Friday, March 31, 2006

A Yucky-Blucky Sort of Day

It's gray and drizzly outside this morning. I feel a little bad for Andy who is out working in this today. There's a bit of a wind, so I'm sure the wet and the wind makes for an uncomfortable situation. Okay, I'm over feeling bad for him. Maybe I'll make him something yummy tonight to make up for that.

I have a few moments that haven't happened in a while. Zander was up before 6:00 this morning, so Andy tossed him into bed with me. He really fought going back to sleep. But he did, and he's still there. Looks like it might be a nap-free day. Abigail is off to school... that girl. This morning I tell her there is an envelope in her backpack that she needs to take to the office. Well, then she tells me she wants to go to the office to buy lunch tickets. She still has some, and the lunch tickets get sold in the classroom on Monday's. Well, this turned into a "I want cold lunch today." At 7:35 in the morning. She gets picked up at 7:45. I attempted to talk her into hot lunch, even looking up the menu- "Hey Abigail, it's cheeseburger day! Or cheese sandwiches!" Yeah. I didn't win that one. Lucky for her I had lunch supplies on hand. I don't think I've ever made her lunch so fast... but she does have a cold lunch. Part of me wishes she would want cold lunch everyday so that I can use some of the inspiration I find at The Vegan Lunchbox. I love seeing what she packs for lunch every day. And if Abigail wanted cold lunch, you can bet I'd get her one of those laptop lunch cases. Of course, I was telling her this morning that I'd have everything set up for her and Evan to play MarioParty right after school, and her afterschool snack would be all set too. And what does she want for an afterchool snack? Vegetables and Dip. Gotta love that. Now if only Evan would eat that...

Evan. Grr. I am so not a babysitter. There is a real reason that I don't take other children into my home and watch them. I simply don't have the patience to do it. Really. However, I'm trying to be a good friend... Evan is in Abigail's class at school, and him and his family just live up the block. When school started his Mom and I met, and we started carpooling when Andy started his new job and needed the van. Now we take turns picking up the kids, and their family really is very nice. Well, a week ago Mom asked me if it would be possible for Evan to come over after school everyday, just for a little while while she squeezed in a few more hours of work, they really need the extra income. I sucked it up and told her it would be okay, there are only two more months of school left anyway.

Well, Evan only has two things on his mind every day after school. Football and Video Games. What a typical boy. Abigail normally would be thrilled to have someone to play video games with, but Evan does not have a Nintendo at home and is pretty slow to catch on. So he complains when he doesn't win and is just overall a pretty competitive boy, so losing makes him a little annoying. And the afterschool snack... Tuesday I gave them apples, Abigail's favorite. He didn't even touch his, although he did drink the apple juice. (?) Wednesday I gave them grapes. Nope, didn't touch those either, not even once. Then late on Wednesday Mom calls and says that over the weekend she is going to pick up some juice boxes and fruit snacks for us, because she really appreciates us having Evan over. Of course, I've been trying to reduce the consumption of fruit snacks by not having them around. Plus, Abigail has to choose a healthy snack after school, and fruit snacks are not on her list of choices. And usually when Abigail has her healthy snack, so does Zander. I did try to talk Mom out of the fruit snacks and juice boxes. I assured her it wasn't necessary, but she pretty much has insisted. With any luck she'll forget. But my plan at the moment is to insist that Abigail still choose her healthy snacks, and leave the fruit snacks and his juices just for Evan if he wants. He will also have the option of enjoying Abigail's snack, but if he would rather he may have his fruit snacks. It's going to be a long two months, I fear. And Mom keeps dropping these little "I don't know what I'm going to do for the summer." hints. Oh no way lady. That's so where I draw THE LINE. There is no way that I am going to spend my summer with her kids. I'm looking forward to my summer with MY kids.

Okay, that's all for this morning. I have some dishes to do I suppose. And I want to see if I can get the yoga program up and running. I've had an on and off headache the last two days, and I want to see if I can work the kinks out of my back and make them go away. Thanks for letting me vent this morning. I will try and find something inspiring for dinner tonight so I can redeem myself with a nummy food post.

Update: Yeah...Evan did not want the vegetables. None, not even the carrots. So I pulled out some whole wheat crackers and put them in a bowl for him. Yeah...didn't eat those either. So I felt bad that Abigail and Zander were happily munching on their veggies and dip and he wasn't having anything, and I pulled out the Chips Ahoy because he doesn't like nuts and the homemade cashew butter cookies were made of nuts. (Imagine that.) Then we get to the Apple & Eve 100% Fruit Juice boxes...he pulled the straw off before deciding against that. It's a juice box for crying out loud.

So I will let Mom bring his juice boxes and his fruit snacks. I doubt I will have much problem convincing Abigail that she should just continue with her healthy snacks.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I love Spring/ Weigh In Wednesday

Happy Spring!!

I love spring. My kids love spring. And I love my kids. And now that it is spring, we are officially a happy family. The kids are so thrilled to be able to play outside. Zander especially. Abigail was playing outside anyway because of three recesses a day, but Zander just stayed in the house all winter. Yesterday he literally spent the entire day outside. He came in for nap and supper. That was it. If I was looking for chances for more me time, I can certainly get it now- so long as I keep an eye on Mr. Mischief. So maybe happy kids and happy spring just makes me feel better today, like a breath of fresh air has swept through the house. (Literally, actually.) But perhaps...

