Posts Tagged ‘Recipe’

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.


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

* * * * *

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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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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Hellllooooo 2011!!!

So what if I’m 4 days late. 🙂

Normally I don’t find New Years’ to be especially exciting. Sure, there’s the bash to watch the ball drop and welcome in the new year, but to me January 1st has always been just another day. Until this year. While I don’t make New Years’ resolutions, I’m feeling completely refreshed. It’s like a mental “airing-out” that’s made me really motivated in all areas of my life, food & fitness included. I don’t know what brought this on, but I like it!

My husband went back to work yesterday after a two-week holiday vacation. It was bittersweet. I’m going to miss having him around every day, but it felt really good to fall back into a normal routine.

I started off the day the same way I’ve started every day since Christmas. With this amazing specimen of coffee-making genius:

This Keurig may seriously be the best Christmas gift my husband has ever bought for me. It’s changed my life. You laugh, but I’m not kidding. Okay, I’m only kind of kidding. It makes the most delicious cup of coffee I’ve ever tasted, coffeehouse or otherwise. The funny thing is, I’ve always sworn that I didn’t want one. I thought those little K-cups would be too expensive to keep up with my caffeine habit. My mother-in-law mentioned that she saw that you can now buy a little contraption (that grey thing in the top row of the carousel) to brew your own coffee grounds. Once I learned that, I wanted one. When I told my husband, he said maybe we’d pool our Christmas money and get it. Sneaky little booger. Turns out, he’d already bought it for me and stashed it at his sister’s house. It’s been so much fun to try all the different varieties. I try to limit myself to one or two K-cups per day and then use my own grounds beyond that. So far, the Emeril’s Big Easy Bold has been my favorite.


I sipped my coffee and read my book for about an hour, just enjoying the quiet. It was glorious. I love spending time with family and friends during the holiday season, but I also love my down time. That’s something I haven’t had much of lately and it was nice for my first “normal” day to start that way. Another great part of the morning was sharing a leisurely breakfast with Peanut when she woke up. After that, it was time to get down to business. Peanut had serious playing to do and I was ready to exercise.

The last few months of 2010 I felt like a hamster on a wheel when it came to fitness. My workouts were half-hearted at best. I knew that the exercise was good for me and I was doing it as often as I could, but I wasn’t excited about it. The switch didn’t really flip in my brain until January 2nd when I made myself accept my sister-in-law’s invitation to go to Zumba. I had all kinds of excuses running through my head for reasons why I couldn’t go, but I didn’t let myself bail. I went and, when those endorphins kicked in, all of the reasons I love exercise came flooding back to me. Suddenly I was excited about getting back into the swing of things. I came right home and jotted down a workout plan for the rest of the week. This is something I used to do every week. Unconsciously, I’d started to let it slip sometime around Thanksgiving and by Christmas I’d quit doing it altogether.

Yesterday reinforced to me how wonderful having that plan can be. I knew exactly which DVD I needed to grab: the original Power 90 with Tony Horton. I did the Sweat session followed by Ab Ripper 100. Definitely got my blood pumping and geared me up for the rest of the day. It also made me hungry.

I’ve found several recipes lately which sounded delicious to me, but that garnered an upturned nose from my husband when I showed them to him. I put those back as possible lunch options when it’s just me at home. Using this original recipe from Real Simple magazine as my inspiration, I made several modifications and came up with a lightened-up, simplified version based on what I had in the pantry.

Rotini with Arichokes and White Beans

(makes 4 servings)

  • 5 ounces whole wheat rotini
  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 15.5-ounce can great northern beans, rinsed & drained
  • 1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, quartered, rinsed & drained
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve ½ cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring regularly to keep the garlic from burning.
  3. Add the beans, artichokes, salt & pepper to the saucepan. Cook until heated through, approximately 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the reserved water and artichoke/bean mixture to the pasta and toss.

In keeping with my attempts at eating more veggies, I plated mine with some torn romaine lettuce which I stirred in after I snapped the picture.

I portioned out the leftovers and popped them in the fridge. Now my lunches for the rest of the week are no-brainers which really helps me stay on track. 

After lunch I cleaned. And cleaned some more. And cleaned even more while catching up on DVR’d shows. We got a last minute invitation to go out to dinner with some church friends and accepted. The food was mediocre (I’m talking to you, Tumbleweed.), but the company & conversation were fantastic. It was a great end to a great day.

So far, it’s been a great beginning to a great year. Bring it, 2011!


What has been the best part of your 2011 so far?

Oh, and one more thing…




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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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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


  • 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


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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