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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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…I’m someone’s mother.

I won’t say it’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do with my life, but since I was a little girl it’s ranked very high on the list. These first 18 months with Peanut have been one whirlwind of a learning curve. I remember asking the nurse when they discharged us, “Are you sure it’s okay for us to take her home? We really don’t know what we’re doing.” She laughed and told me it was okay, I knew more than I thought. Turns out she was right. Sure, there have been speed bumps, but the joy and rewards of being a mom are more than I ever could have imagined.

*end of sappy intro*

My Mother’s Day celebration was an all-weekend affair, beginning with Peanut and I attending Mother/Daughter Zumba on Saturday morning. This little girl LOVES music and LOVES to dance so I thought she’d enjoy shaking it. She was sunshine and roses until we got into the Zumba room where she immediately locked up and wanted to be held. I ended up dancing around with her in my arms for most of the class. Even though I couldn’t go all out, 25lbs of extra weight will do wonders for your calorie burn. Toward the end of the class, she did get down and bust a move to one song. 

Apparently she learned my calories out, calories in strategy while in the womb. Zumba a little. Eat a cookie.

I know I had a really good time and I think she did, too. Man, I love this little booger! Here’s us in all our sweaty, post-workout glory:

We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon playing, snuggling and watching Kentucky Derby pre-race coverage. Zumba must have worn her out because she took an almost 3-hour nap! When she woke up, we dropped her off at my in-law’s house so my husband and I could embark on a much-needed date night.

Around here, the selection of non-chain restaurants is pretty slim pickings. One of our favorites is the Old Canal Smokehouse. It’s been a while since we dined there so it was an easy choice for dinner.

I couldn’t get a good picture of the exterior of the building, but isn’t their delivery car adorable?

It was a pretty evening so we asked for seating on the patio. They had the plastic sides rolled down so it kept the chill out, but still let us enjoy the last few hours of sunshine and watching the passersby.

My husband decided to try out a new-to-him beer called ______. He let me have a taste and it was very good! I spy a handsome man in the background, too.

We were absolutely starving so we ordered a nest of armadillo eggs as an appetizer. Basically, they’re hollowed-out jalapeno peppers stuffed with chicken, wrapped in bacon and tossed in BBQ sauce. Amazingly delicious. 

The very last bite of mine had quite a few seeds in it and lit my mouth on FIRE! A few crispy potato sticks and another sip of W’s beer were the cure. 🙂

My absolute favorite part of dining at the Old Canal Smokehouse is their house tomato vinaigrette. The salad isn’t anything extraordinary (lettuce, tomato, cheese, carrots and onion), but the dressing is to die for. I really wish they’d bottle and sell it, but so far they only do that with their BBQ sauces and seasoned rub.

We could smell our entrees coming before we even saw them. I had the Catch of the Day, which turned out to be baked haddock with a Parmesan crust and honey citrus sauce on the side.

Heaven. Pure heaven. It was baked to perfection! I drizzled just a teeny tiny bit of the sauce over the top and that was plenty. It made it sweet and added a little tang without overpowering the flavor of the fish.

…and I can’t forget about the Smokehouse Spuds. The menu describes them as “real, hand-mashed potatoes with sour cream and fried onions.” I describe them as amazing.

Before I could snap a picture, my husband ate the little baby loaves of cornbread they serve with dinner. Blog buzz killer. 😛

After dinner, we headed to church for a free concert by a popular local Christian band, The Mary Ford Experience.

The concert was part of a series, organized in honor of a 16-year-old girl from the youth group who had brain cancer and died 9 months ago after suffering a stroke in her brain stem following surgery. We attended our church for the first time just a few days after her death and it was obvious that she’d touched many lives. Although we never met Sydney, I’ve leared a lot about her from her friends and family. She left beyond a legacy of Faith that is truly wise beyond her years.

The youth group has been selling t-shirts to establish a scholarship fund in her memory. Whenever someone asked her what they could do to help her, she’d simply reply by saying “Believe.” Bright green was Sydney’s favorite color and the shirts bear her favorite saying: “God’s will. In God’s way. In God’s time.”

The concert was beyond amazing. These guys are good. Really, really good.

