress getting new recipes out, and lack of progress in the job arena.

It has been a busy month for me. I still have not had much progress with weight-loss but I haven't gained any either, so I guess it isn't all bad.

As a part of our trials to have a baby, I go through tons of tests each month. I get blood tests and ultrasounds done 3 times a week. I also take massive amounts of medication. I am taking Metformin, which I take in pill form. I take 3 pills per day. I also take Clomid in pill form. I currently only take 1 pill a day but that may increase. I take Gonal-F, which is Follicle Stimulating Hormone. This is an injection that I take once a day. I then take Ovidrel, which is also known as a "trigger shot". I only get this injection once a month. During all of these tests, my doctor noticed that my TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) was extremely low, almost non-existent. This was not news to me. I have a very large nodule on my thyroid that is not fully attached. So the nodule moves around in my throat. As it moves, it presses on different areas of my thyroid, suppressing different hormones with each move. Still, the doctor was uncomfortable continuing my treatment until I had it looked at by an endocrinologist. So off I went to have yet more blood tests done and another ultrasound of my throat. I'm still waiting to hear back about the ultrasound but all of the blood work showed what I already knew it would. The endocrinologist agreed with my assessment and OK'd me to continue fertility treatments. So here we are. I am taking my trigger shot tonight and on Wednesday we will be doing our very first IUI. An IUI, most commonly known as "the turkey baster", is Intrauterine Insemination or artificial insemination. We will try IUI for 3 cycles and if we do not get pregnant, we will move on to IVF or Invitro Fertilization (the petri dish).

Vince and I took a short trip to Grapevine, Texas for the annual NATIA show. We got to see Vince's family while we were there and it was nice to have a couple of days to relax and not think about doctors and work.

Even though we were "not working", I managed to pass out my business card to a few people at the conference and am hopeful that I'll have some new business from it soon. I'm still trying to get my mind in the right place and get my website finished. I'm hoping to have it done by the end of this week.

I have tons of recipes to post, but I'm waiting until I have some good pictures. I got a new photo studio for my birthday and have been having a blast taking new pictures of everything. I've been playing around with seamless backgrounds and lighting. Hopefully my pictures will start to look a little more professional very soon.

Here are few pictures just to show you how much better they are looking!


I have also been keeping up with my book challenge. I haven't posted my new book picks in awhile but that post is coming soon. I will tell you that my all time new favorite book is Outlander by Diana Gabaldan. It has everything you can think of in a 900 page book. Time travel, romance, steamy sex scenes, wild sword fights, huge battle scenes, kidnapping, prison breaks, rape, murder, witch trials, and oh so much more. My full review will be in my next book post. All I have to say is go get this book right now! You won't be able to put it down.

Now that I have you all up to date on where I've been for the last month, we will now resume our regular programming.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Book Challenge Update - Reviews

We are now 2 weeks into the summer book challenge. I haven't been a speedy reader but I've managed to read 2 books. That's a book a week so I don't think I'm doing too bad.

These reviews contain spoilers of the books/movies, so if you haven't read/seen them yet you might not want to read this.


I read Dances with Wolves by Micheal Blake. This book fit the task of reading a book with a Native American character. I really enjoyed this book. It is strikingly similar to the movie, even down to some of the dialogue. There were some significant differences though. For instance, the Indians in the book were Comanche not Sioux. The book was set in Colorado, not South Dakota like the movie. There are several other differences between the book and the movie but probably the most significant is the ending. In the movie, Dances with Wolves and his wife Stands with a Fist leave the Indian camp and trek out on their own so the white soldiers won't find the camp and slaughter the Indians. In the book, Dances with Wolves proposes this scenario but the chief Ten Bears rejects it. Dances with Wolves stays in the camp with his wife and we learn that they are starting a family.

There is a sequel to the book called The Holy Road. This book catches up with Dances with Wolves eleven years after the first book. Dances with Wolves and Stands with a Fist have three children and still live in Ten Bears village. In this book, white soldiers attack the village killing half of the inhabitants and abducting Stands with a Fist and her infant daughter. Dances with Wolves, along with the other Comanche warriors, go to war with the white soldiers. This book is also in the process of being made into a movie. Kevin Costner has declined participation but Viggo Mortenson has been slated to play Dances with Wolves. I have this book on my "to-read" list.


The second book that I read was Along Came a Spider by James Patterson. I used this book to fit the task of reading a book set in a major city. The book is set in Washington DC. This is the first book in the Alex Cross series and was made into a movie starring Morgan Freeman. I had actually read Mary, Mary first and was interested in the series enough to want to start from the beginning. I will start by saying that I saw the movie Along Came a Spider many years ago, and I enjoyed it so I was looking forward to reading the book. Boy was I disappointed.

First, the movie and the book are two completely different stories. The main characters have the same names and there is the basic plot of the kidnapping of a famous child from school, but other than that...nothing. The personalities of the characters are different, some of the character names are different, what happens to the children, what happens to the criminals, everything is different.

Second, racism is prevalent in this book. Alex Cross and his family are racist. Their attitudes overshadow everything going on. I was a little shocked and kind of disgusted when Cross did not want to be assigned to the kidnapping case simply because the victims were white. He has yelling and sometimes physical arguments throughout the book, all based on race. His grandmother disapproves of his relationship with Jezzie because "you can't trust white people". This point is made several times in the book. I found it a little irritating that Cross was so pissed off that the "black" murders in DC would go unsolved (these were committed by Soneji along with the kidnapping) yet the unsolved kidnapping and murder of the white children didn't piss him off at all.

I did enjoy the character development of the murderer/kidnapper Soneji/Murphey. Patterson did a good job creating a character that was a complete sociopath and a possible multiple personality.

Other than the Soneji character, the book was fairly predictable. It was pretty easy to figure out who the bad guys were. I will say that the ending was a little bit of a surprise. I wasn't expecting Maggie Rose (the kidnapped girl) to be found in Bolivia and I definitely wasn't expecting Jezzie to get the death penalty. The book did end with a set up for a sequel. Cross is leaving Jezzie's execution and finds a note from Soneji on the windshield of his car. This is the one and only reason I would pick up the next book in this series. I was fascinated by the Soneji character and would read the next book just to see what happens to this character. I will say that in Mary, Mary Alex Cross is a much different character. Perhaps the character matures as the series continues or maybe Patterson got too much flack for the racism in this book. Who knows. I'm glad this was not the first Patterson book the I read, if it had been I would not have read any others. As it is, I will probably pick up the next in the series to see what happens to Gary Soneji, but that won't be for quite awhile. I think I'm all Patterson-ed out for now.

Book Challenge Total: 15 Points out of a possible 450 points

My next selections are:
Dead Man Walking by Helen Prejean for the task of reading a book about a subject you disagree with. 25 points
Outlander by Diane Gabaldon for the task of reading a book with a one work title. 5 points
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer for the task of starting a series I haven't read yet. 25 points

Monday, July 12, 2010

Weigh In

Hi there! I know I haven't posted anything this week. It was a busy week. We were getting ready for a yard sale, so most of my time was taken up with going through our storage unit, sorting junk, and tagging items. Then we got rained out on Saturday so our yard sale is postponed until this coming Saturday. At least I have all of the work done.

