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Archive for the ‘Dinner’ Category

Detox Day

I had a not-so-stellar weekend in the food department. There was a cookout with friends Friday night, a wedding reception on Saturday evening and the doughnut box at church Sunday morning.

foods I don’t normally eat + a couple too many beers + not enough fruits & veggies = an icky tummy

Monday morning I was still feeling a little sluggish, mentally and physically. I was a little disgusted with myself for falling off the wagon. Why did I eat what I did? I’m all for indulging on occasion so I don’t feel deprived, but some of the things I ate didn’t even taste good while I was eating it. The more I Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda’d on myself, the worse I felt and the harder it was to get my mind around a way to get back on track.

A trip to the gym for strength training was on my agenda, but I struggled to find any motivation. I drug my feet, stalled and tried to think of a good excuse. I couldn’t come up with one. The words of a friend kept running through my brain:

No one has ever regretted working out.

Those words have saved me many times and this was one of those days. I got dressed, put Peanut in the stroller and we headed out.  The fresh air started to rejuvenate me a little bit and the 1-mile walk to the gym got my head in the right place. I still felt pretty ‘blah’ during my first set of deadlifts, but once the endorphins kicked in, I was unstoppable! I increased my weights on almost every exercise and really kicked it into high gear on my treadmill intervals afterward. My friend was right (again). I definitely didn’t regret my workout. It was the perfect way to get back-on-track for the week. I could practically feel my bad weekend choices being sweated out. 🙂

The sun was shining when we left the gym and headed for home. I really wanted to take Peanut for a longer stroll, but I had agreed to watch a friend’s daughter for the afternoon and didn’t have enough time.

For lunch, I made a batch of Kath‘s Chickpea Parmesan aka Chickpea Pizza Scramble. It was so quick and easy to make. And it really does taste like pizza. So yummy! I subbed leftover zucchini for the eggplant and parmesan cheese for the mozzarella. We only had cheddar in the fridge and that just didn’t sound appealing. The recipe says it makes 2-3 servings, but I divided mine into 4 (to get more meals out of it) and served it with a little whole wheat couscous.

When I spotted the recipe, I tweeted @KathEats to see if it would reheat well. She tweeted back that it probably would, just to leave the cheese off and add before serving.  I portioned out the leftovers and, Voila! Quick, healthy grab-and-go lunches. (Note: I had another portion yesterday for lunch and Kath was absolutely right. It reheats extremely well.) It’s amazing how eating something really healthy can make you actually crave more healthy food. 

My afternoon was spent playing outside with two very energetic one-year-olds. It felt like a bonus workout. 🙂 Once Peanut’s play buddy left, it was time to start dinner, Pork Lo Mein.

I found the recipe in my Weight Watchers Ready, Set, Go! cookbook. One thing I really love about the new PointsPlus program is that it “rewards” you for eating more whole foods rather than processed junk. Most of the recipes in the new materials reflect this so I feel like I’m making something healthy rather than something that’s just low in calories. (Disclaimer: I do work for Weight Watchers so I’m a little biased.)

This one was a hit in our house! My husband really doesn’t care for soy sauce so it’s hard for me to find any Asian foods that he’ll like. This one definitely made the cut. He ate two portions, Peanut plowed through some “noo noos” (noodles) and I enjoyed mine, too. A side salad was the perfect accompaniment. I’ll be making it again for sure. and I both enjoyed it and Peanut was loving the noodles. I’ll definitely be making it again!

I got a serious sweet tooth right before bed, but I grabbed a handful of blackberries instead of chocolate. I wasn’t confident that it would kick the craving, but it does. I went to sleep feeling much better, inside and out.

FitBlog Chats

PLANKS Challenge Week 1 Recap

For my first week of the PLANK challenge, I tackled plank on my forearms. My goal was to do this 4x per week and I did it!

Here’s what I accomplished:

Day 1: 1 minute, 2 sets
Day 2: 75 seconds, 2 sets
Day 3: 93 seconds, 2 sets
Day 4: 2 minutes, 2 sets

Horay! The 2 minutes was tough, but I was proud of myself for holding on and getting there. This week I’m moving on to high plank. I’ll report back next Wednesday with my results.