Part of the reason for my great mood is that this morning I stepped on the scale, and it went down nearly 2 pounds! The needle kind of wavered between two dashes, so it for sure has gone down 1 pound! Of course, I like to be optimistic and say that it was close to 2 pounds, just not enough to get over that halfway point. After nearly a month of determination, it's about time I see some results. I am certain that the results this morning were from my total concentration on exercise this past week. I do think I've been ever more diligent this week watching my diet, but I also think that my weight decrease is more attributed to the fact that I'm actually using the calories I am consuming. That is a huge victory for me! I am very excited to see that the scale actually moved. It just makes me even more determined I think. It makes me think that if I keep it up, I can actually reach my goal, I'm very excited about that.

I am finding myself to be excessively snacky lately. It's almost like since I am determined not to eat them, they are calling to me even more. I do have assorted veggies in the fridge cut up and at the ready anytime. And today I picked up some grapes, which are easily available at any moment. I've really been concentrating on the fruits and veggies, and I can actually feel a physical difference- I'm not so tired and draggy all day. Last night I made chicken parmesan and limited myself to only half a chicken breast, and a huge serving of California Blend Veggies with Penzey's Florida Pepper on it. And a small portion of whole wheat pasta and sauce- no cheese on there. I was more than satisfied, and to conquer my after-dinner sweet tooth I had a cup of decaf Vanilla Chai Tea with a tiny bit of honey and milk. Perfect.

And speaking of that whole wheat pasta- I think I get the sneaky Mom award this week. I usually purchase and make Barilla pastas, which are good, but not whole grain. I do buy whole wheat pasta on occassion, but not regularily. Well, last night Abigail had two full helpings of whole wheat spirals with tomato sauce!! And then she asked for more, but changed her mind after she drank her milk. I'm going to have to pick up plenty more whole wheat pasta. Abigail loves pasta with red sauce (gee, where does that come from Grandma?) and specifically asked me last night if next time we could get long noodles. So bring on the whole wheat spaghetti.

Well, I am off to put the monster to sleep so I can get on with my aerobic workout. I may pull out the Tae Bo today. The workout I have recorded is good, but I think I should change it up a bit, and since the only other one I have is a step workout and my step won't be here until next week, it looks like a Tae-Bo type of day.

I hope everyone else had a great week as well!!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

It's officially grill season.

It's got to be at leadt 50º outside today. Zander was out the back door by 9:00 this morning, just having a blast. That left me thinking that I really should learn some yoga, and get a mat. It was so nice outside...I could just see myself enjoying the morning sunshine and doing a workout. So while Zander played about in the backyard, I attempted, yet again, to get a cable program up, and it's just not working. So I will have to keep an eye on FITTV and just tape a beginning yoga program so that I can learn the positions. But I did pull out a much-ignored pilates tape this morning instead and went through some of those motions. I'm just not that flexible...and this was a beginner demonstartion video. So maybe I will wait awhile on the pilates. Then after a small bowl of Grape Nuts Trail Mix Crunch I headed out the door to spend some time with my son. (The cereal is quite good, btw.)

After a few hours of play, he decided it was time for lunch and a nap, so after I got him settled down, I forced myself to do a 40 minute aerobic workout before having my own bit of lunch. And since it was so nice, I turned on the grill and grilled some red and yellow peppers and some green onions for a yummy wrap with pesto hummus and avocado. Mmm. That grill is going to be my best friend I think. And for a triple whammy today, after nap time I took Zander on a nice wagon walk before picking up Abigail from school and walking her home. All in all a very body-conscious day.

Yesterday for the Pampered Chef party I had cut up some veggies, and it's amazing how I'm much more inclined to grab those when I'm munchy if they are already prepared for me. I will have to keep that up. That and several varieties of hummus ought to keep me going through the day. I just need to find a prepared hummus that doesn't have high fructose corn syrup in it. Why oh why do they go and wreck something so healthy and so delicious by adding that yucky toxin to it? And yes, I know that making my own is easy, and I have done so, but I like the convenience of prepared hummus. I just have to read the labels next t ime I go to the store. I just assumed hummus would come "yuck-free".

So back to the grill season thing. Tonight's dinner will be another repeat. I could likely make Chicken Parmesan four nights a week and Andy would be a happy camper. But tonight I plan a spin...after brushing the chicken cutlets with the herbs and olive oil, tonight I am going to grill them. Usually it's a light browning in a saute pan. So grilling for one will be much healthier- far less fat, and two it will contribute a new flavor layer in the smokiness. Should be quite good in fact. I'm even thinking that I need to figure out the best way to finish the dish on the grill instead of in the oven- but that will be for next time I think.

So that's it for today. Tune in tomorrow for Weigh-In Wednesday if you're interested. I've had a pretty good week, so I'm anxious to see if the scale has changed at all. Come back and check it out with me!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

What a day!

The sun was shining, the temperature was warm, it was a great day. Andy spent the afternoon helping the neighbor build a huge jungle gym. And the kids had their own fun.

Zander had his own kind of fun after a very long nap. He needed the nap, but I felt bad because he missed the best part of the day while he snoozed on.

Abigail had a special kind of fun today, compliments of our neighbors. We really love our big backyard...

And before the safety police go crazy, let me assure you that this was not a "real four-wheeler, but a Power Wheels, that is very fun, but safely slow and sure for little people.

