Thursday, December 31, 2009

Orange Sherbet Salad

I made this jello salad from AllRecipes for our New Years Day dinner tomorrow night. Our friends Ben, Kati, and their dog Enzo will be coming over to join us for dinner and hang out. Kati has celiac disease, so I'm making everything gluten-free and I thought this would be an easy side dish... plus I can use up some ripe bananas that I have on my counter. :) This sure looks good - I'm sure it'll taste good, too! Its very similar to a recipe that my family makes quite often - only they use marshmallows instead of bananas... I figure the bananas make it a little healthier. :) Update: it was delicious! It filled in for our dessert since I didn't end up having time to make a flourless chocolate cake. Definitely a keeper and something I'll make again!

Orange Sherbet Salad

2 (6 ounce) packages orange flavored gelatin
4 cups boiling water
1 quart orange sherbet
2 (11 ounce) cans mandarin oranges
3 bananas, sliced

Combine the gelatin and boiling water; stir until dissolved. Add sherbet and fruit; mix well. Pour into a 9x13 dish and chill until set. Serve cold.

Old-Fashioned Wheat Bread

Here is another recipe that I tried from the 250 Best American Bread Machine Baking Recipes book that I have checked out from the library. I made this a couple of weeks ago and it is very good - I've actually made it once more since. It is moist, yet sort of dense, with a nice crumb. Its great for sandwiches and toast in the mornings! I have a picture of the bread sliced - but that picture is still on the camera, so I'll update with that later on.

Old-Fashioned Wheat Bread

1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons liquid honey
1 Tablespoon molasses
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup bread flour
1/4 cup gluten
1 1/4 teaspoon bread machine yeast

Measure ingredients into baking pan in the order recommended by your machine manufacturer. Insert pan in the oven chamber. Select Whole Wheat Cycle. Makes a 1.5 pound loaf.

* For a sweeter, milder-flavored bread, you may substitute packed brown sugar for the honey and molasses.

* You may use the Rapid Whole Wheat Cycle, just increase the yeast by 1/2 teaspoon.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Biggest Loser, Week 4

I'm on vacation from work this week, so no official weigh-in numbers to report. I did weigh myself on our scale this morning and it looks like I did maintain my goal and stayed at my weight from last week... possibly even dropping another pound. Its hard to know with our scale at home, though, since it never reads the same as the "official" scale we're using at work.

We're making great progress on our fitness room in the basement - it should be done this week!! I'm so excited for it to be finished. While I do enjoy doing videos - and I will continue to do some videos - I am really looking forward to being able to do some walk/jog intervals on the treadmill and riding the stationary bike for some more cardio workouts. And hopefully I'll get some new additions to our fitness room for my birthday on Sunday... otherwise I'll be going shopping next week for some more kettlebells (the 10-pounder is getting too light... its time to move up to the 15-pounder).

I've been reading some slightly depressing things lately... in many of the books I've been looking through and/or reading lately, it says that I basically need to be working out 1 1/2+ hours per day to lose and then maintain a healthy weight... I am really hoping I can prove them wrong on that!! Because there is no way that I can spend that long working out every day... not unless I quit my job or find a local job with no commute or hire a personal chef and housekeeper, at least! I'm not letting it keep me down or anything, but I was quite sad to read that... but like I said, I'm hoping to prove them wrong!! :) The books also say that I need to be selfish and only do things for myself right now... forget all the fun activities or extras... just focus on myself, what I eat, and my workouts. I'm also hoping I can prove them wrong on that one, too... because I'm not willing to do that. I understand the logic behind it, but at the same time... I'll never get these days back with Carson at this super fun age and I don't want to have to forego fun things with him. So I'm going to do it all - in my eyes, its the only way I can do it.

So anyway, in the spirit of the upcoming new year and making new year's resolutions, I figured I'd list out some of my goals for getting back in shape and making myself healthy. These are long-term goals... not just for this next calendar year, necessarily... although I would like to accomplish the majority of them in 2010 if things continue to go well. And I know I'll be adding to the list... these are just some things that come to mind this morning.

- I want to learn to box.
- I want to take a Zumba class (or at least watch one to see if my uncoordinated self could keep up).
- I want to do the 60-Day Challenge (kettlebells).
- I want to get a nice cross-over bike and start riding.
- I want to be able to play an entire match of tennis again.
- I want to run a 5k.
- I want to compete in a sprint triathalon.
- I want to learn to snowboard.
- I want to downhill ski with my son.
- I want to teach my son to ice skate and play hockey.
- I want to wakeboard and waterski with my son.

Overall... I just want to live a long, healthy, and happy life with my family. :)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Black Hills Golden Egg Bake

I made this egg casserole for our Christmas celebration with Kevin's immediate family on Saturday morning. It was very good and it makes a lot - it'd be great for a potluck brunch or something. The recipe called for 4 cups of cheese... which I thought was a little insane... so I cut it back to 1 3/4 cups of cheese... and probably could even go down to 1 1/2 cups and still taste really good.

And I think this is my last post for tonight... I'll try to catch up more later... I have a lot of cookie posts with some new cookie recipes we tried this year... and some breads and other misc. meals from last week.

Black Hills Golden Egg Bake

1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
(I added a handful of frozen spinach, as well)
1/4 cup butter, cubed - use cooking spray instead
10 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (16 ounce) container low fat small curd cottage cheese
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (I thought 4 cups of cheese was way too much, so I put 1 cup in the egg mixture and then used about 3/4 cup to sprinkle on top to form a nice crust)
1 pound bulk turkey sausage, cooked and drained

In a skillet, saute mushrooms and green pepper in butter until tender. In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, flour, baking powder and salt if desired; mix well. Add mushroom mixture. Stir in remaining ingredients; mix well.

Pour into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F; bake 25-35 minutes longer or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala

I made this recipe for crockpot indian chicken tikka masala from A Year of Slow Cooking last week. It was so delicious!! It doesn't look like true chicken tikka masala... but it does actually taste very much like it does in the indian restaurants - I was impressed! I'm very happy to have an easy crockpot indian meal that I can go-to when we're craving indian food!

I do have a picture, but you'll have to wait for me to upload it sometime within the next few days hopefully...

Crockpot Indian Chicken Tikka Masala

frozen chicken pieces--enough to feed 4 grownups
1 can tomatoes (drained, mine had seasoning, I don't think it matters)
1/2 diced onion
1/2 teaspoon ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I just used about 1/8 teaspoon)
1 t garam masala
1/2 cup plain non fat yogurt

Put your chicken pieces into the crockpot and add the can of tomatoes and all of the spices, minus 1/2t of the garam masala. Don't add the yogurt yet. Cook on low all day. (Mine cooked for about 6 hours on low and was done perfectly). 30 minutes before serving, stir in the yogurt, and taste. Added another 1/2 teaspoon of garam masala to the mix... or just add what tastes right to you.

Taco Salad

I made this taco salad for my extended family's Christmas Eve party. It was a hit with everyone that ate it! I left the dressing off and just let people pour on as much as they liked. Kevin really loved this and has requested that I make it once a week! I doubt that will happen, but I will make it for lunches and whatnot... maybe once a month or something.

Taco Salad

1 head iceberg lettuce (I used 3 heads organic romaine)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I only used about 1 1/2 cups)
2 lbs ground beef
1 package taco seasoning
2 tomatoes
1 onion (left this out)
1 bag plain Doritos
1 (16 ounce) bottle Catalina dressing (Light)

Brown ground beef and taco seasoning. Drain and let cool. Chop lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. Put into a large container. Add cheese and crushed Doritos. Add cooled ground beef. Pour Catalina dressing over all of it 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Cheesy Corn and Peppers

Next up is a recipe that I also made for Kevin's extended family party - cheesy corn and peppers from 365 Days of Slow Cooking. This was super easy and super quick for a crockpot dish. I thought it was really good, too. Kevin really liked it, as well. I'll definitely make it again.

Cheesy Corn and Peppers

2 lbs frozen corn kernels
2 tbsp butter, cubed
1 large green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper
3 ounces cream cheese, cubed
1 cup (4 oz) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (I left this out since I thought it was cheesy enough and wanted to save some calories)

Coat slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Add all ingredients except cream cheese and Cheddar cheese. Cover. Cook on High for 2 hours. Add cheese, stir to blend. Cover. Cook 15 minutes more or until cheeses melt.