I'm pretty happy with my results this week. I didn't have a huge loss but I did have a loss, which is better than the last few weeks. I'm hoping that this means I'm over the plateau and will be on the losing train again.

I am feeling much better about my diet. I started using The Daily Plate again. I even downloaded the app for my iTouch so I can use it while I'm out. I really wasn't doing too bad but my carbs got a little out of control. I've upped my calorie intake to 1600 to see if that would push me into losing weight again.

I've also been doing really well with the Couch to 5k program. I didn't think I would like it as much as I do. I love that I can go at my own pace. It may take me forever to finish the 5k but I do finish it. I know that the longer I do it, the faster I'll get so I'm not really worried about my times right now. It is an awesome workout but I never feel like I over did it. I have not felt sore or strained, just more energetic. It really is a great feeling. I do need to buy some new shoes though. I've been using my regular cross trainers (shhh, don't tell anyone) and think that I'll need actual running shoes if I start running outside. Fortunately it has been way to hot and humid to do much of anything outdoors so I've been at the gym.

I know that my weight loss has been slow going but I'm happy with the results so far. I know it won't happen overnight and I think I'm being pretty healthy about it. I'm a little disappointed with Vince's commitment though. He has stopped doing his "no processed foods" diet and he has pretty much stopped working out. He says that he just has too much stress to think about dieting and not enough time in the day to get in a workout. He also said that he feels better after a stressful day when he can come home and have junk food. Just yesterday as we were out running errands he tried to convince me to make a stop at McDonald's before going out to dinner with friends. Yes, you read that right. He wanted to have a meal at McDonald's and then go out to dinner two hours later. I convinced him that having an Italian Ice (90 calories) would be much more enjoyable on such a hot day. So we stopped at Rita's instead of McD's. He also picked up a bunch of granola bars and stuff to "snack on". I told him he had to take them to work because I did not want them in the house. It makes me sad that he really has no desire to lose weight and become healthier. No matter how much healthy food I have in the house or how much cooking I do, it just isn't enough for him. I know I can't force him to participate but I wish he would, it would make things much easier if we were doing this together.

Well, tonight will be a little heavy on the carbs. It is my mother-in-law's birthday so we will be going out to eat (although I'll try to keep it healthy) and have cake after dinner. I'm baking the cake but it is definitely not low-cal or healthy in any way. But boy is it good. :)

Here are the stats for this week:

Weight: 236.6 (-1 pounds)
Hips: 49 inches (no change)
Waist: 39 inches (-1 inch)
Bust: 37 inches (-1 inch)
Arms: 14 inches (no change)
Thighs: 25.5 inches (+.5 inch)
Calves: 16.5 inches (no change)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Weigh In

I realized that I skipped my weigh in last week. It completely slipped my mind. Although I don't think it really makes much of a difference. I seem to be on a plateau. I haven't lost any weight since getting back from Phoenix. I've fluctuated 1 pound up and down. I still haven't lost the four pounds that I gained while on vacation.

I am definitely frustrated but I'm hoping that the C25K program will help get me over the hump and back to losing weight. I'm starting week 2 of the program and it is going much better than I expected. I'm going about 2.5 miles alternating between walking and jogging. I really like that the workouts are timed, it helps me get through them knowing how long I have to do each task.

I have gone back to The Daily Plate once again. I feel like I have gotten off track with my calorie intake, so I'm tracking once again.

I will be starting some new meds this week. One of the side effects can be water retention. I hope it doesn't effect my weight too much. We shall see.

Here are this week's measurements.

Weight: 237. (-.4 pounds)
Hips: 49 inches (-1 inch)
Waist: 40 inches (+1 inch)
Bust: 38 inches (+1 inch)
Arms: 14 inches (no change)
Thighs: 25 inches (-1 inch)
Calves: 16.5 inches (no change)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Best Banana Bread Ever

I love banana bread. There are two schools of thought when it comes to this nutty banana confection. Some people like their banana bread to be like bread. My mom for example makes an excellent banana bread that can be sliced, toasted, and buttered. Just like any other bread but with a nutty banana flavor. I, on the other hand, prefer my banana bread to be more cake-like. I prefer a sweet, light bread that could pass for a muffin. And I really like it with chocolate chips.

I have been making banana bread for years. Usually just once or twice a year during my quest for the perfect recipe. The perfect balance of sweetness and nuttiness, of bread and muffin. Up until last month I was still searching. I had found some decent recipes but none that really stuck out in my mind and none that I had bothered to put into my recipe book for future use. That is until last month.

Last month I was preparing to go to Phoenix to visit my mom. I knew that I had a long flight with a 3 hour lay-over. I also knew that I did not want to spend a boatload of money on airport food or even worse, airplane food. So I decide to pack myself a dinner and snack.

I made a yummy turkey sandwich on homemade whole wheat bread with lettuce, tomato, and mayo. I was going to pack some fruit when I noticed that I had 3 very over-ripe bananas sitting in the fruit bowl. What else do you do with over-ripe bananas besides make banana bread?

So I hit the internet on a search for a quick recipe that used what I had handy in the house. I finally ran across an awesome recipe on the blog How Sweet It Is.

I tweaked the recipe to add an extra banana, walnuts, and make the whole thing dairy-free. It is seriously the best banana bread I've ever eaten. It is moist, sweet, nutty, and full of banana flavor. I made 4 mini loaves so I could bring some to my mom in Phoenix. We ended up eating all of it within my first week there.

I don't know how to put into words how good this bread is. I've already made the recipe twice since returning from Phoenix last month. I even purposely bought bananas and let them over-ripen just so I could make this bread with them. I currently have 2 mini loaves in the freezer, for fear that we will eat them too quickly.

If you are ever going to make a banana bread, make this one. If you have made one before and didn't like it...make this one instead. I guarantee you will fall in love with it.

Best Banana Bread Ever
From How Sweet It Is



Ingredients

1 Stick Margarine, Softened
3oz Soy Cream Cheese (Tofutti brand)
1 Cup Brown Sugar
3 Very Ripe Bananas
1 Large Egg
1/4 Cup Soy Sour Cream (Tofutti brand)
1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour (may substitute Whole Wheat)
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Chocolate Chips
1 1/2-2 Cups Chopped Walnuts

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).
  2. Grease or line pans.
  3. In a large bowl, cream the margarine, sugar, and cream cheese until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the bananas, sour cream, and egg.
  5. Mix until smooth.
  6. Mix in the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.
  7. Fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
  8. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean.

This can be baked in 2 regular sized loaf pans for 60-75 minutes, 4 mini loaf pans for 35-40 minutes, or in regular size muffin pans for 25-30 minutes. These baking times are approximate and will vary by oven and location.