And while Andy was bust helping construct the monstrosity (which still isn't finished btw), I spent the afternoon putzing around the house and getting it ready for Sunday Company Dinner. Tonight's dinner was a wow 'em sort of dinner. And oh did it wow.

And I am sorry, because the picture really doesn't do them justice. But Fall Off The Bone Baby Back Ribs did indeed meet it's expectations. Another recipe from Fresh Every Day by Sara Foster, this was FANTASTIC! And extremely simple. And we even cheated a little. Our local butcher sells excellent baby back ribs in three different ways. Plain, St. Louis style seasoning, and already sauced in BBQ sauce. For today's adventure we picked up the pre-seasoned St. Louis style, and they are wonderful. We will have many more of these racks to come, I'm afraid. Sara's method is crazy simple. Th first step is to use a knife to help strip the membrane off the bone side of the ribs. Next, you slice a large onion and place it in the bottom of a roasting pan. Lay your baby back ribs on top of this, bone side down. I had to cut each rack into two pieces to get it to fit into my roasting pan (we had 3 racks today). Next, you pour one bottle of beer over the top of the ribs. In this case, I used O'Douls Amber, because the other beers in the house were pretty intense. Cover tightly with foil, and bake in a 325º oven for 2 hours. After the two hours, throw the ribs on a grill to sauce and finish the cooking process. And that's it. Our favorite BBQ sauce at the moment is Sweet Baby Ray's Original sauce. It's not cloyingly sweet like many of the commercial sauces are, and it's not too spicy, which is great for kids. While Andy does prefer my homemade sauce, this one is very acceptable, and nice for me because it's easy. :-)

Well, that's all for tonight. Tomorrow I am hosting another Pampered Chef show, so I'm not sure I'll have much of a post tomorrow. A friend of mine has decided to start her own PC business, so I offered to do one of her practice shows for her. My only concern is attendance...I want to have a good turnout for her, but so far I only have 3 people coming...hopefully it will still be fun, and hey it will be a good expereience for her to do a show for just a few people-right? Have a great night everyone, I'm off to find a book to read and get my mind off of eating something sweet and yummy.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

A Restaurant Review

Last night I was pleasantly suprised with dinner. We usually have the small group of restaurants we like to frequent and stick with those. I was in the mood to try something different, something new. Our number one goal is kid friendly. Another good goal is someplace where Andy can get a good glass of beer- he's a homebrewer and a microbrew fan, so the beer selection usually needs to be extensive. So last night we decided to take Red Robin for a spin. I did not know this was a fairly extensive chain restaurant, I knew there were a couple in the area, but I didn't realize this place was national. I know there are plenty of people out there who eschew the idea of a chain restaurant, favoring the private restauranteur at all costs, but this is worth the exception.

The staff was extremely friendly and accomodating to our kids. Our waitress explained everything in perfect detail, and actually encouraged us to make substitutions. Or in the case of milkshakes for the kids, "order the adult one and I'll bring two cups for them, it'll be a little cheaper for you." Just so, so friendly and nice. When we ordered the kids meals, I was very pleased that children were given a choice of fries, fruit, or salad to accompany thier meals. Abigail chose the fruit, Zander the fries. Next time though, I will have them both take fruit and share my fries. The fries are bottomless. So if you order a burger and fries, they keep bringing you more fries anytime you want. Andy and I each ordered a burger. There were plenty of cheese choices to choose from, and again, we were encouraged to add whatever we wanted to our burgers! It didn't take too long for the meal to arrive, and the food was very good. And for those who care, I ordered a guacamole-bacon burger, but had them hold the bacon. I didn't eat the whole burger, and I gave a good portion of my fries to Abigail, so I did very well at eating out without going too crazy.

We will certainly go back. The prices are pretty modest. Burgers range from 6-9 dollars depending on what you order, and kids meals are 4 bucks. We will most definitely go back when we are on the mood to go out for a burger. My only caveat with the place is that it is a little noisy. So it wouldn't be the best place to go and strike up an intimate conversation, but it's a fantastic place to take the kids for a dinner out. A big thumbs up from my family for Red Robin. Check it out if you have one near you.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Going Out...

So there will not be a dinner report tonight. We are taking the evening off in the kitchen and taking the kids out to dinner and Barnes&Noble. I just wanted to post a little pat on the back to myself that I did do my workout today, and I also managed to not bake the cookies I had been planning, and instead focused my energies on cleaning instead. Whew. Tomorrow will be a different creature. I have decided to take a break from the workout sessions on the weekends, but if I get a chance, I may sneak off early in the morning for a brisk walk. We'll see. That's an awful lot of mustering that I will have to do.

And now Andy is off to pick up Abigail from school, and after a little after-school snack, we will be on our way. Happy Weekend Everyone!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Ciabatta and a work out

Well, today I got around to making that Ciabatta. It turned out pretty good. The crust is extremely crispy on both the top and the bottom, while the inside is extremely moist and tender. A very interesting bread. Of course, it will make a fabulous sandwich, but I am really thinking that I need to come up with a dipping oil for dipping, should I make this bread again. Of course, dipping yummy strips of crispy white bread into a spice-and-cheese laden olive oil may not be the best thing for my health consciousness, but it sure would taste good. Maybe for company sometime...