Any band that covers both Blessied Union of Souls and Hootie & the Blowfish AND does the songs well AND turns them into worship songs gets major props in my book. They’re original songs are pretty spectacular, too. “Take Off Your Shoes” has been on every running playlist I’ve created since I heard it for the first time. I always seem to run faster when it’s playing.

Want to hear how awesome they are for yourself? Go to their website or noisetrade.com, enter your name and e-mail address and download their entire “No Great Things” album for FREE. You won’t regret it. Trust me.

* * * * *

You would think I had already had my fair share of Mother’s Day awesomeness on Saturday, but the festivities continued on Sunday. After church, we had everyone over for a late lunch. My mom, mother-in-law and I all made something small, but my sister-in-law did the bulk of the food preparation. We ended up with quite the spread: baked ziti, garlic bread, cucumber/tomato salad, fruit salad & ginger snap cookies. I didn’t photograph anything (the blog is still secret in this group), but everything was delicious. We all spent the rest of the afternoon outside enjoying the sunshine!

I don’t think I could have asked for a more perfect weekend. I hope you all enjoyed yours, too!

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.

*   *   *   *   *

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.  🙂

 Last April, I ran my first post-baby 5k. My goal was 36 minutes and I finished in 36:24. I was a little disappointed, but still very proud to be back in the running saddle. It also gave me a benchmark, a time from which to improve.

This year I was giddy when registration opened for the 2011 installment of this race and mailed my form back the day I got it.  I didn’t get to prepare quite as much as I’d hoped. It was either too cold, too rainy or both to take the stroller out and it’s hard to get a real workout in on the treadmill when you’re also trying to chase a toddler around the gym. 🙂 Still, I was excited to run the same course and see what my time was compared to the previous year.

Our weight-loss group at church decided to do it as a group, most people walking while my sister-in-law and I ran the course. It was so much fun to have an active social event! Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and felt a certain sense of accomplishment in completing the 5k. For most of them, it was their first.

Since it was an out-and-back course, one of the other ladies in our group had the chance to snap photos as we passed the on the way back. That’s me, sporting my new running skirt and shoes for their 5k debut. Loving them

I finished in 33:40. My goal was to best my post-baby PR of 33:06, set at the Turkey Trot I ran back in November. Just missed it! Honestly, I know exactly why.  There were a few times I know I could have pushed harder, but didn’t. At the turn-around, I slowed to a walk to fix my hair that was driving me nuts. I dilly-dallied, took my time and didn’t get back to running as quickly as I should have. I also let my Garmin control me a little too much. When I looked down and saw a time that was faster than I usually run, I’d tell myself “there’s no way I can maintain this” and slow down a little, even if I was feeling good at that pace. I need to learn to use it as a tool rather than to get preoccupied with the display and psyche myself out.

While I was a bit disappointed, knowing I didn’t push myself the way I should have makes me even more motivated for future races. That’s a good thing because this week I signed up for 3 more races on May 14th, 21st and June 18th. Bring ’em on!

Back to the Beginning

My husband and I co-lead a weight loss group at our church. There are 12 members, all at very diffect places in their journey to live a healthier lifestyle. A couple of the people are making the choice to do something about their health for the very first time in their lives. I can tell how happy they are to get started, but also a little fearful. When they ask for help, I’ve been trying to take myself back to square one. That’s led me a lot of thinking about the very beginning of my weight loss journey. Namely, the feelings that came along with it. And oh, are there feelings. Desperation. Shame. Fear. Frustration. Excitement. Pride. 

For so long, weight loss had seemed to overwhelming to me. I wanted to eat right. I wanted to exercise. The catch was, I had no clue how to do either. Don’t get me wrong. There was plenty of information out there. “Eat this! “Lose 10lbs in 19 minutes!” “Cut carbs!” “Don’t eat meat!” I was confused and I was scared. Confused about where to begin. Scared to stay the same. Scared to change. Scared to fail.

I started by taking baby steps to exercise more, but with no real direction. I joined a ladies’ gym and bought a workout DVD, doing one of those things on most days of the week. It was a good start, but I didn’t understand what to do next or how to do it. I would sort of start to acknowledge that I needed to change the way I ate, but then I’d freeze up. I was too afraid to face how bad my diet really was. Frustrated, my exercise would decrease until it was nonexistent. Back to square one. My efforts at exercise were going to be derailed completely if I didn’t get a food wake-up call.