Yields: 2 loaves

Don't be afraid to experiment with this recipe! Try different kinds of nuts or different types of chips (peanut butter chips would be interesting). It really is a very tailorable recipe.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Moroccan Chicken with Lemon and Olives

This is one of my favorite dishes at Casablanca, a local Moroccan restaurant. Although my absolute favorite is the Bastilla pastry, which I will be attempting to make at some point.

I was a little intimidated at first. At the restaurant, it seems like a dish that takes all day to cook. The flavors are intense and the chicken is always perfectly cooked and falling off the bone. I had no idea how to go about making this one. So I did what everyone else does, I searched the internet for recipes. I was actually surprised at how many I found, and they all seemed to be pretty similar. I don't have a Tagine, which is the traditional way to cook this dish, so I chose a recipe that was cooked on the stove top.

I found a recipe on the Bon Appetit website. I followed the directions exactly, since I'm not familiar enough with this dish to start making substitutions. It was awesome.

It blends all of the traditional Moroccan flavors of cumin, ginger, cinnamon, etc. in a thick savory sauce for the chicken. Since the chicken is cooked in the sauce, it is infused with all of these flavors. My house smelled awesome while I was cooking this. I get hungry just thinking about it. Yum.

I served it over Basmati rice and had a big salad along side.


Moroccan Chicken with Lemon and Olives

From Bon Appetit


Ingredients

1 Whole Chicken (Approx. 4 pounds), Cut into 8 Pieces with skin removed
1 Large Lemon
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Large Yellow Onion, Diced
2 Teaspoons Minced Garlic
1 Tablespoon Paprika
2 Teaspoons Ground Cumin
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
2 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1/2 Cup Green Olives

Directions
  1. Heat olive oil in a large chef's pan or skillet.
  2. Add the diced onion.
  3. Saute the onion until golden brown.
  4. Add the garlic, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, and ginger to the pan.
  5. Mix with the onion for 1 minute.
  6. Add the chicken broth.
  7. Bring to a boil.
  8. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
  9. Add the chicken to the pan.
  10. Cut the lemon into small wedges and add to the pan.
  11. Cover the pan, reduce heat, and simmer for 30-40 minutes. You want the meat to be cooked through and ready to fall off the bone.
  12. Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the pan.
  13. Add olives to the skillet.
  14. Boil until the sauce is thickened.

Serve by placing the chicken over rice and pouring the sauce over everything.

Yield: 5 servings

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Nest Summer Book Challenge

You may have noticed the bookshelf that I've added to the blog. I've been spending some time looking for a book group to join. I read quite a bit and I'm always on the lookout for new books to try. This bookshelf lists most of the books I've read as an adult and will be updated as I finish books. I might start making some posts about recent books I've read too.

The Nest is a sister-site to The Knot. I used The Knot while planning our wedding and made the transition over to The Nest shortly after. They have lots of great boards (message boards, that is) for all sorts of info. I spend the majority of my time on the Travel, Book Club, What's Cooking, and Health & Fitness boards.

The Book Club board does quarterly challenges (Winter, Spring, Summer, & Fall). I finally decided to take part in one of the challenges just to see if I liked it.

The summer book challenge begins on July 1 and ends September 30. I thought it might be fun to post the entire challenge and maybe some of you will want to try it out too.

The challenge works with a point system. Basically, there are 5, 10, 15, and 25 point tasks. You pick a book to read that meets a task criteria. Once you have finished that book you are awarded the corresponding point value. The person with the most points at the end of the challenge wins. I don't know if the Book Club awards prizes or not but if any of you are interested in doing this with me, we can come up with our own prize for the winner.

Here are the challenge tasks for summer 2010 along with my book choice for the category and a few recommendations. I should note that I have not read all of the books in the "recommendations" lists. I just did a search for books that fit the criteria that I would be interested in reading or have already read. If anyone has any other suggestions that they want me to add, please let me know and I'll update the list.

Send me a message if you want to participate with me. We can then figure out how we want to do updates and reviews.

5 Point Tasks

Read a book that takes place in a place you never want to visit.
My Pick: Princess, A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia by Jean P. Sasson
Other Recommendations:
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Borderland by Anna Reid
The Singapore Grip by J.G. Farrell
Nothing to Envy, Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky by Alephonsion Deng
Blood Diamonds by Greg Campbell
Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman
Girl Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

August 1st is Girlfriends day: Read a book about a group of women friends.
My Pick: Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy
Other Recommendations:
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
How to Make and American Quilt by Whitney Otto
The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs
How Close We Come by Susan Kelly
The Wildwater Walking Club by Claire Cook

Read a one word titled book.
My Pick: Outlander by Diane Gabaldon
Other Recommendations:
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
It by Stephen King
Contact by Carl Sagan
Misery by Stephen King
Plainsong by Kent Haruf

June is skyscraper month: Read a book set in a major city.
My Pick: Along Came a Spider by James Patterson
Other Recommendations:
Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella
Mary, Mary by James Patterson
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

Read a book by a favorite author that you have not read yet.
My Pick: Watch Them Die by Kevin O'Brien
Other Recommendations:
Confessions of an Ugly Step-Sister by Gregory Maguire
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philipa Gregory
Vicious by Kevin O'Brien

August 13th is the only Friday the 13th of the year: Read a mystery or thriller.
My Pick: Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
Other Recommendations:
Shatter by Michael Robotham
Vicious by Kevin O'Brien
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stiegg Larsson
The Sookie Stackhouse Series by Charlaine Harris
The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King
Mystic River by Dennis Lehane

June 8 is World Ocean day: Read a book that is set at the ocean.
My Pick: Voyage on the Great Titanic: The Diary of Margaret Ann Brady by Ellen Emerson White
Other Recommendations:
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
Dear John by Nicholas Sparks
Crimson Tide by Richard P. Henrick

In honor of July 4th fireworks: Read a romance novel.
My Pick: Mount Vernon Love Story by Mary Higgins Clark
Other Recommendations:
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
Any books by Nora Roberts
Spring Torrents by Ivan Turgenev

Read a dystopian or utopian novel.
My Pick: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Other Recommendations:
Blindness by Jose Saramago
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
1984 by George Orwell
The Stand by Stephen King

July is national picnic month: Read a book on a picnic blanket or with a picnic word in the title.
My Pick: Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray
Other Recommendations:
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
How to Make an American Quilt by Whitney Otto
Sandwiched by Jennifer Archer
Cucumbers Have Thorns and Snakes Love Strawberries by Janice Sullivan
Strawberry Shortcake Murder by Joanne Fluke

10 Point Tasks

Read an historical Non-Fiction.
My Pick: The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
Other Recommendations:
The Devil in the White City Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
Night by Elie Weisel
1776 by David McCullough
Desperate Passage Ethan Rarick
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

July 11th is a total solar eclipse: Read a book with a black cover.
My Pick: The Last Victim by Kevin O'Brien
Other Recommendations:
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collings
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi

