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Archive for January, 2011

Hey, Cutie!

I hate oranges. I know hate is a strong word, but it’s appropriate in this case. It grosses me out just watching someone else eat an orange. I don’t like the taste. I don’t like the texture.

My aversion goes beyond the actual fruit. I can’t stand orange juice, I don’t eat orange-flavored candy, I think orange glaze on meat is disgusting and I always turn down baked goods that taste anything like an orange. Heck, I don’t even really like the color orange.

Given these things, I have no idea what made me bite into the Cutie I was feeding to Peanut. But I did and…

it. was. HEAVEN!

Despite the appearance, I didn’t think it really tasted anything like an orange. There was no waxy, stringy texture and the flesh was super sweet. The closest thing I could even compare the taste to would be fruit punch. Yes, fruit punch. I know it’s a strange comparison, but that’s what they taste like to me. I love fruit punch so this is most definitely a good thing.

I’m so happy that I’ve discovered these. I love fresh fruit and have been eating even more of it since starting the launch of the new Weight Watchers PointsPlus program. This gives me yet another option to enjoy!

Speaking of Cutie, it doesn’t get much better than this:

Have you ever steered clear of a food because you just knew you wouldn’t like it, only to find out that you did?

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Last night, Morgan from Life After Bagels moderated a fabulous #FitBlog chat called Health: Is It All About the Benjamins? There were loads of participants offering great suggestions on ways we can eat healthy and exercise on a budget. Cooking at home was one money-saving tip mentioned time and time again during the chat.

This concept plays a huge part in our household food budget. We usually only dine out about once a week, some weeks not at all. The vast majority of our dinners are prepared at home. For lunches,  my husband takes a packed fare every day rather than buying fast food. I usually eat leftovers or prepare a large batch of something at the beginning of the week to eat for lunches the rest of the week. Budget is a the main reason for our dine-in lifestyle, but I also think it’s a healthier option. I like being able to control the ingredients and how they’re prepared.

I had a helper in the kitchen last night.

She stood there and helped (read: ate pieces of bell pepper) for a really long time. We were all fine and good until she discovered the butcher block of Cutco knives you see back there. She was  fascinated with pulling them out so she was immediately relegated back to ground level.

Italian Sausage Sandwiches

I wish I’d snapped a photo of my ingredients before I started and more throughout the process, but this dish is really simple so I think you can handle it without those. 🙂

~1 package Italian turkey sausage links (hot or mild), sliced into rounds

~1 tablespoon teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, divided

~3 garlic cloves, minced

~2 small onions, sliced into strips

~2 bell peppers, any color, sliced into strips

~2 teaspoons dried oregano

~ground black pepper to taste

~your favorite kind of sandwich bread (I like wraps. My husband likes wheat hoagie buns.)

~sliced or shredded cheese, variety of your choice (optional)

1. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, just until fragrant.

2. Add the onions, peppers, oregano and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, just until the veggies are tender. Place the mixture in a bowl and cover to keep warm.

3. Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil in the same wok or skillet. Add in the sausage rounds. Cook, stirring occasionally until they are done all the way through.

4. Add the peppers & onions back to the wok or skillet and toss the mixture together.

5. Spoon the mixture into your wrap, roll or bun

6. Top with cheese if you wish. If you’re using a wrap, this is where you want to roll it up.

All wrapped up with a salad of mixed greens, fat free feta cheese & tomato vinagrette:

The total cost for this main dish comes in at just under $10. It makes quite a bit and reheats very well. In addition to one dinner, we’ll get at least 4 lunches out of the leftovers. My meat-and-potatoes husband LOVES this one as much as I do.

 

What’s your favorite low-cost meal to make at home?

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One thing I almost always do on Mondays is to  fix up a big batch of something and portion it out as lunches for the week. I usually make something I like, but that my husband doesn’t enjoy. I don’t get bored easily with leftovers so it works out okay for me to be the only one eating it.

