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Archive for November, 2010

Crock Pot Creation

When many people think of crock pot recipes, they think of not-so-healthy ingredients like cream of mushroom/chicken/celery soup and low-grade meat. I think that’s why the crock pot has gotten a bad rap. Well, that and the fact that the word crock pot (pronounced craaack paaat) just doesn’t sound that appetizing. Maybe that’s why we also have the term slow cooker. 🙂

The crock pot can be a great tool to incorporate into your healthy lifestyle. I’ve heard so many people (myself included) say “I don’t have time to cook healthy meals.” The crock pot is also fabulous for saving time. Who couldn’t use a little extra time in their day? If you have 10 minutes, you can make a healthy meal that will be ready the minute you walk in the door.

For starters, you can lighten up those “typical” recipes by using reduced fat versions of those soups and using leaner meats. Oh, and who says your crock pot meal has to be casseroley (yes, I made up that word) at all? Toss a couple of chicken breasts (fresh or frozen) into your crock pot in the morning and you’ve got tender meat when you get home, ready for shredding. Do this at night and you’ve got lunch-ready chicken at your fingertips.

You can also find recipes out there that incorporate fresh or frozen vegetables into the mix, such as this delicious, homey Smothered Buttermilk Chicken. Similar to a veggie-full version of pot pie filling, it’s comfort food at its healthiest.

The basics for this recipe come from a recipe my friend Kate posted on her blog a while back. The only modifications I make are upping the chicken to 1 1/2lbs. (per my husband’s request), throwing in a cup of frozen corn & a cup of mushrooms when I add the peas. I also use skim milk instead of buttermilk because I can’t justify buying a whole container for just one dish. The result is a little more chunky and a little less creamy, but still full of flavor.

My husband likes his served over biscuits. Can I really claim that I “made” them if they come from a tube?

I ike mine over rice or couscous.

Delicious, healthy & very filling!

NOTE: I can’t post Weight Watchers points, but the original recipe post may or may not have it listed. 🙂 Just be sure you adjust for any modifications you make.

Do you ever use a crock pot? If so, what’s your favorite healthy thing to make in it?

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An Oldie but Goodie

I have no idea how it got there, but I found a September 2008 issue of SELF magazine in my magazine stash before I left for my trip and took it with me to read on the plane. Yes, that says 2008. I have no idea how it got there. I haven’t subscribed to the magazine in a very long time and it’s rare that I purchase magazines on the newsstand. All I can say is that I’m glad it was there because I put it to good use.

The workout on the tear-out cards looked interesting and I decided to break it out yesterday since I was feeling back up to par after my bout with food poisoning. I wasn’t clear about how to execute a couple of the moves so I found this video to clarify:

Holy. Heck.

That’s all I can say. I warmed up with with 10 minutes of light cardio. Then I did 3 sets of 15 reps for each exercise with 1 minute of jumping jacks between sets. It didn’t *look* that hard, but I was dripping with sweat. My muscles were dead tired when I was finished and it made me feel amazingly strong!

The other thing in the magazine that caught my eye was a recipe for something called a World Plate. It wasn’t so much a recipe as a suggestion for things to throw together. I took inspiration for my post-workout lunch from their idea and created this.

~brown rice
~sliced mushrooms
~cannelini beans
~cherry tomatoes, halved
~cilantro, chopped
~artichoke hearts, chopped
~fat free feta cheese
~1 tsp. EVOO

The picture is kind of deceiving. It really wasn’t that much food and I was skeptical about whether it would keep me full for very long. I was wrong. I still wasn’t very hungry when dinner rolled around.

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Foodie Flashback

I’m baaaaack from my trip and happy to report that I am now a certified Weight Watchers leader! The experience was absolutely incredible. Unfortunately for the blog, almost everything I did over the course of the weekend consisted of proprietary information and I didn’t feel right taking photos to document my time in Atlanta. I will tell you that I learned a ton and made some amazing new friends.

The only bad thing that happened all weekend was the food poisoning I managed to get from dinner in the Atlanta airport. Monday was rough and I pretty much just lounged. Tuesday I spent all day unpacking and getting caught up on life. Since there hasn’t been much happening to blog about, I’ll leave you with a cell phone camera flashback to last Friday when we road tripped to my cousin’s wedding out of town. Enjoy!