Summer outdoor activities: Read a book where the characters do an outdoors activity.
My Pick: Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Other Recommendations:
A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean
Sail by James Patterson
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Read a book where the title or author’s name starts with a J, A, or S. A as the first word of the title does not count.
My Pick: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Other Recommendations:
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

Read a book with a Native American main character or written by a Native American author.
My Pick: Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake
Other Recommendations:
The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
WindTalkers by Max Allan Collins
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen

Read a memoir, autobiography, or biography.
My Pick: Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
Other Recommendations:
Julie and Julia by Julie Powell
A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
Tuesday with Morrie by Mitch Albom
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

Read a book for adults by an author that also writes children’s books.
My Pick: What the Dickens by Gregory Maguire
Other Recommendations:
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Stardust by Neil Gaiman

In honor of Dear Diary day: Read a book written in diary form.
My Pick: The Diary of Jack the Ripper by Shirley Harrison
Other Recommendations:
Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
Dear America Series

National aviation day: Read a book about flying or traveling.
My Pick: Drangonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
Other Recommendations:
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

September 2nd is national beheading day: Read a book about someone being executed or who was executed.
My Pick: Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Margaret George
Other Recommendations:
The Green Mile by Stephen King
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette by Carolly Erickson
The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory

15 Point Tasks

National psychic week is August 4-8: Read a book with a ghost or someone who has physic abilities.
My Pick: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind
Other Recommendations:
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder
The Lovey Bones by Alice Sebold

Summer blockbusters are out: Read a book, then watch the movie or television show.
My Pick: The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum
Other Recommendations:
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abignale
A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar
Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Frannie Flagg
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

Read a book by an author whose name you can’t pronounce.
My Pick: Angel's Fire, Demon's Blood by Tamela Quijas
Other Recommendations:
Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers
Light My World by Aasiyah Qamar

National payroll week is September 3-7: Read a book about finances or where the main character has the career you would love to have.
My Pick: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Other Recommendations:
Freakonomics by Steven Levitt
The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach

Read either July, August, or September’s book club book and participate in the discussion.
My Pick: July's book selection
July:Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides
August:Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
September:

Read a book about the paranormal.
My Pick: The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
Other Recommendations:
In a Dark Place by Ray Garton
Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
Any Anne Rice books
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
Most Stephen King books
Communion by Whitley Streiber
Fire in the Sky by Travis Walton


August is national smile month: Read a book that has a cover that makes you laugh or a humor book.
My Pick: The Princess Bride by S. Morganstern
Other Recommendations:
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea. by Chelsea Handler

Support the book bloggers: Read a book a blogger you follow recommends during the challenge. Then post your review with link to your favorite blogger's original review post.
My Pick:
Other Recommendations:

Read a book that you keep looking at and then put down. Discuss the book and why it kept drawing you in and why you kept putting it down.
My Pick: Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Other Recommendations:
The Shack by William P. Young
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
The Stand by Stephen King

Read an author who, at the time of the challenge, has only released one book. Discuss the book and if you would read more by that author.
My Pick: Nightshade by Shea Godfrey
Other Recommendations:
A list of debut authors can be found on this website:
www.debutauthorsblog.com

25 Point Tasks

Read a book and then contact the author via email or snail mail. Try to get a reply by asking questions/telling the author how you felt about the book. You can also go to a book signing and talk to the author there. Report back with your results!

Read 2 books, both written by immigrants into the US from different countries, where immigration is a subject of the book (i.e. one of the characters is an immigrant). Comment on the difference of experiences that immigrants from different countries have in the US.
Recommendations:
A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian by Marina Lewycka
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Night of Many Dreams by Gail Tsukiyama
Honolulu by Alan Brennert
Snow Falling On Cedars by David Guterson
The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
A Good Scent From A Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler

Monday, June 21, 2010

Weigh In

It's Monday once again. That time of the week when I show my progress, or lack there of. This week begins a very busy schedule for me.

Today is the first day of classes. My last class for my Associate degree. I would have had my degree in June but wouldn't you know there was just one more class that I "had" to take. I think the school does it on purpose. They don't really want to see you leave...with all of your money. Oh well. So here I am with a Calculus book on the table. I should have my degree by December and then transfer to a 4 year school to complete my BA in Graphic Design.

After much deliberation, hemming and hawing, working up the courage, and just plain old bribing myself, I've decided to try out the Couch to 5k program. I've been saying for quite some time now that I need to vary my workouts. I try to do cardio at least 4 days a week but I get tired of the elliptical for every workout. I vary it with hiking outdoors, when the weather isn't too bad. I keep saying I'm going to go to some classes at the gym, and I've found one that I really want to try, but I'm a chicken shit and won't go alone. Vince's sister belongs to the same gym, so I ask her on occasion to go with me. So far we have not been able to mesh our schedules to go together. The class is given every Monday morning at 10:30. I really just need to do it, alone or not. Someone please give me a push next Monday.

Anyway, the Couch to 5k program is a beginners running program. It is a 9 week schedule of 3 runs a week. You alternate walking and running for session, increasing the run time and decreasing the walk time with each week. The goal is to be able to run 5k (3 miles) by the end of the 9 weeks. Here's the website with the schedule info.

The park right across the street has a walking/jogging trail on it. The entire trail is only 1/2 mile long so I'll have to make a few rounds but at least I know it is measured out and close by. The park near Vince's mom, has a 4 mile long trail around the lake. That might be nice if I make it to the end of the program.

This is the schedule that I plan to keep.

Week 1
Monday, Wednesday, & Friday:
Alternate 60 seconds of jogging with 90 seconds of walking for a total of 30 minutes.

Week 2
Monday, Wednesday, & Friday:
Alternate 90 seconds of jogging with 2 minutes of walking for a total of 30 minutes.

Week 3
Monday, Wednesday, & Friday:
2 repetitions of Jog 200 yds, Walk 200 yds, Jog 400 yds, Walk 400 yds

Week 4
Monday, Wednesday, & Friday:
Jog 1/4 mile, Walk 1/8 mile, Jog 1/2 mile, Walk, 1/4 mile, Jog 1/4 mile, Walk 1/8 mile, Jog 1/2 mile

Week 5
Monday:
Jog 1/2 mile, Walk 1/4 mile, Jog 1/2 mile, Walk 1/4 mile, Jog 1/2 mile
Wednesday:
Jog 3/4 mile, Walk 1/2 mile, Jog 3/4 mile
Friday:
Jog 2 miles with no walking

Week 6
Monday:
Jog 1/2 mile, Walk 1/4 mile, Jog 3/4 mile, Walk 1/4 mile, Jog 1/2 mile
Wednesday:
Jog 1 mile, Walk 1/4 mile, Jog 1 mile
Friday:
Jog 2.25 miles with no walking

Week 7
Monday, Wednesday, & Friday:
Jog 2.5 miles with no walking

Week 8
Monday, Wednesday, & Friday:
Jog 2.75 miles with no walking

Week 9
Monday, Wednesday, & Friday:
Jog 3 miles with no walking

I really hope I can stick with this program. So many people have told me that if I start running the weight will "just fall off". While I don't believe it will be that easy, I am hoping that by switching up my workouts my body will respond kindly. Who knows, I might actually like running.