So today I did very well. I realize it's not Weigh-In Wednesday, but I feel like I should be as accountable as I can, and if it helps me to sound out here...well, then I will do it. Zander went down for a late nap today, and I very nearly decided not to choose an exercise. But then I though about all the people checking in here...and that made me leave the dishes and head for the living room. I chose the workout I recorded yesterday, and it's amazing how much more of a workout it was without the commercial time. I'm kind of looking forward to tackling it again tomorrow. My big problem at the moment though is that I am EXHAUSTED! Even yesterday, I was so tired, that I crawled into bed at 9:00. Here it is not quite 7:00 and I am yearning for my pillow. I am hopeful that my body will adjust with time to the extra I am asking of it, but I do wonder if I need to change something about my diet. Maybe add an extra protein? I'm thinking maybe some hummus and veggies mid-afternoon might help keep my energy up to finish the day without feeling like I have lead weights attached to my legs.

Now we'll just see how I feel tomorrow...yesterday I only did one half hour of the full hour workout, and today I pushed it to 40 minutes without the commercials. There is one more segment that I didn't get to, but I believe it is a jumprope segment, and I can hardly do that from the confines of my living room. I'm feeling a little tight in the abs and my chest right now, hopefully a good night of sleep won't produce stiffness and tightness. I really want to get another day in before the weekend.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Mmmm. Asparagus.

I love asparagus. So when I opened up my brand new issue of Eating Well yesterday and found a veggie spread on asparagus, I knew I was in for a treat. I went back and forth on which one to try first, but a favorable review on the CLBB for Chile-Spiced Asparagus sent me in that direction. This was fantastic. Simply cooked asparagus tossed with a very simple spice blend and hightened with just a hint of red-wine vinegar provided a great addition to tonight's dinner. It was a definite wow for us. I chose the option of using Smoke Paprika instead of the chile powder, which we really were glad I did. We decided that we'd like to try this with grilled asparagus- only using the chile powder instead then.

Weigh In Wednesday

So much to discuss today!! But first, I must take care of some very, very exciting business!

Congratulations to Anna G. from Cookie Madness!!! For anyone who doesn't know, a fellow food blogger has WON the Pillsbury Cook-Off, taking home 1 million buckaroos! I almost had tears in my eyes for her, I was so excited. The announcement was on the Today show today, and Anna was so gracious and surprised! Entirely too fun, and quite the excitement for today. If you missed it, be sure and check out her segment tomorrow on the Today Show. So fun to be able to say that I KNOW HER!!!

On to the topic at hand, Weigh In Wednesday. Sadly for me, the scale has not moved yet. I suspect that with the events of the last week, I may have been fluctuating a bit, but I am grateful that the scale hasn't actually climbed. The sad part for me is that a few weeks back I had a physical and that darn professional scale put my weight right where I originally thought it was, but was so excited about it being less. Ah well. I can at least use my scale to accurately measure up or down- I just need to add about 7 pounds at the end.

I also have been blowing it in the exercise department. However, this week I decided I had to do something. Monday I ventured outside and took the kids for a wagon walk, despite the brisk weather that just won't go away. Yesterday I was wavering when my good friend Elizabeth called. We chatted for awhile before I mentioned that Zander was taking an early nap, and I didn't know what to do with myself. Darn that Elizabeth for saying "Exercise!" ;-) So I tried to get the yoga program on and the cable wasn't working right. So instead I put laundry away a piece at a time. My laundry basket was on the first floor- the clothes go on the second. It did take a while, but I felt better about doing something. This morning Zander and I went for a walk to pick up some strawberries and apples, and I was going to let it go at that when that voice rang through my head "Exercise!" Grr. Again though, the yoga program did not want to come on. I dug through my cupboard for my Tae Bo tapes, and decided to check out FITTV instead.

I was just in time for Celebrity Work-Outs, which happened to be some boot camp guy. It actually was a good workout. A little bit of everything tossed in, a little cardio, a little muscle toning, a little stretching, just a nice rounded workout. I decided to record it for future use, and to eliminate commercials. Yes. Commercials. THAT was annoying. We'd be going along at a really good clip when they would take a break for a commercial. It was like the momentum just fizzled out. I took the commercials to try and speed clean my kitchen, but really- commercials smack dab in the middle of a workout?

But I did a great workout, and I have really been conscious of what I am eating. In fact, today I picked up an avocado to make guacamole, and when it came time for lunch, I just couldn't bring myself to make it to go with chips. So I tried some new things (for me anyway) with avocado, and now I MUST get back to the store. I made a simple wrap with a little cheddar cheese, tomato, sliced avocado, lots of spinach, and some plain yogurt. YUM!!! Then with the remaining half of an avocado I made a sort of fruit salad with an orange and a few strawberries. A drizzle of orange juice and a handful of walnuts completely made a satisying lunch.

Avocados are relatively new to me. We never ate them growing up, and my first experience with one was a terrible one. My senior year in HS I had two good friends who were vegetarian, and I wanted to be. Well, I convinced my mom to pick an avocado up for me once when we were out shopping. I was certain they would make a fantastic sandwich. Which I am sure it would have had I not put that avocado on the hardest and toughest homemade cinnamon-raisin bagel. Ick. (Also my first experience making bagels- another story.) I so had to choke down that sandwich. And I avoided avocados and guacamole at all costs until fairly recently. I'm so glad I gave them abother whirl.

So tonight there may be a dinner report. I haven't totally decided what we're having, but I guess I better decide pretty quick as I need to pull something out of the freezer...until then, here's to healthy eating and commercial-free exercise.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Not much new here tonight.