If we’d driven straight to the wedding, it would have taken about 3.5 hours. However, Peanut and I had to drop my dog off at my parents’ house about an hour out of the way, then continue on our adventure. We stopped at a huge mall near my husband’s work to stretch our legs and get something to eat.

I wasn’t in the mood for grab and go and a sit-down restaurant is easier when I’m trying to feed myself and Peanut. I opted for Ruby Tuesdays. I absolutely love their salad bar. It’s full of so many delicious, healthy options. I swear zucchini straws taste better there than when I do the exact same thing at home. 🙂

Here’s my dining companion:

My plate was loaded up with veggies. I did splurge on a little cheese, some croutons and full-fat ranch. I swear they put something magical in their ranch dressing and I’d rather have a small drizzle of that than a bigger dose of the fat free options. I was proud of myself for really listening to my hunger cues, stopping when I was full and not going back for a second plate just because I felt the need to get more bang for my buck.

We did a little shopping and I was ready for a cold refreshment when I spotted this store:

I’d only been inside a Teavana store once. I got so overwhelmed by the amount of options and my lack of knowledge that I left without trying anything. That day I was in luck. The store wasn’t crowded at all and the employees were incredibly nice and helpful. They helped me decipher the giant wall of tea by asking me a few questions and teaching me about which teas paired well with which other teas. Their knowledge amazed me. Both of the people helping me said they didn’t even start drinking tea until they started working there, but the company provides really great training and continuing education. They said they both now have a passion for tea thanks to everything they’ve learned.

I finally decided on the Raspberry Riot Lemon Mate paired with the Blueberry Bliss.

I’d told them I wanted it unsweeted because I typically dislike sweet tea. They told me about the German rock sugar they use and how it really draws out the flavor of the tea without making it super sweet. Since I was being adventurous anyway, I told them to go for it.

It was heavenly. The fruit flavor was refreshing, but not overpowering. The sweetener was absolutely perfect, too. Just enough to take the bitterness away, but didn’t taste sugary at all. (I took a picture of the drink, but my cell phone ate it. 😦 )

My husband called while I was sipping my tea to tell me he was ready to go. We stopped at his work, picked him up and continued on our road trip. I felt like I’d been in the car all day, but Peanut and I’s trip was just about halfway over. I was so relieved when we finally arrived at the hotel. And I was starving. We asked the hotel staff which restaurant they recommended within walking distance and they all pointed us to Biaggi’s.

Oh. My. Gosh. When we walked in the door, we already knew we were going to get some great food. The staff and chefs definitely didn’t disappoint. Our table was near the open kitchen and I really enjoyed watching all the work that’s usually behind the scenes.

We started with stuffed mushrooms. They tasted amazing, but were a little heavy on the oil so I only had one. Okay, two. 😉

For my entree, I had an absolutely heavenly pumpkin risotto with grilled shrimp. It was originally supposed to be served with sea scallops, but they ran out just as I placed my order. I was disappointed, but really wanted the risotto so I was willing to compromise.

It was so rich that I could only eat about half of the risotto. I shared some with Peanut and she LOVED it so I took my leftovers back to the hotel for her and she polished it off for lunch on Saturday.

My husband and I had intended to leave Peanut with my aunt and head out for a drink later in the evening, but we were just too tired. We ended up just hanging out in the hotel room and crashing early, full and happy.

How do you decide where to eat when you’re traveling?

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I rarely buy anything new for myself. The biggest reason is that I’m cheap extremely frugal and don’t like to spend money. Whenever I see something I want, I can usually think of 9,000 other ways to spend the money and end up either passing over it or putting it back on the shelf.

Friday I broke down and bought a pair of flats. I’d been scouting this particular pair since I heard the designer, Summer Rayne Oakes, on Martha Stewart radio a few months ago discussing her line of eco-friendly shoes and accessories called zoe&zac. I assumed the items would be spendy, so it was a pleasant surprise to learn that they’re sold at Payless!

Low and behold, they were having a BOGO sale (aren’t they always?) and I decided to take advantage of the savings with a 2nd pair of low brown wedges.