Vince has decided to do a "Paleo" type diet. Basically he doesn't want to eat any processed foods. The thought is that the longer it took to process it, the longer it will take your body to get rid of it. This diet is a little too strict for my liking and I don't actually think it's all that healthy. He plans to not only cut out processed foods but also carbs and most fats. He will be eating a very high protein diet. I'll have to make sure he gets plenty of veggies and fiber in there too. I will continue to watch my calorie intake and am going to start trying to get rid of some sugar/carbs from my diet. But I won't be going full Paleo along with Vince. I'll keep you posted on his progress.

Speaking of progress, I had none this week. I'm really struggling to get back into the swing of things. Those 2 weeks of "vacation" in Phoenix really screwed with my internal schedule, and let's face it, with my will power as well. The good is that I didn't gain, the bad is that I didn't lose. So here are the stats for this week.

Weight: 238.0 (no change)
Hips: 50 (+1 inch)
Waist: 39 (-1 inches)
Bust: 37 (no change)
Arms: 14 (no change)
Thighs: 26 (+1 inch)
Calves: 16.5 (no change)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Creamy Non-Dairy Rice Pudding

I love rice pudding, tapioca pudding, chocolate pudding, pistachio pudding...well, just about any kind of pudding really. I love the texture in rice and tapioca puddings. The creaminess of the custard pudding combined with the soft rice. Yum.

My problem has always been the amount of time it takes to make. I also didn't want to have to use a half gallon of milk to make it. Once I get the craving for rice pudding I want it now, not in 2 hours. This recipe takes a total of 40 minutes, and that includes the time to cook the rice. I usually just use leftover rice so that cuts the time down to 20 minutes.

Typical rice pudding calls for regular white rice. I have used Basmati and Jasmine to make this recipe. I think using these fragrant rices really adds to the sweetness and flavor of the pudding. The medium and long grain rices will also give a creamier pudding because of the starch content. I've also seen recipes that use Spanish yellow rice along with Spanish seasonings to make Cuban Arroz con Leche. I plan to try it with brown rice as well but I think I'll need to make a few adjustments for sweetness and texture. I'll update if I ever get around to trying it out.



Creamy Non-Dairy Rice Pudding



Ingredients

3/4 Cups Uncooked Rice (or 1 1/2 Cups Cooked Rice)
1 1/2 Cups Water
2 Cups Unsweetened, Unflavored, Soy Milk (you could also use vanilla soy/almond milk for more flavor and sweetness)
2/3 Cups Sugar
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Large Egg, Beaten
1 Tablespoon Margarine
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Nutmeg
Optional: 2/3 Cup Raisins (some people like to soak the raisins in rum prior to adding)

Directions

If you are using leftover rice, skip steps 1 & 2.
  1. Boil the water in a sauce pan.
  2. Add the rice to the boiling water and cook for 20 minutes, until all the water is absorbed.
  3. Add the sugar, salt, and 1 1/2 cups milk to the rice.
  4. Cook over medium heat until thick and creamy, about 15 minutes.
  5. In a small bowl, beat the egg with 1/2 cup milk.
  6. Add the egg/milk to the rice pudding.
  7. Add the raisins.
  8. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  9. Remove from heat and add the margarine, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Serve the pudding warm. If you choose to serve the pudding cold, you will have to add about 1/2 cup more milk since the pudding thickens as it cools.

Yields: 6 servings

Quick, easy, and yummy. This recipe even won over Vince, who was convinced that rice pudding was a bland and flavorless glob.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday Weigh In

So today was a big day. It was my first appointment at Shady Grove Fertility Center. My first appointment with a specialist to try to get pregnant. It went really well. My appointment lasted over 2 hours. We went over everything from my diet to genetic counseling. We now have a plan for the coming months and are very hopeful that the summer will end with a baby.

What does all of this have to do with my weight in, you might ask? Well, as I posted several months ago, I was diagnosed with PCOS with insulin resistance (IR). I was prescribed Metformin to correct the IR. However, I was prescribed a very low dose, only 500mg per day. I immediately started to see a difference and began to slowly lose weight for the first time in years. At my appointment today, Dr. Saffan decided to increase my dosage to 1500mg per day. He is confident that I will lose weight much more quickly. In fact, he thinks I'll be down 10-15 pounds by July. I can't tell you how awesome it is to think that I'll be able to lose weight like a normal person. That I won't have to struggle with hours of workouts every week only to see a 1 pound weight loss. Of course, I'll continue my workouts and eating healthy, watching my calories, and watching my portion sizes. I'm just hopeful that I will see bigger results now.

So on to this week's weigh in. I'm still in damage control mode from my trip to Phoenix. I gained around 4 pounds. That really sucked because it takes me so long to lose it again. The house if full of healthy food again and I'm feverishly cooking to keep our freezer stocked with easy meals and snacks. I also have a couple of new recipes that I'm trying out. So keep an eye out for those coming soon.

Weight: 238.0 (-1 pound)
Hips: 49 (no change)
Waist: 40 (+.5 inches)
Bust: 37 (no change)
Arms: 14 (-.5 inch)
Thighs: 25 (-1 inch)
Calves: 16.5 (-.5 inch)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Non-Dairy Coconut Ice Cream

I recently tried Soy Delicious Coconut Almond Bars. For those of you that are not aware, Soy Delicious makes vegan (aka dairy-free) ice cream products. The bars were awesome. They were a creamy coconut ice cream covered in chocolate and almonds. The good: They are delicious and only 170 calories. The bad: They cost almost $6 for a box of 4 bars. There's no way I could justify that, no matter how good they are.

So my quest for the perfect creamy dairy-free ice cream began. It took a few trys to get it right. Some were not very coconutty, others didn't freeze well, and others were more like iced milk than ice cream.

Then I stumbled on a recipe at Allrecipes. My search has ended. This ice cream turned out smooth, creamy, sweet, very coconutty, and completely vegan. What more could you ask for? Chocolate. You can never go wrong with chocolate. Just a little goes a long way. It's like a frozen Mounds bar.

Just try it. You'll love it. I promise. Just do it already!


Coconut Ice Cream
From Allrecipes.com



Ingredients

1 (15 oz) Can Cream of Coconut
1 Cup Unsweetened Unflavored Soy Milk
1 1/2 Cups Unflavored Soy Creamer
Optional: 1 Cup Shredded Coconut

Directions
  1. In a bowl, mix all of the ingredients together thoroughly.
  2. Make sure your ice cream maker is set up and ready to go.
  3. Pour the liquid mixture into your ice cream maker.
  4. Freeze according to the directions of your particular machine.
Note: Cream of Coconut is not the same as Coconut Milk or Coconut Cream. Cream of Coconut is thick and sweetened (look for sugar in the ingredients). It is typically found with drink mixes for Pina Coladas.