Crockpot Green Bean Casserole

I'm going to be playing catch-up for awhile, I think... I am so behind on posting. I'll start with the easy ones, with recipes I can just copy and paste and also that I forgot to take pictures of so I don't have to deal with pics. First up, is a crockpot green bean casserole from RecipeZaar that I made for Christmas Day with our extended relatives on Kevin's side of the family. I used all organic and/or homemade ingredients... and I did use canned beans and mushrooms, all organic and salt-free, though. It turned out ok... good flavor and everything, but it doesn't get the crust on top that this dish gets when cooked in the oven.

Crockpot Green Bean Casserole

1 (14 1/2 ounce) can French style green beans
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can cut green beans
1 (10 3/4 ounce) can 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup
2 (4 ounce) cans mushroom pieces
1/2 cup nonfat milk
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 small onion

Combine canned green beans with 1 can of mushrooms and onion slices. Place in crock pot sprayed with cooking spray. Mix cream of mushroom soup, fat free milk, worcestershire sauce, black pepper and other can of mushrooms in separate bowl. Cover green beans with sauce. Do not stir. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Meal plans and the week ahead

Last week was such a fun and busy week! Christmas was awesome! Our parties were all chaotic, but they were all so fun and we enjoyed seeing all of our relatives and playing with all of our new stuff!

Kevin and I are on vacation this week. Our priority will be finishing up the fitness room. We'll also be seeing our friends Beth and Curt and their kids Tyler and Malerie one day this week. And possibly our friend Jeff. We might go down to Rochester Hills to see our friends Ben and Kati on Thursday, but I think we might try to figure out another day to see them. I'd like to be home in the evening for a family game night (Carson loves playing his new games!) and some NYE activities of our own. And my niece asked if we could have a playdate sometime this week, so we'll need to figure that out, too.

As for extras this week... as I mentioned, the fitness room is our priority. We should be finishing it up by the end of the week. I also want to do some fun things with Carson (not sure what yet), take the Christmas tree and decorations down, go through Carson's toys and put up some toys he's outgrown, do some baby shower planning for my cousin's shower I'm hosting, do some bday party planning for Carson's #2, possibly can some black beans, and catch up on my blogs a little (I'm very behind!).

Here's the plan for the meals...

Sunday - we're going over to my in-laws' house for pizza and Sunday night movie night

Meatless Monday - veggie stir-fry (mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, edamame, carrots, and pea pods); steamed brown rice; pear sauce

Tuesday - turkey veggie noodle soup in the crockpot; homemade bread; some kind of jello salad

Wednesday - mexican lasagna; fresh mangoes; leftover jello salad

Thursday - NYE!! taco/nacho bar; refried black beans; fresh mangoes

Friday - Happy New Year!! I'm going to do a leg of lamb in the crockpot; roasted red potatoes and carrots; steamed green beans; and maybe creme de menthe cake

Saturday - leftovers

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Biggest Loser, week 3

The end of week three and we're in the midst of what will probably be the toughest week of this challenge... a week filled with Christmas celebrations. Which will be lots of fun, but will definitely be a challenge when it comes to healthy choices. We have something scheduled every day this week this year... with more than one celebration/party on some days. My goal this next week is to just maintain my current weight... no gain, no loss.

This past week I have been implementing an exercise routine. Its been going very well and hasn't been quite as much of an upset to our normal routines as I had feared. And rather than completely giving up that time with Carson, as I'd thought originally... he's been joining me most nights. He loves the Leslie Sansone workouts because he loves to march and kick, so he marches around the room and kicks when we're supposed to right along with me. He got quite a kick out of yoga, too. He would try to do some of the moves... or he'd just jump on me and knock me over. :) The only workouts I don't allow him in the room with me are for the kettlebell workouts. I just don't want to take the chance of swinging the kettlebell into him or something terrible like that. The kettlebell workouts are my favorites, by far! I can really feel it for days, which is a good thing, even though its painful for a few days afterwards. :) I am going to start doing kettlebells as many days of the week as I can. They are truly a full-body cardio and strength workout! Love them!

I also tried cutting out pop completely last week. I went seven full days in a row with absolutely no pop! So I know I can do it now. I broke my week-long streak and had a pop on Saturday with a slice of pizza. I thought it would taste extra-good, being that I hadn't had any in a week... but honestly, it really didn't taste as good as I expected. I just had a small glass and then had some water afterwards. I'm really glad I know I can go without pop now... and that it really wasn't that hard to avoid at all! While I do still get the urge to go through a quick drive-thru to grab one (fountain pop is my true weakness, I think)... I've been resisting... I haven't had a fountain pop in nearly two weeks now. For me, this is a huge lifestyle change! Its one that I've needed to make for years now, but I just didn't think I had the willpower to do it. But now I know I can! I don't plan to drink pop regularly anymore - but I won't go completely without it, either... I'm sure I'll have one every once in a while. But I think that's ok.

This week will be much of the same in terms of exercise. I will be stepping up the intensity a bit, though. But I'm not looking to extend the length since we'll be pressed for time with all the preparation, parties, and commitments this week.

Weight loss this week = 4... total of 10 pounds lost in 3 weeks!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fattoush Salad

Fattoush salad is one of my and Kevin's favorite salads. Its a Lebanese salad and it is so simple and so good! And so easy to make, too! I looked around on the internet and came up with this recipe that works for our tastes. I made this for the potluck today after our nephew's baptism. I'll update later with pictures (hopefully) if I remember to take them once its assembled.

Fattoush Salad

3 heads romaine, chopped
1/3 cup minced fresh mint
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
1 bunch green onions
1 large seedless cucumber, diced
1-2 bell peppers, diced
4 good-sized tomatoes, diced
1-2 cups broken up whole wheat toasted pita chips
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 Tablespoons sumac
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the lettuce, mint, parsley, green onions, cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes in a large salad serving bowl. Mix in broken pita chips just before pouring on dressing and serving.

Mix the oil, lemon juice, garlic, sumac, salt and pepper in a glass jar and shake well to incorporate. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Pour over salad just before serving.

Oreo Truffles

I got this recipe from my friend, Melissa. She mentioned them in passing one day and they sounded so delicious and I knew I wanted to make them at some point. I'd hoped to make them for Thanksgiving, but never got around to it. So Carson and I made up a batch of them yesterday afternoon. These are time consuming to make, but they're easy and fun. And they taste absolutely delicious! I used all-natural chocolate sandwich cookies that I found at Whole Foods - made with wheat flour and no HFCS!

Oreo Truffles

1 box Oreos, or other chocolate sandwich cookie
1 brick cream cheese
4 bars Ghiradelli chocolate (I used 2 milk choc. and 2 semisweet choc. and melted them together)

Crush up the Oreos in a large zippered plastic bag. I used my rolling pin. Pour the crushed Oreos into the bowl of your stand mixer. Drop in the brick of cream cheese. Mix on low speed until incorporated. Use a small cookie scoop to drop rounded balls of the cookie/cream cheese mixture onto a baking sheet. If you let your cream cheese come to room temp. first to soften, you'll want to put the balls in the fridge to cool down so they stay together better.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate in a glass bowl fitted over a pan with boiling water on the stovetop. Drop balls of cookie/cream cheese into the melted chocolate. Remove and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let cool completely until chocolate has hardened. Enjoy!

Meal plans and the week ahead

It'll be a super busy week, as I'm sure it will be for everyone. This will be a tough week in terms of calorie-consumption with something going on every single day this week... but I'm going to try my best to keep it under control. We'll be going to my in-laws' church this morning for my nephew's baptism with a potluck following. Then we'll come home to get more work done on our fitness room in the basement - hopefully finishing up the grinding and cleaning so we can start with the painting finally (we're a week behind due to sickness). Tomorrow we have our holiday luncheon for my group at work and I get my hair done in the late afternoon (had to cancel a couple weeks ago due to the blizzard in Grand Rapids and my stylist not being able to make the trek to Swartz Creek). Tuesday we may be heading out to Grand Rapids in the late afternoon or evening to use up our free hotel nights that expire on the 26th (we had to cancel our trip as planned a couple weeks ago due to the weather and sickness). Wednesday I'm meeting a couple of my Phike sisters in Grand Rapids for dinner. Thursday is Christmas Eve.... we'll be heading to my Aunt Sharon's house for our family party at 4:30. Friday is Christmas Day! We'll do our own thing as a family of three in the morning and will be heading to my SIL's house for Kevin's extended family party in the afternoon. And Saturday we'll be heading over to my in-laws' for Kevin's immediate family party in the morning. And then we can relax. Or bust out more work to finish up the fitness room (which is what we'll be doing). We also still have to figure out when we're going to open gifts with my parents, sister, and Grandma Jackie since my Dad doesn't have any time off from work (except Christmas Day) this year.