I’ve been craving pad thai lately, but didn’t have all of the ingredients to make any of my go-to recipes for this dish. I decided to create my own which was a little scary. I’m great at following recipes exactly or tweaking an existing recipe, but I don’t just wing it very often. This one actually turned out to be delicious! I like to call it:

What-I-Have-In-My-Fridge Tofu Pad Thai

(makes 5 very generous servings; could make 6-8 smaller servings as desired)

  • 8oz uncooked rice noodles (You could also use thin spagetti or angel hair pasta, preferably whole wheat.)
  • 14oz. extra firm tofu, cut into cubes
  • 2 bunches of broccoli, about 4 cups
  • 1 medium carrot or about 12 baby carrots
  • 4 teaspoons peanut oil
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce or soy sauce (I used reduced sodium.)
  • 3 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 3 Tablespoons water
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • pinch sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons jalapeno peppers or green chile peppers, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
  • fresh herbs such as cilantro or parsley (whatever you have handy)

Soak the rice noodles in hot water for about 1 hour or according to package directions. Drain well. (If you’re using thin spagetti or angel hair pasta, cook it according to the package directions.)

Press the moisture out of your tofu. Many people do this using paper towels. I prefer microfiber towels. I think they’re more absorbent and less wasteful.

First, lay your tofu on the towel in a single layer.

Top with another towel.

Top the whole thing with something flat and pretty heavy. (That’s a full tea kettle.)

Let stand until you’ve removed as much liquid as possible from the tofu. Then, transfter the tofu to a dish, drizzle with 1 Tablespoon fish sauce or soy sauce and let it marinate.

Steam the broccoli and carrots until tender-crisp, about 8 minutes. I’m a big fan of the Ziploc steamer bags for making 1-2 portions of steamed veggies, but I like to break out my Calphalon steamer pot for big jobs like this.

While your tofu marinates and your veggies steam, mix up your sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together 3 Tablespoons of your fish sauce or soy sauce, 3 Tablespoons water, 3 Tablespoons lime juice, 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard and the pinch of sugar. (NOTE: I don’t really like my pad thai to be very sweet. If you do, adjust the amount of sugar according to your taste.)

Place a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons of the peanut oil. Add your tofu and cook until heated through. You’ll want to turn your tofu so it cooks evenly, but be gentle so it doesn’t fall apart. Once it’s done, move it to a bowl, cover to keep warm and set aside.

Heat the other 2 teaspoons in your wok or skillet. Add the garlic and jalapeno or chile peppers. Heat just until they release their flavors, about 30 seconds.

Add in the noodles, then the sauce, then the veggies and tofu.

Cook, stirring to combine all of the layers, until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 4 minutes. Gently toss in the bean sprouts.

Remove from heat and serve garnished with torn, fresh herbs.

I packaged up the leftovers, let them cool a little on the counter and then popped them in the fridge.

Cook once. Eat lunch all week. Good deal.

Do you ever cook ahead? What’s your strategy? What are your favorite things to make ahead?

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And the Winner Is…

CYNTHIA of It All Changes

She is the winner of my giveaway for the audiobook, Taking Care of Yourself by Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D. Congratulations Cynthia! I’ll be in touch with you for an address.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend! I’m headed to Extreme Zumba this evening. An hour of intense cardio with 3 different instructors. Wish me luck.

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Me? Stylish?

Stylish is probably not a word to describe my typical stay-at-home-mom “uniform” – yoga pants, hoodie, flip flops & ponytail.

However, the lovely Sara has awarded me with the Stylish Blogger Award!

Wanna know how it works?

  1. Make a post linking back to the person who gave you the award.
  2. Share 7 random things about yourself
  3. Award 15 recently discovered bloggers with this award.
  4. Contact the bloggers you’re awarding to tell them they’ve won.

So, here are my 7 random things:

  • I always try to pronounce (out loud) the letter combinations on the comment word verifications.
  • I cannot stand to eat fruit paired with meat or fruit in a salad. It disgusts me. I want to like it, but it’s just not right.
  • I never, ever wear grey with khaki. On other people it’s fine. On me? It just doesn’t look right.
  • I went to the same high school as John Legend. He graduated the year before I started there, though.
  • When I was little, I refused to throw away any of my toys’ packaging. My parents let me keep it all in a trash bag in the corner of the family room (enablers much?) and we called it my Savings Bag. One time, my babysitter thought she was being helpful by taking out the trash while my parents were out. Turns out it was my Savings Bag. I cried for 4 days straight. If it weren’t for her, I probably would have ended up on Hoarders.
  • I’m semi-fluent in Spanish.
  • I write and play tennis right handed. Everything else I do like a lefty.