Yeilds approx. 2 quarts of ice cream.

You can use regular dairy products for this recipe as well. I'm sure it would turn out even creamier using real cream.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Almond Roca Protein Shake

I know it sounds weird but it really is good. This started when I found a recipe for an Almond Joy Shake. I didn't have all of the ingredients necessary for that one, although I do now and I'll be making it soon. I started substituting for the missing ingredients and this was the resulting recipe.

It is coconuty (is that a word?), slightly chocolatey, and oh so almondy. You can make it thick like I did and eat it with a spoon, or thin it out and drink it. Either way it makes a great after work-out shake or even a dessert!

Almond Roca Protein Shake


Ingredients

1/2 Cup Lite Coconut Milk
1/4 Cup Water
1 Scoop Vanilla Protein Powder
2 Tablespoons Coconut Flour
1 Tablespoon Almond Extract
1 Tablespoon Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (this is baking powder not hot chocolate mix)
4-5 Ice Cubes
Sweeten to taste (I used 4 packets of Splenda)

Directions

Put it all in the blender and let it go!
If you want a thinner shake, just add more water.

This may taste like dessert but it is actually pretty low calorie, really high in fiber due to the coconut flour, and high in protein.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Monday weigh-in...not good

I'm finally back home. I kind of wish I was back in Phoenix just so I could see my weight on mom's uncalibrated scale. *sigh*

I gained weight while I was away. I knew it would happen. I really wasn't working out very hard and I really wasn't watching what I ate. I had a lot of candy, ice cream, coffee with flavored creamers, etc. Lots of calories that I know better about.

What can I say? I was on vacation and enjoying myself a little too much. Now that I'm home, I'm back on the wagon. Back to working out and watching calories. I feel horrible that I took a huge step back but it is what it is I guess. All I can do now is try to lose it again.

Weight: 239.0 (+1.8 pounds)
Hips: 49 (no change)
Waist: 39.5 (-.5 inches)
Bust: 37 (no change)
Arms: 14.5 (no change)
Thighs: 26 (+1 inch)
Calves: 17 (+.5 inch)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday weigh-in

I'm still in Phoenix visiting my mom. I haven't really been working out. I've gone to Curves with her a couple of times and we been doing a ton of walking but other than that, nothing. We haven't been eating well either. Not horrible, but not great either. Mom has been cooking most meals but she uses TONS of salt and oil/butter in all of her cooking. It tastes awesome but it is definitely taking it's toll on me.

Mom's scale is not calibrated. I weighed myself at the doctor just before I came out here and then weighed myself on mom's scale right when I arrived. So I'm estimating that her scale is about 10 pounds off. I did not bring a tape measure so I'm not able to take my measurements this week. This week's weight looks really good but I'm really not sure how accurate it is, so I'm not getting my hopes up too high. I also won't be too disappointed if my weight goes back up when I return home, simply because the scale at home is calibrated.

I feel bad that this is such a short post and doesn't really have a whole lot of information in it, but I'm working with what I have available here. Hopefully next week will look better.

Weight: 235 (-2.2 pounds)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Stocking Up

I'm visiting my mom in Phoenix! I'm going to be there for almost 2 weeks. I am beyond excited. I can't wait to see her condo, visit with family, and just tool around Arizona and possibly Vegas.

I've been out of work for 5 months now. In that time I've completely become a housewife. I do all of the housework (cleaning), laundry, shopping, and of course cooking. I make sure that we have a healthy home-cooked dinner on the table at least 6 days a week.

So I stared thinking, and we all know that is never a good thing.

Anyway, I started thinking and I know this sounds completely irrational but, if I'm gone for 2 weeks...what will Vince eat for dinner? Stupid, right? Well, the thought was eating at me. I just couldn't leave him to his own devices. If it were up to him, he would happily have fast food every night until my return. I just couldn't let that happen.

So, I started making dinners and freezing them. He has no excuses. All he has to do is pull something out of the freezer before he leaves for work. Some of the meals will require assembly and/or a little cooking, but the meal is prepped and ready.

As always, I went completely overboard. I took a simple, good idea and made it into a huge project. My irrational mind was thinking that I should make a dinner for each night that I am away. That Vince should not have to have the same dinner two nights in a row. Vince very kindly pointed out that all of the meals I was making were for more than 1 serving. He said if he defrosted one every day then there would be a ton of leftovers sitting in the fridge when I got back. He also protested my planning out his meals for him. Apparently he is an adult and can choose to eat whatever he wants, whenever he wants...including Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Chick-Fil-A, McDonald's, etc. He actually said that he would eat the junk anyway and just not cook what I had prepared. Oh well, at least I know it's there if he wants it and it will keep me from having to cook so much as the weather gets hotter.

This is a list of what I'm making.

Beef Kabobs
Ginger Sesame Chicken with Rice Noodles
Pork Satay with Brown Rice & Steamed Broccoli
Turkey Tacos
Turkey Noodle Soup
Eggplant Parmesan
Spanakopita
Stuffed Shells
Chicken Pizza
Stuffed Peppers

Some of them are pretty easy to put together and stick in the freezer. I've made "meal kits", just to make it easy for Vince to determine which ingredients go for which meal.

The best tip I got was for marinading meats. Basically you put the marinade and the meat into a ziplock freezer bag, roll it, seal it, and stick it in the freezer. When you want to have that for dinner, take the bag out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to defrost. As it defrosts it marinades the meat so you have seasoned meat by the time you get home.

Be sure to label all of your bags/containers with what is in it and the date that it was put in.

Beef Kabobs:
 
I made a simple marinade for the beef. I dumped the marinade and the cubed beef into a big freezer bag, rolled and sealed the bag and stuck it in the freezer.

Then, I cut a couple of bell peppers and an onion into big chunks. The peppers and onion each went into their own ziplock bags. I also made a bag of cherry tomatoes.

I then took a big freezer bag and labeled it as "Beef Kabob Kit" and put all of the individual bags of veggies into the one big bag. That kit now resides in the refrigerator. I would probably serve this dinner with some brown rice but I doubt if Vince will make or eat that.

To make: 
Defrost the beef. Soak a few bamboo skewers in water for about 20 minutes. Then make the kabobs by sliding beef, peppers, tomatoes, and onions onto the skewers. Grill until the meat is cooked through.

Ginger Sesame Chicken:
 
I was bad and used a bottled marinade for this one. It was easier and it really tastes good. I put the marinade and the cubed chicken into a labeled freezer bag and stuck it in the freezer. There is a bag of frozen "Chinese Stir Fry" vegetables in the freezer for this dish as well.

The recipe is served over rice noodles.