Yesterday I took Peanut to one of our mom & baby groups. Afterward, we headed to Wal Mart to pick up the last few things I needed for my trip. And, because I’m in 3rd grade, I hit the office supply store for highlighters, Sharpies, a notebook and a giant package of my absolute most favorite pens in the entire universe. When you never buy anything for yourself, buying things like new chapstick, travel toiletries, gum, Kleenex, wet wipes and writing utensils is way more exciting than it should be.

What’s that you say? A silver, ruffled hobo bag is not a basic neccessity? It is when you discover you don’t have a carry-on-worthy bag that matches your new shoes, decide that you must have a silver ruffled hobo, then have a near meltdown upon realizing that you likely won’t find one in time for the trip. Yes. Trust me on this one. It’s not only a neccessity, but also a near miracle when you find exactly what you want at Wal Mart for $10.

The UPS man showed up at my door just after I snapped this picture. My mom is so sweet. She sent me a “just because” gift that arrived with perfect timing for my trip. I die. 😉

The “new” trend of the day carried over into dinner. I used 2 new-to-me ingredients: tarragon & shallots.

I used them to make Grilled Chicken with Mustard-Tarragon Sauce from the October 2009 issue of Cooking Light. This recipe was super easy and very quick to make. It was maybe 20 minutes, start to finish. We served ours with spinach instead of field greens and added just a few spoonfuls of brown rice to beef up the filling factor. My husband said he thought it tasted like something

Now that I have everything I need, my goal for today is to get packed!

Have you bought anything new lately?

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Happy Campers

This weekend I did something I very rarely do. I completely unplugged. No internet. No TV. No phone.

We bought a camper a few weeks ago and wanted to take it out for one test run before the end of the season. Friday morning we packed up and headed out. There’s a gorgeous campground at the lake just 30 minutes or so from our house. It didn’t take long to get there and get set up.

We got a pretty humongous, awesome site because there weren’t many other people dumb brave enough to camp last weekend because it was so cold.

Friday we took a long walk, got accquainted with the new camper, had hot dogs for dinner and listened to our local high school’s last football game on the radio.

I got up early Saturday morning and went for a 4-mile run through the campgrounds. I felt strong and was proud of myself for pushing through all the hills. I’d planned on doing 3 miles, but added an extra stretch at the end because my body was feeling too good to stop. I really appreciate it when my husband takes baby duty so that I can run sans stroller. It doesn’t bother me to run with it on a regular basis, but a solo run is nice every now and then, too. I returned to the camper to find daddy & daughter sitting on the couch, eating Cheerios together in their jammies. (Daddy opted out of being photographed. 🙂 )

I took over baby duty and grabbed some breakfast while my husband rode the 3-mile mountain bike loop. The rest of the day was pretty much just relaxing, catching up on my magazine reading, watching Peanut play and listening to football on the radio.

Before our trip, I made up a batch of black bean soup. It’s actually better after it sits in the refrigerator for a day or so which makes it a great heat & eat meal for camp. Here’s my lightened-up version of this original recipe:

Mexican Black Bean Soup with Sausage

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 canned chipotle chile in Adobo sauce, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • two 15-ounce cans black beans, drained
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
  • 1 package (14oz.) fully cooked turkey Polish sausage or turkey kielbasa, thinly sliced

Directions

1. Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan until shimmering.

2. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until softened, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the garlic along with the chipotle, cumin and oregano and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 2 minutes.

4. Add the black beans and chicken stock and simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes. Using a potato masher, coarsely crush some of the beans.

5. Add the sausage to the beans; season with salt and pepper.

6. Simmer the soup for 2 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

7. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with crushed tortilla chips, shredded cheese (I used 2%) and/or sour cream (I used light).

While we were eating, I noticed the gorgeous sunset out the window. Being closer to nature is one of my favorite parts of camping.

Camping fairly close to home makes it possible to get to church on Sunday morning. It does mean getting up a little earlier than we do on a usual weekend morning. We were all dragging a little when the alarm went off at 6:30 as was evidenced by the bed head:

We went back to camp after church, grabbed a bite to eat, packed up and headed home. It was a great weekend and I’m excited to camp regularly come spring.

Do you like to camp?

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