Sorry if you tuned in for a dinner report...dinenr tonight was a new recipe, and it was pretty good, but Andy and I both thought it needed something. So I plan to make it again sometime soon and I will post the recipe once I have it done right. :-)

Yesterday I had Andy stop off and pick up some more yeast for me. I was almost out, and I have really felt like baking bread lately, so I needed yeast. Well, he brought home 2 pounds of yeast from Sam's, so I should be baking up a storm very soon here. Today I started on something new- Ciabatta. I love ciabatta bread, it is so unique and wonderful. Light and airy, yet slightly dense and chewy at the same time. Good ciabatta makes a fantastic sandwich. And according to what I've found so far, good ciabatta is also hard to come by. Today I turned to The Bread Bible again and started her method there. Ciabatta is made from a biga, or a starter, so I made my biga today, and it is sitting in the fridge overnight at least before I get to the ciabatta. Hopefully tomorrow I will get that chance. I also want to work on a whole grain bread, but that one is going to require a shopping trip to get the whole grains. :-)

Short little post tonight I guess. Since I don't have much new to post, I don't want to ramble. Tune in tomorrow morning as I resume Weigh-In Wednesday. I've been wavering on the topic for tomorrow, so I won't even give you a preview. Come back tomorrow and find out if my scale has moved...

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A New Condiment

Today was a very nice day. It was forcasted to be around 40º, but it must have been up over 50º. It was so nice, the kids spent the whole day outside. Literally. They should sleep very good tonight, all that running around... But since it was so nice, we decided the grill needed to be used for Sunday Company Dinner. And one of our favorite meals is BBQ chicken, so that's what we did. To accompany I also made roasted garlic mashed potatoes, banana cream pie, cole slaw, and a chickpea salad. A while back I had made a chickpea salad that I found in a Mexican cookbook. You can find my original encounter here. It called for pickled red onions, which it also gave a recipe for. While I thought it was good, I always thought it could use some small changes, and today I played with those changes. And I daresay, these pickled red onions are going to be a staple for the summer pantry. I think they make a salad awesome, and they would make an incredible addition to a sandwich or a burger. Or for that matter, just a plain old hot dog would be dressed up by this simple condiment.

What is unique about these pickled onions is that they are lightly sauteed first to soften them. And while they are not cooked enough to carmalize, they are cooked enough to extract the sharpness usually found in an onion. They still retain their beautiful purple/red color, and the flavor is just incredible. I think I could eat them straight up. The difference for me this time I think was the choice of herb. The original recipe called for Mexican Oregano, which I find to be really pungent and musky, and I honestly don't care for it a whole lot. I don't care too much for regular oregano in the first place- at least not by itself. I like it in a blend- like an Italian Herb blend, but by itself, you can keep it, it's too woody for my taste. Today I eliminated the oregano and used thyme- and that was absolutely the perfect accompaniment.

Todays salad was a can of chickpeas-drained, broccoli flowerets, baby carrots-cut into slivers, a yellow bell pepper-diced, and one batch of pickled red onions. The onions themselves act as a dressing to pull together the rest of the vegetables, and it just sings. Every bite is delicious. I think if you wanted to, you could add some whole wheat rotini and make a meal out of the salad by itself. It's that good. The modified recipe for the pickled onions can be found here in The Trove. Make them! You won't be sorry. And swap out the thyme if you want. I think any dried herb would work just fine here- even an herb blend, like Herbes de Provence. Or oregano if that is your preference, just give them a try, I promise you won't be sorry!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

We're Baaack...

Well, we're done jaunting for a while anyways. We are back from a very exhausting week. It really was a very nice funeral, it was so much more of a celebration of life than a time of mourning. It was wonderful to see family that we don't see very often, despite the circumstances for bringing us together. And the best part of the last few days? The kids were just wonderful! Abigail was sad at times, she really loved her Great-Grandma, but overall, the kids were so well behaved, and at times I think their unending joy for life was contagious and a necessary relief from the task at hand. Don't they look tired here this afternoon?

We arrived back home around noonish today, and after a brief period of rest and a much needed cup or two of good coffee, I felt the itch. The itch to cook or bake something. I decided that Andy needed to fire up the grill tonight, so I pulled a pair of pork steaks out of the freezer and set to work peeling and dicing some sweet potatoes to grill alongside. A nicely steamed vegetable medly rounded out tonights's meal, but that didn't really fix the itch. For me that was more assembly than cooking. I looked around in my pantry and decided that I needed to make a pineapple upside down cake with some crushed pineapple I had in the pantry. The challenge? I never made a pineapple upside down cake from scratch. It's always started with a box mix. (I know, the horror!) But it was today, with no box mix on hand, and no desire to head to the store, I needed to find a recipe for real pineapple upside down cake.

I headed to A search turned up quite a few results, but none of them sounded quite what I was looking for- not to mention, many started with that box of cake mix. The I stumbled upon a recipe by Sandra for Cottage Pudding- Upside Down Cake. The word pudding always captures my attention, and reading through the recipe, I decided this was the one. And after a brief moment of thought, decided to make it as written, using the apples instead of my original desire for pineapple. I did double the butter and brown sugar in the pan. I wanted to make sure I had a nice and gooey layer, and that worked perfectly, I will do that again. It tasted great! Andy really liked it, and said that he actually liked it better than pineapple upside down cake, so that's quite a compliment. A change that I think should be made is to eliminate the 1/2 cup of shortening in the cake batter, and use butter instead. I think the flavor of the actual cake part would be better then. I might also consider using buttermilk instead of milk next time too... but overall, it gets a big thumbs up, and will be a repeat here. I am always on the lookout for good homemade desserts that are also on the simple side. You can catch my modified recipe at the Treasure Trove.