Here are the talented bloggers who are receiving the award from moi:

~Cynthia

~Ashlee

~Lisa

~Jennifer

~Morgan

~Maria

~Deb

~Brynn

~Carrie

~Kiran

~Lindsay

~Sarah

~Heather

~Katie

~Kara

Don’t forget! Entries for my Dr. Weil audiobook giveaway ends tonight at midnight EST.

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This past week I reunited with some friends I haven’t seen for a while. After spending some time with them, I’m noticing that I feel better about myself both physically and mentally.

First, my tracker. (Pardon the icky food stains on the cover. I keep it in my kitchen drawer and often journal while I’m cooking or just after I’ve eaten.)

One beautiful thing about working for Weight Watchers it that I get to listen to 3 meetings per week while I’m on the clock as a receptionist. Last week the topic was tracking. For about a month now, I’ve been doing the whole “I’m tracking in my head” thing. If you’ve ever been a Weight Watcher, you probably know what I mean. I’ve been keeping track of the PointsPlus values I eat and what I have left in my head, but not putting anything down on paper. The message I heard at the meetings really hit home and I felt like a fraud knowing that I was slacking on something we stress as being so important to our members. That’s when I decided to recommit to tracking 100%. I went home, turned to a fresh week in my journal and started immediately by filling out the weekly goals/challenges plan and writing out my exercise plan.

All week, I wrote down every. single. thing. I didn’t guess on any PointsPlus values. I looked everything up unless it was a food I eat regularly and was 100% sure of the PPV. And guess what? It was actually fun! Maybe that’s my Type A showing, but I enjoyed going back to the basics and looking at my eating in such a logical way. I also found myself measuring out more of my portions instead of eyeballing them and working hard to get in my Good Health Guidelines so that I could check off those little boxes.  I definitely noticed myself eating less BLTs (bites, licks & tastes) and made better choices overall because of the accountability. Does it take extra time? Yes, but not much. Is it worth it? Heck yes!

The gym was the other “friend” I reunited with this week. 

We only pay for our gym membership from November-April each year. The rest of the time my husband is too busy at work (sometimes 80-90 hour weeks) to really utilize the facilities and I can run, walk or bike outside and do DVDs at home.  This year, I really slacked about getting signed back up and it was almost January when I reenrolled. The owners gave us the last two weeks of December for free, but I was too caught up in the holidays to take advantage of that bonus. My loss, for sure. This past week I got my behind in gear when I realized we were paying for something that wasn’t being used.  It felt so good to be back.

As you can see, the gym is really small. I’ve actually seen hotel fitness centers that were bigger and had more equipment. Plus, it only costs $25/month for both of us and it’s about a 2 minute drive. We’d have to drive about 30-40 minutes to get to the closest, more standard gym and those start at about three times the expense. It may not be fancy, but they really do have everything we need.


There’s only one elliptical (in the middle of the last picture) and it has a mind of its own. You can set your resistance and crossramp, but it chooses to adjust itself at random times during your workout, even when it’s on the manual setting. Sometimes pushing the buttons brings it back where you want it. Sometimes it doesn’t. Today was a “doesn’t” day. I ended up with much more resistance than I wanted for much of the workout. I still cranked out about 45 minutes. The owners bought three new treadmills with TVs last year and had cable hooked up. They told me at least one new elliptical is next on their list of upgrades.

The beautiful thing about such a small gym is that I’m usually the only one there, espcially when I go in the middle of the day. Thank goodness this was the case yesterday. Here’s me (pardon the not-sure-what-I-was-thinking expression) after 45 minutes on the posessed elliptical:

Do not adjust your monitor. Those yoga pants are, in fact, electric blue. They didn’t look that blue on the Victoria’s Secret website when I put them in my cart. I almost returned them, but they’re super comfortable and were only $6 so it’s worth sacrificing my pride. I feel like an 80’s aerobics instructor when I wear them. Has anyone seen my leg warmers?

Dinner was another old favorite. Spicy Turkey Meatloaf with Ketchup Topping and roasted potatoes.