To make:
Defrost the chicken. Boil water and cook the rice noodles for about 7 minutes, then drain. Cook the chicken and vegetables in a skillet/wok until done. Serve over cooked rice noodles.

Pork Satay:
 
I made the marinade from this recipe. I, once again, put it into a freezer bag with the pork strips and stuck it in the freezer. There is also a steamer bag of broccoli in the freezer to go with this meal.

I did not make the peanut sauce for this recipe since Vince could take it or leave it and I didn't think it would hold up well if not used right away. This dish is served with brown rice and steamed broccoli.

To make:
Defrost the pork. Soak some bamboo skewers. Slide the pork onto the skewers and cook on a griddle or grill until the meat is done. Microwave the steamer bag of broccoli for 5 minutes. Serve over brown rice.

Turkey Tacos:

This is one of Vince's favorite meals so it had to be in the rotation. It is pretty easy to make and there was not a whole lot to do ahead of time. I basically just made sure all of the ingredients were in the cabinets and easy to find.

I froze 1 pound of ground turkey. In the cabinet I have 1 can of diced tomatoes (no-salt), 1 can of sliced mushrooms, 1 packet of taco seasoning (no-sodium), and 1 package of 8 grain tortillas. In the fridge I have a tub of soy sour cream and a bag of cheddar flavor veggie shreds.

To make:
Start by defrosting the turkey. In a skillet, brown the turkey and drain any fat. Then add the taco seasoning and water. Add the tomatoes and mushrooms. Cook until the liquid evaporates. Serve on tortillas with sour cream and veggie shreds.

Turkey Noodle Soup:
 
This is actually an easy one. I have a great recipe for this soup. It uses turkey breast, tons of veggies, and broth. Pretty simple. The key is to freeze it before putting the noodles in. That way, when you defrost it the noodles don't get too soggy.

To make: 
Just defrost and heat up the soup. In a separate pot, boil water and cook a package of egg noodles. Once cooked, drain the noodles and add to the soup. Voila! Turkey noodle soup.

Eggplant Parmesan:
 
I made eggplant cutlets and froze them. I very lightly bread them (each cutlet has less than a teaspoon of bread crumbs) and bake them instead of frying.

To make: 
Defrost the eggplant and then place into a baking dish. Pour tomato sauce over the cutlets (I go sparse on this but really it is to taste), then place slices of Vegan Delight Mozzarella flavored soy cheese over everything. Bake in a 350 degree oven just long enough to heat everything up and melt the cheese (~30 minutes).

Spanikoptia:
 
I love spanikopita. Flaky, cheesy, and very filling. I not only make my spanikopita dairy-free but I also make it so each pastry is under 200 calories. Unfortunately, Vince doesn't share my affection for this buttery dinner so I've only made and frozen enough for me to have for lunches when I return.

I use a tofu, egg, and spinach filling (along with other seasonings) inside a phyllo dough crust. Check out the full recipe here, in case you missed it.

Basically, I make each spanikopita triangle and then freeze them before baking.

To make: 
Take the spanakopita out of the freezer and put them onto a baking sheet. Bake them in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. Take them out when the crusts are golden brown.

Stuffed Shells:
 
I found this recipe for "Lasagna Stuffed Shells" on Allrecipes.com. As always, I adapted that recipe to be dairy-free and lower in fat. You can check it out here. I use a tofu mix for the "cheese" portion and I use turkey instead of ground beef/sausage. I also go light on the tomato sauce.

I use disposable tin pans so that I can bake them and stick them in the freezer without having to transfer to bags/containers. You don't want to completely cook this dish. Completely assemble the shells in the baking pan with the tomato sauce. Then put them in the fridge and let them cool so that the cheese is set. Once they are cold you can wrap the pan up in plastic wrap or a freezer bag and put it in the freezer.

To make, take the pan out of the oven and place it in the fridge to thaw for the day. Once it is completely thawed bake the shells at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or so, until the cheese is completely melted on top.

Chicken Pizza:
 
Vince is a pizza addict. I knew that if left alone for too long, pizza would be delivered to our door. I'm sure he will still be ordering some Papa John's while I'm away but having this alternative in the freezer means that maybe he'll only order it once instead of several times.

I make whole wheat pizza dough and shape it into a crust. I par-bake the crust by putting it into a 500 degree oven for 3 minutes. After the crust has cooled I either wrap it in plastic and freeze it or I add all of the topping, wrap it and freeze it. You could also make a pizza kit by freezing eat component in its own bag and then wrapping them all together.

I have fully made pizzas frozen, just to make it easier for Vince while I'm gone.

To make, just put the pizza on a pan and bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes (until the cheese is melted and the crust is brown).

Stuffed Peppers:
 
This is an easy one. Prepare them to the point of putting them in the oven, but don't. At this point cool them down in the fridge. Once they are cold, wrap them up and put them in the freezer.

To make, defrost them in the fridge then put them into a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Other:
 
I also chopped up a bunch of fresh fruit and stuck those in the freezer. Frozen fruit is great in smoothies instead of ice cubes. You can also thaw it out and use it for fruit salad. Yum.

I made high protein banana muffins as well and those went into the freezer. Those are individually wrapped so Vince can take one to work, the gym, or have one for a quick breakfast. Just heat it up in the microwave or leave it out to thaw before eating it.


I made a big batch of whole wheat rolls. Some of those went into the fridge for immediate consumption and the rest went into the freezer.

I'm sure that Vince is not going to eat all of this food. I really did go overboard with the cooking. It will be nice to have a freezer full of food when I get home though. Having the oven on in the middle of summer in Virginia is something I try to avoid at all costs.

I'll keep you updated on my adventures here in Phoenix!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Weigh-In

It is Monday once again. My morning has been busy so I didn't weigh myself right away. I actually forgot to do it until just a minute ago. I had already eaten breakfast but I don't think it affected my weight too much. I have been pretty forgetful about taking my meds at night and I ate a LOT of sugar over the weekend. I hadn't plan on it. I was doing really well all week. I worked out almost every day last week. I ate well and watched my calories and my sodium. I felt good. I was looking forward to the weekend and getting ready to leave for Phoenix.

That's when it happened. Friday night arrived. Vince and I went up to our neighbor's place to hang out. I was really good, I didn't even have a drink other than caffeine free diet coke. We were supposed to go bowling with friends later that evening. As we were getting into the car to go bowling, we get a text that our friends are sick and not able to go. So now what do we do? It is 9pm on a Friday night. We are already getting into the car and have no where to go. I suggest that we go back upstairs. I can make a healthy dessert of some kind and we can watch a movie. Nope. Not gonna happen.

Ok. I agree to go with Vince to the store, with the hopes that I can convince him to get something no quite so bad. I'm horrible. I have no will power what so ever. We choose a giant cookie cake. Ok not too bad. Then Vince says he can't have it without frosting. So a can of chocolate fudge frosting goes into the basket. This is getting bad. As we walk toward the ice cream aisle (yes, that's right, ice cream), we pass a display of Krispy Kreme donuts. This is where my will power is completely obliterated. I can't pass up a box of raspberry jelly donuts. Vince doesn't want those, he wants the boston cream donuts. So in the basket both boxes go. Horrible I know.