For me, that was the orientation session at my very first Weight Watchers meeting. I remember being fascinated as the leader explained the basics. She was making weight loss simple, logical, formulaic and kind of fun…all at the same time. No way that was possible! Suddenly, I was excited about getting started. I finally had control over getting healthier. I had a plan. It was a huge relief. For the first time ever, I felt like I really could do this!

After the meeting, I bought the expanded member kit. (Which I still have. I can’t stand to part with it, even though the information is obsolete on the new PointsPlus program.) I’m a Type-A person through and through so I wanted all the information I could possibly get my hands on in order to learn. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right.

I went home and absolutely devoured these books. I read through them like they were novels. I highlighted foods I already ate for easy reference. The next day I spent 3 hours at the grocery. T-H-R-E-E. In a place I didn’t even really like. I was giddy with excitement. It was almost sick. 🙂 Calculating points, which can be a tedious task, suddenly became like a game to me. I was actually taking the time to look at nutrition labels and paying attention to what I was putting in my body.

I learned A LOT in those first few weeks of my new eating style. Writing down what I ate laid it all out there in black and white. It was eye-opening. The biggest shocker for me was portion sizes. It was nothing for me to consume large helpings of firsts, always seconds and sometimes even thirds. Actually measuring out a 1-cup portion of pasta was eye-opening. Before, I’d been known to eat an entire box of pasta in one sitting. By myself. In one sense, I felt ashamed. How could I have not known that was a problem? I also felt relieved by the fact that I did know now and I was changing.

The more I learned, the easier it got. I started taking baby steps, but this time with a distinct purpose. I started packing my lunch for work instead of buying it in the cafeteria. I started walking on my lunch hour instead of listening to the radio in my car. Grocery shopping took less time, too. Some things, like buying more fruits and veggies, became intuitive. I also became familiar with the points values of my go-to foods and didn’t need to calculate them or look them up every time. I’d take the long way to fill up my water bottle which accomplished two things: drinking more water and moving more. I still think it’s funny that I rewarded myself with a water mug after losing my first five pounds when, before, a reward would have been a giant piece of molten lava cake. (Still have the mug, too. It’s my all-time favorite.)

So why have I been dwelling on these “before” feelings? I don’t think it’s dwelling as much as it is using them to motivate myself and to help the people around me who are just getting started.  So often, I take for granted the things that are common knowledge for me now, but that were HUGE revelations back then. A couple weeks ago, one of the women from our group was in awe of the can of pumpkin + cake mix muffins. Another lady jotted things down furiously when we talked about the food pyramid and portion sizes. It was really cool to see them learning something from our group and getting so excited about it, but in my head I was thinking “How can you not know this?”  Then I remembered that this was me just a few years ago.

On days when I just cannot get my butt out the door to the gym. On days when I don’t want to track. On days when I want to eat that whole box of pasta. Those are the days I want to remember what it was like when I didn’t know what to do. And then I want to remember how excited I was when I finally had a doable plan, a direction. There I was, getting excited about those first steps to taking control of my eating. And, in turn, my life. I want to use those memories to remember why I’m so grateful for my healthy lifestyle. It’s not because I should live this way. It’s because I’ve made the decision to do so and worked hard for it.

What was/is the first step you took toward a healthier lifestyle?

Rural Hummus

I didn’t grow up in a big city, but it’s a booming metropolis compared to the area where I live now. While I love living in the country, sometimes it can make finding specialty ingredients pretty difficult. By specialty, I mean anything much more exotic than cumin.

I’ve been wanting to make my own hummus for quite a while. None of the grocery stores within a 30-minute radius carry tahini and I never seem to remember to pick some up when I travel to a bigger city.

I was really happy when I found a recipe that listed the tahini as optional. After making it a few times and tweaking the amounts, I’ve finally found a tried-and-true alternative to buying pre-packaged hummus. It’s WAAAAAAY less expensive and in my opinion, tastes a lot better. Best of all, everything on the ingredient list can be found at the grocery where I regularly do my shopping.

Rural Hummus

  • One can chickpeas (15oz.), rinsed and drained well
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice (fresh is best, but bottled works, too)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (3-4 cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon water

Dump all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until it is as smooth as you like.