I’ve made this recipe a couple of times before, but this was by far my best execution. The ground turkey came packaged as 1.2 pounds instead of the 1.5 pounds the recipe called for. I used just one package and the only change I made was to eliminate the chicken broth. It was still very moist and actually stayed together even better than my previous attempts.

What do you like about your gym? What would you like to see improved or added?

Don’t forget! My giveaway for the Dr. Weil audiobook ends tomorrow at midnight EST.

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One thing I love about the first few weeks of January is that the grocery stores seem to have more healthy foods on sale than normal. I take advantage of the savings by stocking up on the healthy things we eat regularly, and also by trying some new things. Like a lot of other bloggers, I opted to stay in yesterday rather than brave the winter wonderland. That gave me plenty of time to check out some of those new-to-me finds.

Breakfast was a new-to-me treat, Kashi 7-grain waffles.

I’ve never bought these before because they’re a bit on the expensive side so it was a treat to see them on sale. I usually buy the “other brand’s” low-fat waffles. They’re pretty good when I want a waffle fix, but don’t keep me full for very long. These new waffles were delicious! They had tons of flavor and kept me full for several hours. The ingredients were much less processed and, for those who are wondering, they’re the same number of PointsPlus values  as “those other” waffles. I’m definitely going to watch for these to go on sale again and for coupons.

For lunch, I decided to fix something I’ve read about quite often in the blogosphere, but never tried until yesterday. Tempeh!

The cooking directions on the package were a little vague so I wanted a tried-and-true way to eat it. Most recently, I remembered reading about tempeh on Cynthia’s blog. A quick search led me to her directions for Banh Mi. I didn’t have any spinach and I don’t really like carrots so no banh mi for me. However, I did get the inspiration to put my tempeh in a wrap and I heated it according to her directions. Inside the wrap I layered romaine lettuce, sprouts, the tempeh and dijon mustard. The tortilla was so full that I couldn’t really get it to wrap and ended up eating it like a taco.

I really, really liked the tempeh and will definitely buy it again, on sale or not. Cynthia informed me (via a reply to my comment on her post) that tempeh had a “different texture.” She was absolutely right, but I found it to be a nice texture. It’s very hard to describe the flavor, but there’s lots of it! If you haven’t tried tempeh, I’d encourage you to give it a go.

With my tempeh wrap, I had a mug o’ lentil soup from the batch I made on Sunday.

This was also a new-to-me recipe from The Volumetrics Eating Plan. My husband bought this book a few years ago when he first became interested in eating more healthy. We successfully made a few recipes and then sort of forgot about it. I revived it in my recent quest for new recipes and found a lot of dishes I want to try. This one is definitely a keeper.

Together, it made for a wonderful, filling lunch.

My husband got home from work pretty early and we headed to the gym for a triceps and chest workout. He recently downloaded the free JEFIT app for his android phone and has been torturing me with it sharing it with me. We haven’t really even begun to dig into all the features, but we’ve figured out the basics.

Basically, the app lets you view and select exercises by the part of the body you’re aiming to target.

The app has several predefined workouts which you can do as is or add/remove exercises to suit your needs. You can also start from scratch by selecting individual exercises to create your own routine.

If you’re not sure how to perform a certain exercise, there’s also a free downloadable player that allows you to view animations for each move.

So far we’ve done two of the preset workouts using this app and I must say that I’m impressed. My husband has some experience with weights and likes the way it’s put together. I’m fairly new to “real” lifting and it’s still easy for me to use. It’s helping me build my confidence around the free weights and machines which is a huge benefit in my mind.

After our workout it was home for dinner, also a new recipe. This one came from the same cookbook as my lentil soup from lunch. Italian Turkey Spirals were time consuming t0 prep, but fun to assemble and tasted delicious!

As suggested in the recipe, I also made the Tomato and Fresh Basil Sauce (a separate recipe in the same book) to go with the spirals. Served with whole wheat spaghetti, this was the perfect mix of protein and carbs for a post-workout meal. Oh, and there are green beans hiding in the back there for some veggie goodness.

My husband was super impressed with this dinner and I really liked it, too. I’ll definitely make it again. Since we didn’t use much of the sauce, there was enough left over to freeze and use later for another meal.

What new food or fitness ideas have you discovered in 2011?

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway to win a Dr. Weil audiobook! Entries close Friday at midnight EST.

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