Extras this week will be exercise, helping with the fitness room, and making food for all the parties... fattoush salad, oreo truffles, cut-out sugar cookies, taco salad, breakfast enchiladas, green bean casserole in the crockpot, cheesy corn and peppers in the crockpot, and a breakfast egg casserole. I think that will keep me plenty busy this week!

And now on to the menu...

Sunday ~ indian chicken tikka masala in the crockpot; steamed brown rice; steamed broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots

Meatless Monday ~ herbed baked eggs; steamed green beans; peaches

Tuesday ~ TBD... it will depend on whether we're home or in Grand Rapids for the night

Wednesday ~ dinner in Grand Rapids with a couple of my old Phike sisters at Carlos O'Kelly's

Thursday ~ It's Christmas Eve!! We'll be at my Aunt Sharon's and we're having a buffet of ham, buffalo wings, fried potatoes, taco salad, cocktail pizzas, broccoli-rice-cheese casserole, some kind of veggies, jello salad, random munchies, and an assortment of Christmas cookies

Friday ~ Merry Christmas!! We'll be at my SIL's in the afternoon. We'll be having appetizers, ham, green bean casserole, cheesy corn and peppers, salads, rolls, turtle cheesecake, cherry something, apple something, cookies... and I'm sure I missed something...

Saturday ~ romaine salads with hard-boiled eggs, cukes, peppers, onions, tomatoes; misc. leftovers from Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Banana Walnut Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies

Carson and I made these cookies last week. He had been asking to do some baking all week, but since he was sick early in the week, I didn't want to do any and get his germs into them. I finally gave in on Friday, after he'd been asking every day all week. He was so excited we finally got to do some "bakin'." This recipe is from my Martha Stewart Cookies cookbook. These are so good! Carson just loves them with the bananas in them especially, though its a very faint taste. Even Kevin has been enjoying them - I don't think they'll make it to Christmas!

Banana Walnut Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temp.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup mashed bananas
1 cup old-fashioned oats
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 375. Whisk together both flours, salt, and baking soda in a bowl.

Put butter and both sugars into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add egg and vanilla; mix until combined. Mix in banana. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in oats, chocolate, and walnuts.

Drop cookies onto baking sheets and bake until golden brown and just set, 12-13 minutes. Makes about 3 dozen cookies (I made mine smaller and got 4 1/2 dozen).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Creamy White Chicken Chili

I wanted to make a white chicken chili this week, instead of the normal red chili I usually throw together. I linked to My Kitchen Cafe through my friend Melissa's blog last week - holy wow, there are some delicious recipes on this blog! When I saw this recipe for creamy white chicken chili, I knew I wanted to try it... and make it a little healthier. I added some extra veggies (green bell peppers and fresh mushrooms), used half the sour cream called for, and used fat-free half-and-half instead of heavy cream... and it was still delicious and super creamy! I didn't make it on the stovetop, though, just threw everything except the sour cream and milk into the crockpot before work. This was delicious!! So, so, so good!

I'll update later when I (finally) upload my pictures off my camera.

Creamy White Chili

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I used some leftover rotisserie chicken I had frozen)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon oil (didn't use this)
2 cans (15 1/2 ounces each) Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) chicken broth
2 cans (4 ounces each) chopped green chilies (if you like less kick, add just one can... I just used 1 for Carson's sake)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I left this out for Carson... Kevin and I wanted more heat, so we squirted some sriracha in our bowls..)
1 cup sour cream (I didn't add this much... probably only about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup whipping cream (I used fat-free half-and-half instead)

In a large saucepan, saute chicken, onion and garlic powder in oil until chicken is no longer pink. Add beans, broth, chilies and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in sour cream and cream. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired. Serve immediately. This is especially good served with tortilla chips.

Makes about 6 servings.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Biggest Loser, Week 2

Well, its the end of week 2. I'm still making lots of changes, some big (for me) and some small. I'm making them slowly and in steps because I fear if I just do everything all at once, I will get discouraged and overwhelmed and I will just say screw it all. I need to keep this fun and non-stressful. I know I can do it, as long as I remain motivated.

Its hard, sometimes, when I think about how difficult some things are now when they used to be so easy. For those that don't know, I was once a size 0/3, depending on the brand. I used to play tennis and run 4-10 miles regularly. I also didn't eat... this wasn't intentional, really... I just wasn't hungry. I lived on a Slurpee and 2 or 3 bites of a turkey sandwich each day. I was not healthy. And I still thought I was fat! I look back at the pictures of me then and think I look disgusting - way too thin! The pressure society puts on us to be thin and have perfect bodies is just ridiculous.

Anyway, that was then. This is now. I am so completely overweight and out of shape. Starting with the weight I started at the beginning of this BL challenge, I want to lose 110 pounds, overall... or 126 pounds overall if you use my heaviest weight of a few months ago. That's an entire person! This isn't my goal for this challenge, of course... this is more long-term. Anyway, I can barely run a 1/4 mile right now... I can barely do 5 pushups (using the cheater knee pushups!)... I get winded going up 2 flights of stairs... My thigh muscles are burning and quivering after climbing the stairs from our lower parking level to the top floor of our building (its 10 normal flights of stairs). But I know this will improve and things will get easier as time goes on. In fact, it actually gets a little easier each and every day. I will be able to run again. Maybe I could even be ready to run a 5k in summer 2010. That is one of my goals. I'll get there... but it will take some baby steps and probably a few flying leaps to get there.

I went out last week and purchased my first kettlebell - a 10-pounder. I also ordered a few books... Biggest Loser Simple Swaps, Biggest Loser 30-Day Jump Start, and Eat This Not That. I've started reading the 30-Day Jump Start - there is some great info in there! As well as inspirational stories and more yummy recipes! Much of the info, I've read very similar stuff in different sources over the years, so its really nothing new... I'm just finally paying attention, I guess. I'm hoping to get some more kettlebells (15-lb and 20-lb) in the near future, as well as a kettlebell video that was recommended to me by an old friend, who now teaches CrossFit and kettlebell workouts. There is a 60-day challenge using that DVD that I'm hoping to start sometime in January. I also discovered that there are hundreds of workout videos on Comcast On Demand! That was an awesome find so that I can keep the variety going and not get bored. So anyway, here are my baby steps to get me going on an exercise routine now. It is going to be a daily struggle for me to give up my time with Carson to exercise. But I know I need to do this if I want to be healthy and increase my time with him later on.

Sunday - cardio/strength combo workout (either a Jillian Michaels or Biggest Loser video)
Monday - Leslie Sansone power walk video for now, but once fitness room is done I'll do a brisk walk/light jog intervals on treadmill for 20 minutes
Tuesday - kettlebells for 15-20 minutes
Wednesday - day off
Thursday - Power Yoga or Winsor Pilates video
Friday - kettlebells for 15-20 minutes,
Saturday - Leslie Sansone power walk video for now, but once fitness room is done I'll do a brisk walk/light jog intervals on treadmill for 20 minutes and ride the bike for 10-15 minutes.

That is the plan for now. I think it will get me off to a good start. As time goes on, I will add to the length of my daily workouts (although my work-night workouts can't get much longer), as well as the intensity. I'm also interested in taking a boxing class at one of the local boxing gyms, and/or a Zumba class if I can find a buddy to join me. But that will come in time, as well. For now, this is my focus.

I'll update the side bar with my loss this week after our weigh-in a bit later this morning.

UPDATE: 2 pounds this week, so 6 pounds in two weeks! Let's hope it keeps up another week... and the following week (week of Christmas), my goal is to just maintain and not gain anything!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Meal plans and the week ahead

Another week begins! I can't believe how quickly 2010 is approaching! This is such a joyful, fun, busy time of year - I just love it! Although this week isn't too bad for us.... we might even get bored! :) Carson and Kevin are both coming off sicknesses, so we need to just take a little break and take it easy this week, anyway. Depending on how the day goes, we'd like to take Carson up to Faith Lutheran for their annual Journey to Bethlehem this afternoon. Then we'll have normal days all week - hopefully we'll make some good progress in the fitness room each night. Kevin starts his holiday vacation on Friday. We're planning to take Carson to see Santa at some point on Friday and we might go up to the Flint Children's Museum for one of their Christmas events in the morning. For the first time in quite awhile, we actually don't have any plans on Saturday! We'll just be working in the fitness room, mostly, along with the normal house chores and doing some baking and prepping a dish for a potluck on Sunday.