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Peanut and I had a pretty full day of errands yesterday. When we got home, I discovered the water in our town had been shut off for maintenance. Nice of them to let us know ahead of time, right? The radio said it could be anywhere from one hour to a day. Outstanding. 

I made a quick trip to the small grocery store to buy jugs of water. Apparently everyone had already been there because they were sold out. Lucikly we had a few bottles of water in our camper so I brought that in and decided we’d try to get by with that until it came back. The only other option was to drive 30 minutes back to the next closest store and, with gas at nearly $4/gallon, I wanted to avoid that if at all possible.

I was relieved when I realized that the dish I’d planned for supper required no water. It was a cinch to mix up and pop in the oven. Shortly before it was ready, I got started on making the rice.

Rice requires water.

Crap.

I really didn’t want to use any of the bottled water because I knew we’d want it for drinking and teeth brushing if the water stayed out all evening. That’s when I remembered that we had these:

I don’t normally buy a lot of convenience foods like this because a) they’re almost always higher in sodium and b) rice really isn’t that hard or time-consuming to make so I hate paying extra for them. The only reason I’d picked them up was because they were on sale and I had a coupon, actually making them less expensive than the equivalent quantity of regular brown rice.

A quick 1 minute zap in the microwave and they were ready. I could definitely taste the added salt, but overall it was still pretty good. It made a good accompaniment for our main course, Poppy Seed Chicken.

I found several versions of this recipe online and morphed them all together to create my own.

Poppy Seed Chicken

makes 6 servings

1 1/2 cups cooked, cubed chicken (I used boneless, skinless breasts)
1 can reduced-fat, reduced-sodium cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
3 teaspoons poppy seeds, divided
3 tablespoons reduced-calorie butter, melted (I used Country Crock Light)
25 reduced-fat butter crackers, such as Ritz
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8×8 inch baking dish with non-stick spray.

2. Melt the butter in the microwave. Crush 20 of the crackers and mix into the melted butter. Set aside.

3. Stir together the chicken, soup, sour cream and 1 teaspoon of the poppy seeds. Crush the remaining 5 crackers and stir them in. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and spread into an even layer.

4. Spread the cracker/butter topping evenly across the top of the chicken mixture.

5. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 teaspoons of poppy seeds and the cheese.

6. Bake 20-25 minutes, until bubbly and heated through.

This was a HUGE hit in our house! My husband isn’t a huge fan of casseroles, but he raved about it and went back for seconds. He liked that it was creamy without being too heavy. Peanut ate a large spoonful and then asked for more. It was great comfort food on a cold, rainy day.

The water did finally come back on around 8pm, but we were under a boil advisory so we made do with our rations of bottled water through the night and into this morning. I didn’t realize how much I rely on water until I didn’t have any

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In other news, I’m taking part in the FitBlog Chats PLANKS Challenge!

FitBlog Chats

I’ve been doing plank as part of my New Rules of Lifting for Women Stage 2 workouts so I have a benchmark. Right now, I’m at 2 sets of 60 seconds on my elbows. This is what I did yesterday for Day 1 of the challenge.

Rather than increasing my time, I’m going to aim to try out new plank variations, like some of those Susan posted on Morgan’s blog today. I’m going to do a different variation each week. The first day of that week will be a benchmark. Then, I’ll add time during each effort at that variation. Here are the variations I want to try:

  • Week 1: Plank on Elbows
  • Week 2: High Plank
  • Week 3: Plank with Alternating Leg Lift
  • Week 4: Plank, Elbows on Ball
  • Week 5: Plank, Feet on Ball, Elbows on Floor
  • Week 6: Plank, Feet on Bench, Elbows on Stability Ball

I do realize that some of these are pretty dag on tough and my time at the end of each week may not be very long. Still, it’s all about improving so as long as I can go longer than I did on the first day, I’ll call it a success.

I’m really excited to follow along with everyone’s progress and to post my own as I go.

Let’s get plankin’!

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That’s what my husband said about dinner last night.

I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it was a very tasty, less expensive and extremely easy version of one of our favorite dining-out experiences. Definitely not a replacement, but not too shabby either.