We get all of this junk home and settle in for a sugar coma and some Babylon 5. I know what you're thinking. I can hear it coming through my computer screen. I even thought it myself. I know that just because it is in the house doesn't mean that I have to eat it. I could have done damage control by only eating a little bit of it, but I didn't.

Over the weekend I ate 6 donuts and half of that giant cookie (without frosting). I pretty much made myself sick. It disgusts me just to think about it. Thankfully, I didn't do too much damage as far as my weight is concerned. I'm guessing that all of my workouts off-set my eating. I know I could have had a bigger loss if I had eaten better.

Weight: 237.2 (-.6 pounds)
Hips: 49 inches (no change)
Waist: 40 inches (no change)
Bust: 37 inches (-1 inch)
Arms: 14.5 inches (no change)
Thighs: 25 inches (-.5 inch)
Calves: 16.5 inches (-.5 inch)

I am leaving for Phoenix this afternoon. I will be gone for almost 2 weeks. I don't know if I'll get to work out at all. I know mom has a membership at Curves, so I might be able to get a light workout in over there. I will really have to watch what I eat since I know we will be eating out quite a bit and well, let's face it, mom isn't the healthiest eater in the world. I'll just have to do my best.

I don't know if mom has a scale/tape measure so I don't know if I'll be able to post my weigh-in for the next 2 weeks. Keep checking though, just in case.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lasagna Stuffed Shells

I can't remember having stuffed shells. I'm sure at some point in my life I did, but I just don't remember it. They look good, and they smell good, but they are filled with evil, evil cheese. I wanted to try them out but honestly didn't think they would be good with nothing but pasta and tofu in them. Then I found a different recipe and my whole view changed.

I have already perfected dairy-free lasagna. I love it but it is a pretty heavy dish. Tons of pasta, sauce, meat...well, tons of everything really. These shells seemed like the perfect solution. I could have the taste of lasagna that I loved but in a smaller commitment. I love how they turned out. I will be making these again, once my freezer stash has dwindled.

Lasagna Stuffed Shells
From Allrecipes.com


Ingredients
1 Box Jumbo Pasta Shells (about 40 shells)
1 Pound Ground Turkey
12oz Firm Tofu
8oz Veggie Shreds Parmesan/Mozzarella Mix Flavor
2 Large Eggs
1 1/2 Jars Tomato Sauce (I used Tomato & Basil flavor)

Directions
  1. In a large stock pot, bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil.
  2. Once the water is boiling, salt the water generously and add the shells.
  3. Cook the shells for about 10 minutes. You want them to be slightly under-done.
  4. While the shells are cooking, cook the turkey in a skillet and set aside.
  5. In a bowl, mash together the eggs, tofu, and veggie shreds.
  6. Once the shells are cooked, remove from the water and rinse with cold water.
  7. Spread tomato sauce on the bottom of two 9x13 baking pans (or 3 8x8 pans).
  8. Take a shell and spoon about a teaspoon of turkey into the bottom of it.
  9. Next, spoon a heaping teaspoon of tofu mixture onto the turkey.
  10. Place the shell into a baking dish.
  11. Continue with the remaining shells.
  12. Once all of the shells are in the pans, spoon tomato sauce onto the top of each shell.
  13. Bake the shells at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, just until the cheese/tofu is melted.
Optional: Feel free to cover the tops of the shells/sauce with more shredded cheese.

Yields:12 servings

These are really filling and very yummy. They freeze well too. The best part is the stats.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Spanakopita

Spanakopita is a Greek spinach pie. It is usually seen being passed around at wedding as tiny hors d'oeuvers. I found a recipe for dinner Spanakopita on one my new favorite cooking blogs, Branny Boils Over. I, of course, took that recipe and modified it to make it dairy-free and higher in protein.

I think it turned out awesome. Vince on the other hand, didn't like it. He said the flavor was good but he didn't like the flaky pastry shell. He's "not a flaky crust kind of guy". Oh well, I guess I can't win them all with him. I'm still making a batch to put in the freezer. I can take them out and heat them up for a quick, yummy lunch.

This recipe does call for the use of phyllo dough. I know that can be intimidating but it really is easy to use. I'll walk you through it. Don't panic, it will be ok.

Spanakopita
From Branny Boils Over


Ingredients

14 Sheets of Phyllo Dough (about 1/4 of a package)
1 10oz Box of Frozen Spinach, Thawed and Drained
4oz Soft Tofu
2oz Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
2 Tablespoons Parmesan Flavor Veggie Shreds
1/2 Medium Yellow Onion, Diced
1.5 Tablespoons Pine Nuts
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Pepper
1 Large Egg
1 Large Egg White
1.5 Tablespoons Seasoned Bread Crumbs
1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg
4 Tablespoons Margarine, Melted

Directions
  1. In a skillet, fry the onion until caramelized (about 3 minutes).
  2. Briefly add the spinach to the skillet, just long enough to steam off any excess moisture. You want it to be completely dry.
  3. In a bowl, mix together all of the ingredients, except for the margarine and the phyllo dough.
  4. Set the filling aside.
  5. Open the package of phyllo dough and roll out the sheets.
  6. Place a damp paper towel over the sheets to keep them from drying out while you work.
  7. Carefully take one sheet and lay it out flat.
  8. With a pastry brush, brush the sheet with melted margarine.
  9. Carefully lay a second phyllo sheet on top of the first.
  10. Brush the second sheet with melted margarine.
  11. Lay a third phyllo sheet on the stack.
  12. Brush the third sheet with margarine.
  13. Lay a fourth sheet on the stack.
  14. Do not brush the top of the fourth sheet.
  15. Cut the stack of phyllo sheets in half, lengthwise.You will now have two long rectangles of phyllo dough.
  16. Make 4 more long rectangles of dough in this way.
  17. For the last (7th) rectangle, take one sheet of dough and brush margarine on half of it (lengthwise).
  18. Fold the sheet over itself lengthwise.
  19. Brush margarine on the top of the sheet.
  20. Place another sheet on top.
  21. Brush margarine on half of this sheet.
  22. Fold the second sheet over itself. You will now have one long rectangle of dough.
Assembly


  1. Place 1/3 cup of filling onto one end of one of the rectangles.
  2. Take the corner of the rectangle, with the filling, and fold it towards the edge of the dough.
  3. Continue folding the dough until you have a large triangle.
  4. Place the triangle on a cookie sheet.
  5. Repeat with remaining dough.
Bake the Spanakopitas in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes. You want them to be golden brown and flaky.

Yields: 7 servings

These are pretty quick to make and are very filling. The best part is that they are each under 200 calories! The stats below are for each pastry triangle. You could also add in some Fiber One powder to up the fiber, it is pretty low.