My extras this week will mostly be exercise. I have a weekly schedule laid out for some beginning workouts to get me going. It doesn't seem like it should be so hard... but when you only have about 3 1/2 hours at home each day (not counting sleep time) and you have a toddler, it is quite the feat. So that will be my main focus this week. In addition, I will finish up the little bit of gift wrapping that is left, make some more Christmas cookies with Carson (I think we will make chocolate surprise cookies this week), and maybe re-arrange our master bedroom to fit the computer desk in there.

Here's what's on the menu...

Sunday - baked spaghetti with home-canned meatsauce; sauteed green beans in EVOO and garlic; pearsauce

Meatless Monday - salads with lots of veggies; peaches

Tuesday - breakfast enchiladas; fresh pineapple and mango creamy white chicken chili; peaches

Wednesday -some kind of chili in the crockpot; homemade bread or corn muffins; peaches breakfast enchiladas; fresh pineapple and mango

Thursday - leftovers

Friday - mandarin orange chicken; steamed brown rice; roasted cauliflower and carrots

Saturday - TBD

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Japanese Beef Stew

I made another recipe from my Biggest Loser Family Cookbook on Tuesday... for japanese beef stew. This was so good! It had a great flavor and it was a great meal to eat on a cold night! And it was healthier than other recipes for beef stew that I've seen. I just threw everything in the crockpot to cook all day on low since I was home with Carson and didn't know how he'd be feeling later on in the day, so didn't know if I'd have time to spend watching it on the stovetop. It was delicious in the crockpot, but I do want to try it on the stovetop some time, too. I wasn't thinking and threw in the peas in the morning, instead of waiting until the last half hour or so... so they kind of disintegrated and turned all fibrous and tough. Other than that, it was an awesome dinner, though! We all loved it!

I'll update with a picture later.

Japanese Beef Stew

1 Tablespoon whole grain oat flour
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Pinch of ground black pepper
1 1-lb trimmed top round steak or london broil, cut into 1" cubes
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
6 whole scallions, ends trimmed and chopped, about 1 cup
1 Tablespoon freshly minced garlic
1 Tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
2 3/4 cups low-sodium, fat-free beef broth
2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 6-oz can whole peeled straw mushrooms, drained (I used an 8oz package of fresh mushrooms and just chopped them up)
4 small carrots, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1/2 pound sugar snap peas
salt, to taste

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, garlic powder, and pepper. Add the steak and toss to coat. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

Place a large nonstick soup pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add the oil, then the beef and cook to brown on all sides, about 1 minute per side. Reduce the heat to medium and add the scallions, garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, until the garlic is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the broth, soy sauce, mushrooms, and carrots. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for 45 minutes.

Add the sweet potatoes, cover and cook unti the beef is tender, 45 minutes or longer. Add the snap peas and cook 5 minutes longer, or until peas are tender. Season with salt and additional pepper. Serve immediately, or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 291 calories, 33 g protein, 35 g carbs, 6 g fat, 50 mg cholesterol, 7 g fiber, 658 mg sodium

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mini Frittattas & Breakfast Potatoes

Last night, we had breakfast for dinner... broccoli and cheddar mini frittatas and breakfast sweet potatoes. Both recipes come from my Biggest Loser Family Cookbook and both were so good! We all loved them - Kevin even liked the sweet potatoes! (He normally says he hates sweet potatoes). This was a great-tasting, healthy, low-cal meal that was actually quite filling. A great meal, especially during this time of year with the holidays coming up. I'll definitely make these both again. The only thing I'll do differently next time is to chop the peppers and onions into larger pieces... I chopped them into about the same size pieces as my sweet potatoes and most of the peppers and onions got quite charred.

I do have pictures, just haven't uploaded them yet. I'll update once I do.

Broccoli and Cheddar Mini Frittatas


Olive oil spray
1 cup chopped steamed broccoli
2 cups egg substitute
2 ounces (1 cup) finely shredded Cabot's 75% Light Cheddar Cheese, or your favorite low fat cheese

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly mist 8 muffin tin cups with olive oil spray. Divide broccoli evenly among cups (2 Tablespoons in each). Then divide the egg substitute evenly between cups (1/4 cup in each). Bake for 7-9 minutes, or until almost set. Sprinkle cheese evenly over the tops of the frittatas. Bake for 8-10 minutes longer, or until the egg is no longer runny and the cheese is melted. Transfer muffin tin to a cooling rack and allow to rest for 2 minutes before serving.

Makes 4 (2-frittata) servings

Per serving: 102 calories, 18 g protein, 4 g carbs, 2 g fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber, 362 mg sodium


Breakfast Sweet Potatoes


1 pound sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2" cubes
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons EVOO
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
Ground red pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (I didn't do this and had no problems sticking). In a medium bowl, combine sweet potatoes, bell pepper, onion, garlic, paprika, EVOO, and salt. Mix to combine. (I just did this on the baking sheet to save a bowl). Transfer to the baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. Bake for 20 minutes. Turn veggies with a spatula and bake another 20-25 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and the onion and pepper are slightly browned. Season with additional salt and peppers. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 125 calories, 2 g protein, 25 g carbs, 2 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 133 mg sodium

Biggest Loser Weekly Update

Soooo... my unofficial weigh-in this morning (meaning on my own scale at home) shows that I have lost 4 pounds this last week!! While I'm excited, I don't expect that every week. The first week or two always show the biggest loss. My realistic goal for this is to lose 2 pounds a week, a healthy amount. If I can pull that off, I'll lose 35 pounds by the end of our challenge (March 30th). Although my ideal goal is about 3 pounds a week to put me down 50. That would be awesome, but I think it might be a little fast to pull that off in 17 weeks. I'm worried that if I lose too quickly, I'll have a bunch of loose skin or something gross. Ick!

Anyway, so no official numbers this week since I am home today with Carson (he had a fever yesterday and through the night... but is acting totally normal now... go figure). I am going to continue what I'm doing this next week and we'll see how it goes. All I've been doing this past week is cutting out the majority of the pop (still have 1 a day, usually at lunch), taking a 15-minute walk once a day, taking a trip down and up 10 flights of stairs 1 or 2 times a day, and cutting back on portion-size. I'm going to add in one or two cardio workouts this week (Jillian Michaels' 30-Day Shred video) and we'll see how it goes come this time next week!

Also, a side note... I'm going to reset my tally on the sidebar. I have lost 16 pounds in the last however many months, but that won't count towards this challenge, so the new tally will just show the pounds lost for this challenge.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Meal plans and the week ahead

We've got a busy, but super fun, week ahead of us. We'll be going to East Lansing this afternoon to see a live production of Click Clack Moo at the Wharton Center. This will be Carson's first live production, so we'll see how he likes it. I think he will really enjoy it - I hope so at least! There is a fun family craft time that starts an hour before the play, so we'll be going to that to burn off some energy beforehand. Tuesday, after work, I get my hair done again, so Kevin will be picking Carson up since I'll be late. Friday we'll be going on an overnight getaway to Grand Rapids. We're staying at a hotel with an indoor water slide, so that will be tons of fun! Carson will love swimming again! We're meeting up with my SIL, BIL, and niece at Fred Meijer Gardens on Saturday morning - it will be great to have some extra time with them so that Carson can get to know his cousin, Rebecca, a little better.

My first priority for any extra time I have this week will be packing and preparing for our overnight trip. I also have to get our Christmas cards all addressed and mailed out. I'd like to spend some time wrapping more Christmas gifts - I got about a third of them wrapped last week, so I'd like to do another third this week. I'm hoping to make a batch of monster cookies with Carson one night after work, too. And we'll be doing more work in the fitness room in the basement - we should be ready to paint it by next Sunday, hopefully!

This week I am cooking from my Biggest Loser Family Cookbook. I bought this cookbook about a year ago now and I've never made anything in it yet. So I figured with the BL challenge at work, this would be the perfect time to give it a try. It looks like it has some great recipes and if its anything like the first Biggest Loser cookbook, I'm sure they'll be delicious!