Serve with crudites, pita chips, tortilla chips or just a spoon. Also delicious as a sandwich spread.

NOTE: If you do have access to tahini, you can add 1/2 teaspoon to the mix.

What’s the most difficult ingredient you’ve ever tried to find?

I had a really bad experience with my running shoe fitting last year. My husband surprised me by taking me to a new-to-me running store while we were away for our anniversary. The store was crazy busy and there were several people being fitted. The store manager (owner, maybe?) did my fitting, but it was clear that he wasn’t thrilled about pitching in to help. Long story short, a rushed fitting + poor customer service = shoes that were too small. When I attempted to exchange the shoes, they insisted that they were the correct size and, because I’d run outside in them twice, wouldn’t accept the return or exchange. I kept running in them because I thought maybe I was the one who was wrong. These are, after all, trained professionals. 4 black, broken toenails later, I shoved them in my closet and switched back to my old, broken down running shoes. Ideal? No. Truth is, I’d just made the transition to being a stay-at-home mom and there wasn’t money in the budget for another pair at that time.

This year, I returned to the fabulous store where I had my very first running shoe fitting: Up and Running in Dayton. Back then, I was one week into the Couch to 5k training plan. Every runner I knew told me that if I was going to commit to this, I really needed to invest some good shoes. I was so nervous when I walked into that store, clearly having no clue what I wanted or needed and afraid I was going to look like an idiot. My fears were quickly put at ease. When the Up and Running staff found out I was brand new to running, they fawned over me and were genuinely excited to help. They were patient and stuck with me as I tried on shoe after shoe, running up and down the sidewalk in each until we found my perfect match.

Going back to Up and Running on Saturday was just as much fun as my first trip. The entire staff was friendly and the store atmosphere was super laid back. They looked me up in the computer to get the details of the shoes I’d purchased there before. They laughed when I hurridly confessed that I’d purchased shoes elsewhere in the meantime, then apologized and told them that I would never stray again. I explained about the bad fitting the previous year and the salesman agreed to do another fitting, just to ease my mind about what size I really needed. I knew the very first pair I tried on was the one I’d be buying. It fit like a glove. I ran up and down the sidewalk outside before confirming my purchase. Turns out, I’d picked the newer model of my very first running shoes, the Saucony Omni.

Pretty, but still tough looking. And soooo comfortable. They feel like they were designed just for my feet. I love them…all over again!

After my fitting, my sister-in-law and I browsed the awesome apparel selection a bit. We drooled over lots of things we wanted, but couldn’t afford, before finally discovering the 40% off sale rack.

I’ve been anti-running skirt for a long time because I thought they were silly. As I browsed the rack I saw a running skirt with built in pants and one with built in capris. “That’s even sillier,” I thought to myself. “Just wear pants or capris. No need to put a skirt over them.” I would never wear a running skirt. Famous last words.

As I was browsing another rack, my sister-in-law held up the ridiculous skirt/pant combo and said “This is cute, but they don’t have it in my size. I think this would fit you, though. Try it on.”

After a bit of back and forth battling (“No that’s stupid.”/”Just try it on.”/”I’ll look like an idiot.”/”Just try it on.”), I finally stepped inside the dressing room and tried on the offending garment while my sister-in-law waited outside the door.

It was the most comfortable pieces of workout gear I’ve ever put on in my life. And very, very flattering. It made my legs look really long and, when you’re 5’2″, you take all the help you can get. After a bit of time justifying the price to myself (still $54 after the discount) I decided to go ahead and buy it. I shook my head as they put it in the bag. A running skirt was the last thing I expected to leave with that day. Or ever. Never say never, right?

(In case you’re wondering, the brand/style I bought is the SkirtSports / Tough Girl Skirt.)

Update on my cousin: Thank you all so much for your prayers, thoughts and kind words! She had surgery to remove the brain tumor on Thursday. It was very sucessful and there were no complications. She’s up, moving around at regular intervals. Most importantly, her spirits are sky high! She and her parents have meetings scheduled this week with the radiology team to discuss a course of treatment. If all goes as planned, she could be home this weekend. She insists that she will do whatever it takes to fight like heck and beat this. Take that, cancer!
What’s your most-loved piece of workout apparel?