HUGE bonus that we didn’t have to turn on the oven in yesterday’s sudden burst of summer. 93 degrees when I looked at the thermometer around 3pm. Apparently we’ve skipped spring completely and gone straight to summer.

Not Quite Chipotle

~1/4 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
~1/2 cup fresh tomato, chopped (I used one large Roma.)
~1/4 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
~1/4 cup chunky salsa
~2 teaspoons fresh cilantro, chopped
~1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
~sprinkle of chili powder (to your liking)

Dump all the ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl.

Cover with plastic wrap. Cut 2 slits to vent. Microwave on HIGH 1 1/2 minutes or until the mixture is heated through. Stir and serve over rice.

I also added a bit of shredded 2% cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream, but I waited until after I took the picture so it didn’t cover everything up.

I’m surprised that my husband so willingly agreed to a meatless meal and was even more shocked that he was so enthusiastic about the result. If you did want to bulk it up a bit (or please a meat lover in your house), I think shredded chicken seasoned with taco seasoning would be a great addition.

Have you ever tried to recreate a favorite restaurant dish? What was it and how did your version turn out?

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Cinco de My-Oh-My

 Happy (belated) Cinco de Mayo! It’s a great reason to party, but have you ever stopped to wonder what you’re actually celebrating?

    • Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexican Independence Day. That’s celebrated on September 16th.

 

    • Cinco de Mayo actually marks the 1892 victory of a small, rag-tag Mexican army of about 4,500 soldiers over an 8,000 man French force led by Napoleon III. It’s called the Battle of Puebla. While Mexico won this particular battle, they still lost the war

 

    • If the French had won the Battle of Puebla, they would have sided with the South in the American Civil War and could have drastically influenced the results of the war.

 

    • Cinco de Mayo is not a national holiday in Mexico. Puebla de Zaragoza, where the battle took place, is where the real celebrating happens. 

 

    • Cinco de Mayo is the busiest day of the year for Mexican restaurants in the United States.

That concludes your nerdy fact lecture for the day. I studied Spanish in high school and college, forming a huge love of history and culture in Spanish-speaking countries. Any excuse I have share a little of that love, I’ll take it. 🙂

The celebration in our house was pretty tame. Peanut and I listened to some Mexican tunes in the morning while I got ready and…that’s about it. Until dinner, of course. This dish was sort of a happy accident. My husband spotted it and said it looked good. I wanted something Mexican for the occasion and it fit. Looking at the recipe I didn’t expect it to be anything extraordinary. However, it turned out much more delicious than I’d expected. (I love when that happens!) Another bonus was it being super quick and easy to throw together.

Tex-Mex Tostadas

(makes 4 servings)

  • 4 (8-inch) tortillas (I used whole grain.)
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 bell pepper, diced (green will make it prettier)
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 cup chunky salsa, divided
  • 1/3 cup green onions, sliced
  • 1 cup fat-free canned refried beans
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • sour cream (optional; I used reduced-fat.

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray both sides of the tortillas with cooking spray and place on a baking sheet. Bake 3 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp. Remove from oven and set aside.

2. Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Add the bell pepper and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, for about 4 minutes.

3. Add the chicken, garlic, chili powder, cumin. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

4. Add 1/4 cup of the salsa and the green onions. Cook and stir for one minute. Remove from heat and set aside.

5. Combine refried beans and remaining 1/4 cup of salsa in a microwave-safe container. Heat on HIGH for 1 minute, stir and heat an additional 1 minute on HIGH or until beans are heated through.

6. Spread the bean mixture evenly over each tortilla. Spoon the chicken mixture over the bean mixture. Top with tomato and sour cream, if desired.

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My evening was supposed to conclude with a special Cinco de Mayo Zumba class followed by margaritas at a friend’s house. Unfortunately, my husband ended up having to work pretty late. Peanut has been a bit under the weather so I decided to stay home with her instead of scrambling for a last-minute sitter. It was a bummer to miss because  I’ve been excited about the class for weeks, but priorities decided otherwise. Besides, baby snuggles and rocking out to Raffi on the iTouch more than made up for missing out on the party.  🙂

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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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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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