Sunday - we'll be eating in East Lansing after Click Clack Moo, probably at Cosi

Meatless Monday - broccoli and cheddar mini frittatas; breakfast sweet potatoes; fresh pineapple

Tuesday - hair appt., so I will be late getting home.... japanese beef stew in the crockpot

Wednesday - mandarin orange chicken; steamed brown rice; steamed broccoli and cauliflower

Thursday - leftovers to clean out the fridge

Friday - We'll be in Grand Rapids and will be eating some where out there - most likely at one of the Gilmore Collection restaurants, unless we end up in Holland for Dutch Winterfest.

Saturday - We'll be coming back from Grand Rapids at some point today, not sure if we'll be back before dinner, or not. So we'll either eat out on the road, or we'll just have some homemade waffles from the freezer; strawberry syrup; sliced bananas; walnuts.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Corn Custard Pudding Casserole

I made this recipe from my SIL for corn custard pudding casserole as a side dish with our pine nut chicken and sauteed broccoli. We all love corn and I've always wondered what corn pudding tastes like. So when I saw her post last week, I wanted to try it. It was so good! I used some of the corn I froze this summer from Eichelberg's. It made it extra sweet - so yummy! It was almost like dessert, the corn was so sweet, plus having the sugar in there. Definitely a keeper and something I'll make often, I think. Just wish it didn't take so long to cook.

Corn Custard Pudding Casserole

1 pkg. frozen corn, cooked until separated (this refers to a home-frozen pkg...maybe 2 cups or so?, I never cook it. I just let it thaw a bit)
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
dash pepper
1 egg, beaten

Beat egg in bowl. Add corn, milk, butter, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir to combine well. Pour into greased 1 1/2 qt. casserole. Place in a pan of hot water. Bake for 1 1/4 hours at 350, until set. (I didn't use the pan of hot water and it was fine.)

Pine Nut Chicken

Last night, I made a Rachael Ray recipe that I saw on her show a few weeks back. I have some pine nuts that I need to use up, so I thought I'd give it a try. And I used some of the locally-raised, free-range, hormone/antibiotic-free chicken that I bought this summer at the farmers' markets. This is basically just another way to fry chicken. Its very good! Lots of flavor with the nuts, herbs, and cheese in the crust. And the chicken stayed so moist. We all loved it!! Definitely something I'll make again. Next time I might try making nuggets with the coating for a fun meal for Carson.

Pine Nut Chicken Cutlets

1/2 loaf crusty bread or stale white bread, torn into pieces
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, very finely chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1 lemon
4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
Flour, about 3/4 for dredging chicken plus 2 tablespoons
2 large eggs, beaten with a splash of water

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Toast bread until golden. Place toasted bread in food processor and add pine nuts. Pulse-grind the bread and nuts into crumbs. Pour crumbs onto plate and combine with thyme and parsley (reserving a sprinkle for cauliflower), half of the grated cheese and zest of 1 lemon. Halve the chicken breasts across and gently pound them out between parchment or plastic wrap. Season the cutlets, 8 pieces in total, with salt and pepper. Coat chicken in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs and reserve.

Heat 1/2 inch olive oil and shallow fry the cutlets 3-4 on each side in 2 batches. Reserve the cooked cutlets on rack placed over baking sheets. Serve 2 cutlets per person with a wedge of lemon along side.

Crockpot Pork Chops with Mustard-Sauced Potatoes

On Tuesday, I tried another recipe from 365 Days of Slow Cooking for pork chops and mustard-sauced potatoes. This was very good! I used my home-canned, homemade cream of mushroom soup and some of the pork that my BFF Sara's brother raised last year, all-natural, hormone/antibiotic-free. Good quality meat makes such a difference, but honestly, this dish would probably still be excellent with the pork chops you buy at Meijer or Kroger or something, too. The chops get so incredibly tender in the crockpot - they were falling off the bone and were so nice and moist. The potatoes were very good, too. Great flavors!

Pork Chops with Mustard-Sauced Potatoes

6 pork loin chops, cut 3/4 inch thick
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dijon-style mustard
1 tsp dried thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp pepper
6 medium potatoes, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 medium onion, sliced

In large skillet brown pork chops on both sides in hot oil. Drain off fat. (I didn't do this b/c I didn't have time in the morning). In large mixing bowl combine soup, chicken broth, mustard, thyme, garlic, and pepper. (I just did this in the crockpot, rather than dirtying a bowl). Add potatoes and onion, stirring to coat. Transfer to a 3 quart slow cooker (I used my 6-quart b/c its the only one with a timer). Place browned chops on top of potatoes. Cover; cook on low-heat setting for 7-8 hours. (Mine cooked for about 9 hours on low, then it switched to Keep Warm for another 2 hours.)

Roasted Vegetable Soup

On Sunday, I made roasted vegetable soup for dinner. We had a ton of leftover roasted veggies from Thanksgiving still, so I figured this would be perfect! And super easy! I just got out my 5 quart cast iron dutch oven and dropped the veggies in (we had carrots, red potatoes, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts), covered with a box of chicken stock, and let it come up to a simmer for about a half hour or so. I didn't add any extra seasonings because the roasted veggies just have so much flavor already. Once it had simmered for about a half hour, I got out my stick blender and pureed it up. This made a nice, thick, hearty pureed soup - yum! All three of us loved it! Definitely something I will do again and again.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Biggest Loser

I made a spontaneous decision this afternoon. I was working at my desk when I heard these women going in and out of the storage room by my office... opening and closing the door, talking about taking their shoes off, and whispering. So, me being the nosy person I am :), went out to see who it was and what they could possibly be doing. They just got a small group together and decided to do Biggest Loser at work. Each person puts in $25 and whomever loses the highest percentage of weight by March 30th gets the pot! So my friends Lina, Chris, and I joined them. There are seven of us, so $175. Its a good incentive! So wish me luck and keep your fingers crossed that I can light a fire under it and get losing!! :)

UPDATE 12/2/09: There are 11 of us now... so the pot is now $275!! Even better incentive! :)

Family Traditions

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about traditions... Thanksgiving traditions, Christmas traditions, New Years Eve traditions, and just general traditions... what traditions I most enjoyed growing up, what traditions I'd like to carry on with Carson, and new traditions I'd like to start. So I thought Id' do a quick post about it. I'd love to hear what your favorite traditions are, too, so please leave some comments with your favorites.

We started our Christmas traditions on Black Friday by putting up our Christmas tree and decorations. This was the day that many people put up their tree and the day that I grew up doing it. Its just a nice way to spend some time together as a family. We play Christmas music and sing and dance and just have fun. Carson loved it this year!

Ornaments. My mom always bought my sister and me a tree ornament each year - something to symbolize what we were into or accomplished that year. I will definitely be carrying this one on with Carson. I haven't found his ornament this year yet, though... hopefully I'll be lucky and find it this week! We always kept our own box of ornaments and I always loved getting them out each Christmas and hanging them all up on the tree on my own. We would talk about what we remembered about what each ornament symbolized and it was always so fun. I hope that Carson will love this tradition, as well. I think he will, since he loved hearing about last year's ornament and picking out a special place on the tree to hang it already this year.

Christmas cookies. My family has always baked a number of different family favorite Christmas cookie recipes - to name a few... chocolate covered cherry cookies, banana drop cookies, and of course the traditional cut-out sugar cookies. I'll definitely do the traditional cut-out sugar cookies with Carson every year and we'll do up a variety of other cookies, as well. This year I think we'll make banana drop, monster, biscotti, PB kiss, thumbprint, and cut-out sugar cookies. Carson loves to help in the kitchen, no matter what the task, so I know he will love this tradition this year - and hopefully for many, many years to come!

The Christmas Story. This is one that I need to do some more thinking about. I think it is ultimately important and I want to come up with some fun, creative ways to teach Carson about the Christmas Story. I know I want to get an Advent Calendar/Tree, but I haven't found one that I love yet, so I might have to wait till next year for this tradition, or just start it a little late. I realized last week that while I bought my nieces and nephew books last year about the Christmas Story, I didn't get one for Carson! So that is the first thing on the list - to get some books so we can read about it. But I want to do more. If you have any ideas you'd like to share on this one especially, please do!

Christmas lights. Growing up, we'd always take a drive on Christmas Eve after our family parties to look at all of the Christmas lights and outdoor decorations. I always loved it and I know that Carson will love it, too, as he already loves to look at the lights on the houses we pass on the road. We'd always sing Christmas carols while we were driving and looking, too, so that just seemed to make it extra fun!

Santa Claus. While I don't want Christmas centered around Santa whatsoever, I do want to carry on this tradition with Carson. We'll take him to visit Santa and we'll fill his stocking and have some gifts under the tree from Santa on Christmas morning.