That's it for tonight. I have laundry to do, kids to put to be early, and early to bed is sounding pretty good to me too. Tomorrow is Sunday Company Dinner, and we're still undecided as to what we're making...if it's something fun, I'll be sure and share. Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Be gone for a few days...

Tummy Treasure is going to take a short break for a few days. We will be spending the next few days celebrating the life of a wonderful woman. Weigh-In Wednesday will be back next week as scheduled.

Thank you for all the prayers and kind thoughts. We'll be back soon.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Sometimes I do eat leftovers...

The kitchen's been a little boring, and will continue throught the week I am afraid. But last night I did make a delicious stir-fry that I thought I could share today. Stir-fry is a tricky thing, at least for me. I have made soooo many different stir-fry's, and they just never really turned out well. Either everything was way over-cooked, or the sauce didn't taste right, or the meat was dried out. I decided to give up the idea of cooking good Asian food at home. Then one Sunday I decided to make Eggrolls for Company Dinner. Someone else brought potstickers and a dessert, but the meal needed an entree. So I decided to brave it just one more time. Only this time, I actually used a recipe.

Who knew? One would think that you could just throw some Asian ingredients into a pan and have it work out okay. Guess what- sometimes a recipe is very helpful! So I turned to good ole reliable- Cooking Light. I have decided that they do indeed know their stir frys. Three Pepper Beef had the perfect amount of seasoning and flavor, and I managed to not overcook the vegetables. So last night I revisited this recipe, making a few changes. I used chicken and chicken broth instead of beef, and added some other veggies. I also used Tamari instead of soy sauce, as I really like the mildness tamari has. I will use that again. And the chicken and veggie turned out equally as good as the beef version. It was fantastic, and really reminded me of good take out. So I will be going through my Cooking Light Annuals and looking for some more Asian recipes from them.

You can find the recipe for Three Pepper Beef in the Recipe Trove, so check it out if you havne't already. And substiutions in this case are extremely easy. Don't like peppers? Use a yummy combination of button, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms instead. Mmm. Just as good.

I'm not sure what's on deck for tonight. I will share if I get a chance. I do have to make some goodies for Abigail for school tomorrow though, so we'll see. :-)

Monday, March 13, 2006

A Blah Week Ahead

First off, I want to thank everyone for their kind words these past few days. It is hard to lose a loved one, even though in the grand scheme of life, it is inevitable. Grandma was such a wonderful and loving woman. She had such a zest for life, I always thought of her as my spunky grandma. She was the type of woman who simply didn't take crap from anyone, if something was bothering her- she'd tell you. :-) I have such fond memories of visiting her growing up. We always loved going to Grandma's house. Some of my first memories of Grandma are of her taking me across the road from her house to visit a farm. They are vague memories, but I clearly remember walking up to the red barn with her. I also remember playing baseball with her and my family in her backyard. And then there are the walks around her rather large yard with her to check out the wildlife and the trees and plants. She took such pride in her yard and loved sharing her knowledge of nature, especially birds.

Grandma always had a genuine interest in what we enjoyed doing. I blame her completely for the love of reading I have today. :-) Although I started reading very young, it really was Grandma who gave me my first push into books. She gave me her collection of Nancy Drew mysteries when I was 8 years old, and an addiction was born. The very first one I read was Nancy Drew, The Mystery of the Moss Covered Mansion, and I never stopped. I still have those books, which Grandma continued to add to for many years. Although they are in the safe-keeping of my mother for now, I am looking forward to being able to share them with Abigail. I am certain that Grandma would approve of that.

And speaking of Abigail, Grandma just adored that little girl. And Zander as well, but I think there was something special about Abigail, she was the first Great Grandbaby. I remember Grandma holding her and loving her, and all of us talking about how wonderful it would be for Grandma to someday be a Great-Great Grandma. And how Grandma loved to give gifts. Every Christmas she would come for a visit, and it was like Santa was visiting, she would bring bags and boxes full of gifts for everyone. And they were always gifts that had so much thought put into them. Grandma would have this smile and twinkle in her eye as she watched the entire family open the precious gifts that she had spent so much time thinking about, shopping for, and wrapping up. And it was always something unexpected. Something that she saw and it made her think of you, so she would pick it up for you. This past Christmas she bought Andy and I a beautiful Chafing Dish. Only Grandma would have gotten us something so wonderful. Something that we would never buy for ourselves, but that we would completely enjoy using. I know that's where I get my love of giving gifts. The joy of sharing something with someone that you know they will love, something that you put thought and time into, and sometimes money, depending on the gift. But that is one thing that Grandma definitely shared with the entire family. My parents, my brothers, and my sisters, we all love gift-giving. While it is fun to receive, we could all care less if we walked away from a holiday empty-handed. As long as we had the opportunity to share with others, it was a wonderful holiday.

Grandma loved family, it was so important to her. My Dad has 4 sisters, and it was always so special to Grandma when the entire family could get together at once. We always tried to get together at Christmas at my parents house. It was so wonderful. I remember my first Christmas away from home, I so missed that. And the last time we did all get together, there were a couple of the cousins who just weren't going to be able to make it due to finances, and Grandma took care of that and made sure that EVERYONE was there. She will be missed so much. This coming June we have an extended family will be hard to be there without Grandma. Every other year we have such a get-together, and Grandma never missed a single one. And I always remember that we'd all get together for meals, and Grandma was always the first one to start tackling the clean-up. Stands to reason that in recent years, it's been my brothers and sisters and I who seem to have taken over the clean-up duties. It definitely won't be the same without Grandma giving the orders.