Christmas morning. Waking up super early and being filled with anticipation and excitement is what I remember most as a child. I hope to instill this same sense of excitement in Carson, as well. I don't think Carson will wake up any earlier than normal this year, but I'm sure he will in years to come. We'll get up, discover our stockings, open our gifts, cook and eat a huge, yummy breakfast, read the Christmas story, and just spend some time together relaxing as a family before we hit the road for a family party in the afternoon.

I think those are the main Christmas traditions we'll continue on with Carson. I'm sure we'll add more and I'm sure I missed a few small ones - like watching the classic Christmas movies on TV and things like that. I've been trying to think up some fun New Years' Eve traditions, but my list for that is pretty short. I'd love to hear any ideas you have for that holiday, as well as all of your Christmas traditions!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Leftovers Shepherd's Pie

After thinking we wouldn't end up with any Thanksgiving leftovers this year, we actually ended up with a lot of them. We brought home all of the remaining turkey (enough to make this and fill three freezer containers!), mashed potatoes, and corn that the rest of my family didn't want and we had a ton of roasted veggies (brussels sprouts, red potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, cauliflower) leftover from dinner at Kevin's mom's house. So I decided to make a shepherd's pie. I made an Emeril recipe for shepherd's pie using Thanksgiving leftovers last year. I was tempted to just do the same thing this year, but decided to make it super simple and just use a pint of my homemade and home-canned cream of mushroom soup. This was very good - all three of us really liked it. Carson ate two helpings and Kevin just wants me to make another one tonight using the rest of the leftover roasted veggies and corn. I didn't follow a recipe, just used what I had.

Thanksgiving Leftovers Shepherd's Pie

1 pint cream of mushroom soup
leftover veggies (I used corn and roasted carrots/sweet potatoes/brussels/cauliflower)
leftover mashed potatoes
leftover turkey
shredded cheese

Use whatever quantities of each to your liking. I used way more veggies than meat... I probably only used about 1 cup of chopped turkey, the rest was all veggies. Mix your soup into the veggies and meat in a 9x9 glass casserole dish. Spread out evenly. Top with mashed potatoes and sprinkle some shredded cheese on top. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.

Meal plans and the week ahead

This week is fairly tame and we're finally getting back to what used to be normal. Today we'll be going out for lunch with Kevin's family to visit with my BIL, SIL, and niece who are in town from the Grand Rapids area. Thursday I'll be in Detroit all day for work. We'll do something fun on Friday, but I'm not sure what yet. Saturday we're meeting up with our friends Lina, Sean, and Vayla in Ann Arbor in the morning to visit the children's museum there and then we're having lunch at Zingermann's Deli - yum!! Like I said, its a pretty tame week, which will be very nice for a change!

We put up our Christmas tree and decorations on Friday last week. I love having the house decorated for Christmas! I've got to do a little shopping this week to add to our decor - primarily to find a short string of lights to string through the evergreen garland on the fireplace and find some stocking holders that I actually like.... you wouldn't think they would be hard to find, but I've looked for 3 years now and never find any that I like. I also really need to get started on wrapping gifts this week. I'd like to get started on the Christmas cookie baking, too. Maybe that's what Carson and I will do on Friday. I still need to decide what kind of cookies to make this year, though. I also want to make some more homemade bread this week - I'm hoping to get into this habit so that I can stop buying bread at the store. I've got tons of bread machine and ABin5 recipes I want to try, so it should be fun! I still need to tackle our master bedroom - I started it a couple weeks ago, but I really would like to finish it up this week. We're going to move the computer desk in there so we can get going on Carson's "big boy" room, so I've got to clear some space for that, too. All of that should keep me plenty busy this week... in addition to the normal weekly stuff.

On to the meals... I'm still working on using up some stuff in the pantry, freezer, and refrigerator...

Sunday - Lunch with the in-laws. Dinner will be meatless.... roasted veggie soup using leftover roasted carrots/sweet potatoes/red potatoes/brussels sprouts/cauliflower from Thanksgiving; homemade bread; applesauce

Meatless Monday - quiche with spinach, mushrooms, broccoli, and carrots; cottage cheese; pearsauce

Tuesday - I've been wanting to make it for weeks, but just never get to making it... hopefully this week I do... pork chops with mustard sauced potatoes in the crockpot; sauteed green beans in garlic and EVOO; fresh pineapple

Wednesday - pine nut chicken; sauteed broccoli in EVOO and garlic; corn custard pudding casserole; apple slices and fresh pineapple

Thursday - eating at my parents' since they are watching Carson

Friday - artichoke chicken; roasted red potatoes and brussels sprouts; fruit smoothies to use up some frozen mango, peaches, and strawberries

Saturday - Lunch at Zingermann's. Dinner is TBD... possibly leftovers from the week... possibly homemade pizza. We'll be going out to dinner with my parents and sister to celebrate my sister's 19th birthday (it was Monday).

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie

Our last bit of baking on Wednesday was an Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie from AllRecipes. I've had this recipe marked for at least a year now, so I'm glad I got to finally make it. It was so good!! The apple butter really gives the pie a nice boost of flavor. I think I'll make my pumpkin pies this way from now on, actually. Although, I might leave off the streusel topping. While its super yummy and really makes this pie different, Kevin's not crazy about crumbly toppings on things and neither is Carson, so for our preference, I think I'll leave it off next time.

Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie

1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 cup apple butter
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup evaporated milk
1 (9 inch) unbaked deep dish pie crust

STREUSEL TOPPING:
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, apple butter, 1/4 cup brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Stir in eggs and evaporated milk. Pour into prepared pie shell. Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted 2 inches from the center comes out clean. Sprinkle streusel topping over the pie, and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

To make the streusel topping: In a small bowl, combine butter, flour, and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Stir until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in pecans.

Pumpkin Bars

Carson and I did lots of baking on Wednesday. We both loved it. Carson especially liked helping with these pumpkin bars... namely the frosting since he got to lick the paddle. :) I got this recipe from my friend, Michelle M., at work. These bars are super yummy, super moist, super easy to make, and they make a lot of them! They're great for family parties, potlucks, etc. when you need dessert to go a long way. Every ingredient I used was organic, so even though they're not the healthiest in terms of fat content, at least the ingredients I used were better for your body and health. :)

Pumpkin Bars

4 eggs
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 16oz can pumpkin
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped nuts (optional - I did not use)

Combine eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin. Blend well. Add dry ingredients; then stir in nuts if using. Pour mixture into a 15 1/2" x 10 1/2" pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Frost with cream cheese frosting when cool.

Cream cheese frosting

1 box confectioner's sugar (about 3- 3 1/2 cups)
1 stick butter
1 8oz package cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream all ingredients together and spread over bars.

French Bread

I broke out the bread machine on Wednesday for the first time in quite a long stretch of time. I'm really hoping to start using it a lot more frequently from now on - I'd like to stop buying any bread from the store, so we'll see how it goes. I tried a recipe from 250 Best American Bread Machine Baking Recipes by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt, which I've checked out from the library. There are so many awesome sounding recipes in this book - I'm excited to try some more! This recipe for french bread was very good, even with old bread flour and old yeast! (I had just enough of each to use for this before breaking out my new stuff... so I couldn't waste it!) The bread was very soft and moist on the inside with a great french bread texture and flavor. The crust was quite crisp... as I know french bread is supposed to be, but actually next time I think I'll just put the machine on the basic cycle with the light crust setting rather than the french cycle with light crust setting to see if it makes the crust a little less crisp.

French Bread

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoon sugar
4 1/4 cups bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoon bread machine yeast

Measure ingredients into baking pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select French Cycle. Makes a 2 pound loaf.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Meal plans and the week ahead

This is one of my favorite weeks of the year, although this year will be much different than most years past since I'll be missing out on some traditions with my family (pig day and pie day) that I'm sad about... but such is life. We'll still get some great, quality time in with our families, which is the important thing. Aside from the traditions for prepping for turkey day, Black Friday is my all-time favorite shopping day... even though I hate the crowds and the lines, I love, love, love the deals! I always go out super early and I'm usually home by breakfast time, so I don't stay out long. I also love Black Friday for our tradition of putting up the Christmas tree and breaking out all the holiday decorations. It really is such a fantastic week with all the traditions, reflections on what you are thankful for, and just getting everyone in such great, happy, joyful moods for the holiday season. I am really looking forward to it all this year, as we build traditions with Carson and get to teach him about all the wonderful meanings behind this time of year.

This week is a busy one, as I'm sure it is for everyone. Today we'll be at my parents' house for a family party to celebrate my grandpa's birthday. Monday is a normal day. Tuesday morning, I'll be taking Carson for his H1N1 shot, so it might be a later afternoon at work to make up some of my lost time if we're busy. Wednesday, I'm hoping to take the afternoon off so that I can do my baking for the following day. Kevin will hopefully be coming home on Wednesday! Assuming he still comes home, his parents will be picking him up from the airport and hopefully he'll make it home before Carson goes to bed. Thursday is turkey day! We're going to my in-laws' for a turkey dinner and then will be heading to Grand Rapids for dessert with Kevin's extended family. Friday, I'll be going out shopping at 4am with my sister to take advantage of the Black Friday sales. Then Kevin, Carson, and I will be putting up our Christmas tree and decorations during the day. We may be heading to Crossroads Village on Friday night, but we're playing it by ear, waiting to see how we all feel and what the weather is like. Saturday is my 10-year high school class reunion that Kevin and I are possibly to go to, but that is also kind of up in the air right now, too. We'll see what the next couple of days bring.

So that's about it, now on to the meals...

Sunday - birthday party... we're having some appetizers; chicken divan; rice; cake; ice cream

Meatless Monday - herbed baked eggs; roasted brussels sprouts; toast with jam; applesauce

Tuesday - hot dogs; mac and cheese; carrots; pearsauce

Wednesday - Kevin is (hopefully) coming home! I'm going to do something easy since I'll be busy baking... chili in the crockpot; homemade bread; polish pigs in the blanket (golabki); steamed green beans from the freezer

Thursday - Happy Thanksgiving!! I'm bringing roasted veggies... red potatoes, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, carrots... to my in-laws for dinner. And I'm bringing apple butter pumpkin pie and pumpkin cake bars to GR.

Friday - pork chops with mustard-sauced potatoes in the crockpot; peas; homemade bread; applesauce we decided to order pizza tonight

Saturday - Kevin is craving fast food and pizza... so we'll order pizza from our favorite local place, Rocky's, before (and if) we head to my reunion. shepherd's pie using leftover turkey, corn, roasted veggies, and mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving; applesauce

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pumpkin Bread

Carson and I made some pumpkin bread on Monday night. This is a recipe that I've been using for a few years now. It was shared with me by my friend, Kathy, from work. This is such an awesome pumpkin bread - very tasty, very moist, and it turns out perfectly every time! I changed it up a bit this time and substituted in 1 cup of whole wheat flour. It makes the bread a little more dense, but its still very, very good! We made a medium-sized loaf and three mini loaves. I've been forgetting to take a picture - maybe I'll remember to take one still this week. I'll update if I do.

Pumpkin Bread

3 cups sugar
2/3 cup shortening
4 eggs
3 1/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons soda
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
2 cups pumpkin
2/3 cup water
1 cup nuts (optional)

Cream sugar, shortening and eggs. Add dry ingredients, pumpkin and water. Mix thoroughly. Bake at 350o for 1 hour, 10 minutes. Makes 4 small or 3 large loaves.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Meal plans and the week ahead

Okay, so this week is totally up in the air still. There is a possibility that Carson and I will be leaving for Spain on Thursday, so until we have an answer on that, I'm not quite sure what our week will look like. While it'd be super sweet if we go, I won't be disappointed if we don't go... and I don't even want to think about how stressful it would be at this point if we do get approved... I haven't given even a second of thought to what we would pack or anything... and I'm not sure I want to yet either... :)

If we don't go to Spain, we have a pretty busy week ahead of us. Today we are going to East Lansing to the MSU planetarium. Tuesday I'll be working a long day in Detroit. Wednesday night we have our last swim class of this session. Friday night we'll go to Lansing for Silver Bells in the City if the weather is nice. And Saturday we'll be in Lansing again for a Thanksgiving dinner with some friends. We'll just see how it all plays out with the Spain thing first, though.

Last week was fairly productive. I harvested all of the remaining brussels sprouts, potatoes, and celery and about half of the carrots from the garden; canned another batch of applesauce; dehydrated a bunch of apple chips; made some more pumpkin muffins; made the raw macaroons; blanched and froze a huge amount of carrots; froze all of the remaining celery that we harvested from the garden; cleaned out and organized two of our freezers; and got half of my house cleaned. We'll see how this week turns out, but I'm hoping to get through freezing lots more carrots; doing a little more baking; cleaning out and organizing the last freezer; cleaning the other half of the house; and maybe actually making a dent on our master bedroom (didn't touch it last week). We'll see how I do.

Here's the plan for now. After cleaning out and organizing the pantry three weeks ago and then two of the freezers last week, I'm trying to use up some things before they go bad. This will dictate our meals for a couple of weeks, I think.

Sunday - hot dogs; mac and cheese; roasted brussels sprouts; canned pineapple

Meatless Monday - baked potato soup from the freezer; roasted brussels sprouts; leftover canned pineapple

Tuesday - eating at my parents' since my mom is watching Carson

Wednesday - portable... PB&J sandwiches; apple chips; raisins; sliced co-jack cheese

Thursday - spinach mushroom lasagna from the freezer; steamed green beans; canned peaches

Friday - eating out in Lansing before Silver Bells in the City

Saturday - Thanksgiving dinner with friends... I'm making apple butter pumpkin pies; jello salad; and oreo truffles

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Raw Macaroons

Last night, Carson and I made some raw chocolate macaroons. My friend, Lina, had brought these in to work a while back and I thought they were so yummy, so I asked her for the recipe. The recipe comes from the book Raw Food, Real World. Lina let me borrow her cookbook and I copied down several recipes that I hope to try. These cookies are super easy to throw together and then the dehydrator does all the work while you sleep. We woke up to a house smelling like cocoa. :) These really taste great, too. They're very rich. Carson loves them... he kept sneaking tastes of the batter last night while we were making them and I let him have a bite of one as a treat after he ate his eggs and toast this morning. He immediately wanted more, but we'll have to wait till later in the day to indulge again.

Raw Chocolate Macaroons

3 cups dried, unsweetened coconut flakes (organic)
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder (organic, free trade certified)
1 cup pure maple syrup (local, organic)
1/3 cup coconut butter (extra virgin, organic)
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract (organic)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and stir well. You can also use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.

Using a small cookie scoop, your hands, or a big tablespoon, spoon rounds of the dough onto dehydrator screens. If you are using your hands, you may want to chill the dough a bit first.

Dehydrate at 115 degrees for 12-24 hours, or until crisp on the outside and nice and chewy on the inside.

For blonde macaroons, replace the cocoa powder with an equal amount of almond flour.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Salsa Meatloaf

I decided to try a new meatloaf recipe that I found on AllRecipes a while back and have been wanting to try out. A recipe for salsa meatloaf. So, I made it tonight to supplement our leftovers for dinner (since we'd eaten some for lunch and didn't have quite enough) and to have for a few lunches for me during the week. This was so good! Super moist - probably the most-so meatloaf I've ever had. The flavor was awesome - we all loved it! It was super easy, too! Definitely a keeper!

Salsa Meatloaf

1 pound ground beef sirloin
1/2 cup salsa (I used my home-canned zucchini salsa)
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (I used half cheddar, half swiss)
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 garlic cloves
dried parsley, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (the recipe in the link says 350, but I did 375 based on the comments and it turned out perfectly). In a large bowl, mix the ground sirloin, salsa, bread crumbs, cheese, egg, and garlic. Season with parsley, salt, and pepper. Transfer to a 5x9 inch loaf pan. Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F.

Crockpot Lamb Chops

We had my in-laws over for dinner last night. Kevin's brother had planned to come over to help Kevin work on some of the north fence - fixing some problems so that Jet doesn't get out anymore... I had some very scary nights last week with Jet getting out and disappearing for 10-45 minutes at a time... thankfully he wasn't hit in the busy road we live on! Since we found out Friday that Kevin would be gone for a while now, I figured it'd be a good opportunity to have his parents over to eat with us after the boys were done working on the fence. So I just threw some lamb (rib) chops and potatoes into the crockpot and let it cook all day. They turned out sooooo good! Super tender, falling off the bone, and such great flavor. Every time we eat any of our natural, grass-fed lamb, we think how much better it is than any other lamb we've bought at the grocery store. I missed out on ordering another lamb this fall, so we'll have to wait till next year to replenish our stock of lamb in the freezer... and the stock is dwindling... we just have a few packages left that will need to be used up soon. Anyway, this was the first time my in-laws had knowlingly eaten lamb - my mother-in-law loved it, but I think my father-in-law may have raided the refrigerator when he got home. :) Lamb has a unique flavor and you either love it or hate it. Kevin, Carson, Danny, and I all loved it, too. This really isn't a recipe, but here's what I did.