While Grandma will surely be missed, it will also be nice to remember her. She was so wonderful, I don't have any "bad" memories of her. And every time I see her in my mind she is smiling. I will always remember that smile, and all the stories she would tell...I do wonder what stories she had of Dad that she never shared. I am sure there were so many more... I am so grateful to have gotten to spend so much time with her. And I am grateful that Abigail got to know this wonderful woman as well. I hope that her faint memories of Grandma are a lot like my faint memories of my Great-Grandparents. I don't remember much, but I do remember how much they loved me. And that is enough memory to last a lifetime.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Positive thoughts and prayers please

The next several days are going to be a little rough. My grandmother passed away last night. I will miss her dearly, and will probably spend a blog post or two rembering her properly. But please think of my family over the next week as we say goodbye to a very formidable woman. I am sure she is much happier now...but we will all miss her dearly.

Love you Grandma.

A new blog in town...

Andy is likely going to shoot me for sharing this. :-) He has started his own blog. He doesn't promise it to be much, but for the family who catches up here on a regular basis, you can catch his occassional ramblings over here. I also have added his link to my sidebar, so you can access it there too.

Very short post this morning. It's a grey day here, quite foggy. But dare I say...Spring is trying to spring? One can hope. I saw geese last week, a fly during the week, and it looks like the trees are in the mood to bud. I haven't seen a robin yet though... Snow is melting like crazy, and if the rain stays away, the grill will be out in full force for dinner tonight. My sister Liz and her fiance are gracing us with their presence tonight, so that will be fun as well.

I have noticed that I have been quite boring on the blog this week, and very rambly...I will try to reign myself in. I'm sure it's not the most entertaining reading. And I will leave you until later with a picture of last night's dinner. The first of many, I am sure...But last night Andy fired up the grill, and we had some plain old hamburgers on the grill. They were wonderful. A nice change. I really hope the rain stays away today...

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Grocery Game

Have you heard of it? You sign up for the service and they promise to help you save money on your grocery bill. They have testimonials with people claiming to get $60 of groceries for less than two bucks. How do they do that? Well, it really is a game. The GG people will tell you what specials your store is running this week- both the advertised and unadvertised. Then they give you a list of coupons available to you, and then let you know if they have any extras like a double coupon day. But what they do is match up the coupons with the special items. In theory a $5.00 box of laundry detergent you could get for about $1.50, or a box of cereal for 20 cents. It sounds promising to me, and in an attempt to curb my grocery spending, I did a little research. And of course, the Grocery Game is not available in my area. I decided I needed to try this myself.

So we have started a subscription to the local paper, in order to get both the Wednesday and Sunday coupons and flyers. I also have online access to a few of the stores. The tough part is actually taking the time to sit down with all of the above and create a shopping list. Part Geek that I am, I was sort of looking forward to tackling this experiment. I still haven't gotten to it yet. However, when I went and did a little shopping on Wednesday, I took a handful of coupons, just in case. I didn't get any special deals, but I did get a few bucks off my total bill, which I suppose, is worth it. With the coffee coupons that Andy has been using, and the few that I've used, we've already paid for our first month of newspaper. So we'll see if I can keep it up. I would like to be more organized. The best laid intentions anyway.

So to start this project, I am starting with my existing grocery receipts. I am taking each item on the receipt and putting the price into my Mastercook program. I figure if I can get about two months worth of receipts in the computer, I should be able to plan my weekly grocery trip, and know exactly what it is going to cost me before I even leave home. Then I can change things up if needs be. I have a long way to go on this project it will be a work in progress. So far though, I have to say that by being coinscious of what I am spending, and planning a little more carefully, our grocery bill has gone down about 12-15% since January. I would like to see it go further. If I could get it down to about 50% I would be a very happy camper. I'm sure I can do it, I just need some practice, and no more going to the grocery store on a whim without a grocery list in hand.

I'm not sure if I'll be posting dinner tonight. Right now I am thinking it's a breakfast type of night with pancakes and sausage. But I am also thinking about a I guess it depends what happens between now and then. And if I don't come back, happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Revisiting an Old Friend

Here I promised to be back yesterday with a yummy dinner recipe, and then I realized that I had already posted the dinner on the blog before. And then the mroe I thought about it, I am just not crazy about the dish. This was the third time I'd made it, and while each time was slightly different, it just wasn't stunning me. So I decided to not blog about it, and I will likely delete it from my Mastercook program. There's just too many good dinners out there to keep repeating a mediocre one.

But on to tonight. Yet another repeat. But one definitely worth repeating. In a big way. You can read the original post that goes with it right here. The recipe is there too. Every once in a while I just get in the mood, and this was the night. Jane Brody's Lentil and Potato Stew is all about comfort. And once again, I want to lick the pot clean. Luckily for me I don't though, cause this stew makes plenty for lunch for me for several days. Today I did make a few changes. Well, really one.