Crockpot Lamb Chops with Potatoes

potatoes
lamb chops
seasoning
1 cup water

Layer the potatoes in the bottom of the crock. I used some red and yellow potatoes from our garden, didn't peel them and just cut them in half. Pour the water over the potatoes. Season your chops with whatever seasoning you prefer - I used a grill seasoning. Mid-eastern seasonings would be awesome, and I almost used them, but figured I'd play it safer with the in-laws coming over and knowing they don't really eat mid-eastern food. Layer your chops over top of the potatoes. Cover and cook on low all day. Mine cooked on low for about 9 1/2 hours and it was awesome!

Meal plans and the week ahead

A new week... and another wrench thrown into the mix by Kevin's employer. We were supposed to be taking off on Friday morning for a mini-vacation/long weekend, but nope that's canceled. And instead of heading to Virginia this week to work... Kevin was told on Friday that he leaves Monday for Spain and won't be home until Thanksgiving. It feels like this is never-ending. Just when we're getting used to the way things are, Kevin's boss calls with another last-minute, high priority assignment. Hopefully it won't happen again for awhile now, though. Keep your fingers crossed. :)

We'll be playing a lot of things by ear this week. I'm off for Veteran's Day on Wednesday - which means we can actually eat a half-way normal dinner before swim class this week! :) I'm planning to take Carson up to the Veteran's memorial in Swartz Creek to find his Great Grandpa M's brick and we may go out to visit Great Grandpa, Aunt Risa, and Uncle Barry at the National Veteran's cemetery with Great Grandma Jackie, too. Friday is my Plan A day and we'll be going to tumbling. That's about all I know so far. I think we'll go visit Apple and Poppy on Friday afternoon and maybe we'll hang out with one of my cousins Friday night again. We'll see how it goes.

Today we'll be trying to finish up all of the fall/before-winter chores since it will very likely snow before Kevin gets home. We'll be sweeping up the last of the leaves in the yard, cleaning the gutters, bringing in the outdoor furniture and grill, digging the rest of the carrots, and hopefully tilling the garden. For the rest of the week... I need to work on apples again at some point. We were thinking we'd have a birthday party today, but its been postponed and will possibly be next weekend... if it is, I'll make Oreo truffles next Saturday for the party. I have some fun Thanksgiving crafts to try out with Carson a couple different nights this week. I need to go through the freezers and make an inventory of what we have in there - I know there is some really old stuff that needs to be used or tossed soon. I also want to spend a little more time in our master bedroom, getting it cleaned. That should keep me plenty busy this week, on top of the normal weekly chores.

Sunday - leftover lamb chops, potatoes, and broccoli from Saturday; home-canned pearsauce

Meatless Monday - cheese tortellini with home-canned tomato sauce; steamed broccoli; fresh pineapple and mangoes

Tuesday - oven fried chicken; zucchini fries; roasted buttercup squash

Wednesday - Veteran's Day - don't forget to do something to honor our Vets today! ... kraut bierock; leftover roasted buttercup squash; fresh pineapple and mangoes

Thursday - crockpot pork chops, apples, and sweet potatoes

Friday - TBD... just depends what our plans end up being, possibly out to eat. If we're home, we'll eat leftovers from Thursday.

Saturday - TBD... we need to figure out our plans first. If we're home, I think Carson and I will make homemade pizza.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Penne with Pumpkin Cream Sauce

I didn't make it to the grocery store on Monday like I'd hoped, so we couldn't have the planned meal since I had no eggs. So I looked in the pantry (which I had just cleaned out and organized on Sunday night) and what is staring me in the face... a can of organic pumpkin. I have also been cleaning out old recipes I've saved from magazines and remembered seeing one for a pumpkin penne. So I went looking for it and found it - its from an old issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray... I'm not sure what month/year because it doesn't print on the bottom of the pages and I didn't write it down. I also found it online. This was super fast and easy to make. I did it in two pans to save on some time, but you'll see below that the recipe actually recommends doing it in one pan - so super easy clean up if you do it that way. I only made a half-recipe, but I've posted the full recipe, which is supposed to be 4 servings... that is one thing about Rachael Ray that really bothers me... her servings are enormous!! There's no way I (or any other normal person) could eat the size serving she suggests. But anyway, back to the recipe. This was good. I didn't love it, but I liked it. Carson gobbled it down and kept calling it "aroni and cheese"... and I let him think that's what it was so he'd eat it well. :)

Penne with Pumpkin Cream Sauce

1 pound penne pasta
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
Salt and pepper
One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking water.

In the same pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and season with salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until softened, about 6 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin and heavy cream and bring to a boil. Return the pasta to the pot along with the reserved pasta cooking water and toss. Stir in the parmesan; season with salt and pepper.

Top the pasta with the parsley and more parmesan.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Crockpot Italian Wedding Soup

Yesterday, I made italian wedding soup in the crockpot using a recipe from RecipeZaar. I've made italian wedding soup several times in the past, but its been quite a while. And I'd never used the crockpot. We love italian wedding soup and this recipe was awesome! Carson loved it - he scarfed his serving down and wanted more! The recipe below calls for meatballs - I made my own, which takes a little longer, but they're way better than the ones you buy, in my opinion. I just thawed a pound of ground beef, added some chopped onion, and garlic powder. Then I formed mini meatballs and baked them for about 7 minutes. I also used cooked/shredded turkey since that's what I came across first in the freezer - it worked out well. Its definitely easier to let the crockpot do all the work than to make this on the stovetop like I have in the past... this will be the way I do it from now on, for sure! This recipe makes quite a bit. We had my parents and sister over for dinner and we still had enough leftover for another dinner for the three of us (which I froze). I forgot to take a picture.

Crockpot Italian Wedding Soup

16 1/2 ounces meatballs (I made my own)
6 cups chicken broth (I used 4 cups home-canned stock and 2 cups water with organic BTB)
1 cup cooked chicken, chopped (I used turkey since that's what I found in the freezer first)
1/2 cup carrot, diced (from the garden and I added about a cup)
1/2 cup celery, diced (from the garden and I added about a cup)
1/4 (8 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted (I used about 1/2 pound fresh)
garlic salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1/4 cup romano cheese (I used parm-reggiano)
1/4 cup acini di pepe pasta

Pop the meatballs in the microwave for 1 minute on defrost so you can quarter them. (or make your own!) Combine rest of ingredients except pasta in crock pot and cook all day on low. Add the pasta during the last hour of cooking. This freezes well.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Arabic Baked Chicken with Potatoes

This recipe comes from my BFF Jaime's Aunt Pati... and its absolutely delicious!! I made this last Sunday for dinner - it was the perfect meal! It filled the house with awesome smells from the arabic spices and wow did it taste good!! We all loved it. Carson ate his entire first serving and wanted more potatoes and chicken! Definitely a keeper and it'll be a regular thing in our house, for sure! Thanks for the wonderful recipe, Aunt Pati!!! :)

I used one of my organic, free-range whole chickens. I just thawed it and butchered it up. And I used a mixture of yellow and red potatoes from our garden. The arabic spices can be found at your local arabic store.

Arabic Baked Chicken with Potatoes

1 pkg Pick-O-Chicks chicken or whole chicken cut up
1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons mixed spices
1 1/2 teaspoon ground sumac
1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon pepper (to taste)
3 cloves garlic minced
1/2 small onion cut in rings
1 1/2 - 2 pounds baking potatoes washed (no need to peel)

Preheat oven to 400F Wash chicken and place in large bowl. Add spices, sumac, salt, pepper, garlic. Let stand covered for 3 or more hours, refrigerated. Meanwhile, wash potatoes and slice. You can slice them like french fries or slice thin like for potato chips (I sliced mine thin). In a shallow baking dish, at least 13X9 (may need a larger pan - I used my huge cast iron lasagna pan) lightly grease the bottom with a slight amount of olive oil. Place onion rings in pan, then place potato slices. Lightly salt the potato layer. Place marinated chicken on top of potatoes and place on lower rack of oven for approximately 1 hour. Turn chicken about half way through cooking time.