Bob on the CLBB suggested once changing up the white potatoes with some sweet potatoes. Normally, I wouldn't go for that, I usally like my sweet potatoes sweet. But I happened to just pick up a 5 pound bag of yams and had them laying around. So I used 3 red potatoes and one large yam. That was a great combination. I would do that again in a second. And while I was thinking about it, I was thinking that someone on a potato restricted diet could exchange cauliflower and zucchini for the potatoes with much success. In fact I may even try that sometime.

Today I also added the dreaded chutney. My last experience with chutney was not a pleasant one. But being brave, I thought I would try again. In fact, tonight's dinner was inspired by that jar of mango chutney. The grocery store I shop at most often has been doing a reset. That's been really annoying, and I was worried when I saw them taking apart the natural foods aisle. I like that the natural and organic foods are all together, vs. other stores where the organic and natural brands are in with the regular groceries. I was pleasantly surprised yesterday when I found a very expanded organic and natural section. They have such a variety now that I don't feel the need to lament the lack of a Whole Foods. And not only did they expand the natural foods, but they expanded the International as well. They have always had a large Mexican and Asian section, but now they've added more diversity by adding Thai, Indian, and of all things, British selections. Treacle Pudding anyone? That's where I found today's version of chutney. I am very pleased with it, and now I won't be so afraid of the stuff.

I guess that's it for tonight. It's really been an uneventful couple of days around here. Maybe tomorrow there will be a little excitement...

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Weigh-In Wednesday

Well, a week has gone by. I've been feeling really good the last few days- it's been a good week so far. Even my chocolate Promises have kept their place in the cupboard. However, a step on the scale this morning shows no change. And while I fully admit that a part of me was disappointed, reality is that I have been making changes and improvements, and I can't expect that it will all go away at once. Having watched The Biggest Loser, it's easy to get caught up in the fact that these people can lose a lot of weight in one week. However, their diets are very limited, and they work out- a lot. I imagine if I had all the time in the world to devote to a gym or fitness program I, too would shed pounds like crazy.

Exercise. That word simply makes one shudder just saying it. Exercise conotates hard work, and sweat, possibly tears, and is not one of the more pleasant words to roll off the tongue. But it is important. Exercise helps build and tone the muscular system, and it also improves blood flow. The end result is that you feel better physically. And exercise, in my opinion, is key to any kind of permanent weight loss. You can reduce your calorie intake all you want, but in order to keep the weight off, you need to use up the calories you take in on a daily basis. That's where a daily exercise routine comes in. And it's so hard to take that first step towards exercising regularily. That's a tough step to take, especially when you already have a full day. And adding an hour for a full fledged workout is a tough thing to commit to. That's my problem.

In high school I discovered that I LOVED weight lifting. I love doing Nautilus and free weights. I love the way I feel when I do them, and I love tracking the progress. It was always so exciting when I could manage another 5 pounds while bench-pressing. My senior year of high school that was my gym class the entire year. I would alternate weightlifting with step aerobics. (Another activity I enjoyed). And of course, once high school ends, the free access to that equipment ends. I was very excited to learn when I got to college that we had a gym that was free for students. So I proceeded with getting up early in the morning and working out at least 3 days a week. Then came the real world. Then came working 60+ hours a week, and marriage, and then along came Abigail. And I never really got back to working out regularly. I have tried a couple times, but it is super difficult to find a full hour to devote to exercise. And really, that's what I need is a full hour to warm up, do a work out, and then take a shower. And I don't ever get an hour to myself. The only real potential time of day for that is nap time. And that is such a "golden" time. That is my time to read a book, do some baking, or spend time online.

Monday I decided was the day I would officially do something in terms of working out. I didn't know what yet, but I was toying with the option of simple things like running up and down the stairs for 10 mintues, or something like that. Well, the weather provided me an excellent workout ooportunity. We got several inches of snow that needed to be shovelled, and while normal procedure is to leave it for Andy, I went out and shovelled the driveway. Whew. A lot of work, surely that was good for Monday, but what could I do on a regular everyday basis? Let me tell you, I found the greatest thing. Our cable service has something called On Demand TV. Basically channels that you tune to and choose what you would like to watch- kind of a la carte.

Yesterday I found Exercise TV. And it is perfect. There are easily 20-30 different options available to me every day. Whether my interest is yoga, pilates, dance, aerobics, spinning, etc. And many of the workouts are super short. There is a series of workouts that is 11 minutes long total- from warm-up to cool down. 11 minutes! How perfect is that! Yesterday I started with a yoga workout. And felt so good about doing that, I selected an ab workout to accompany that. Ugh. That one was a little more intense. But when all was said and done, I had spent a little less than half an hour exercising, and I really did feel great about it afterwards! In more ways than one. I had this burst of natural energy that I wasn't sure what to do with. It was nice. I am going to attempt a different workout every day during the week at nap time. And once I get into a rhythm there, I may add another workout earlier in the day. 11 minutes I can squeeze in while Zander is busy at his train table. So we'll see how it goes. I am thrilled with my current state of resolve. In addition to the happy feeling from working out, I was not feeling quite so munchy yesterday, and had an easier time resisting the cookie jar.

Later I will be back with a yummy dinner post. :-)

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Utilizing The Pantry Week

It seems to be a recurring theme among foodies this week. I have been trying to cook out of what I have on hand this week. So far it seems to be going quite well. Tonight's dinner was no exception. Today I got it in my head to utilize some frozen shrimp and some frozen asparagus. I did a few searches online and found a couple of promising recipes. One was a CL recipe for Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto. While that appealed to me on so many levels, I've only made risotto once, and I really didn't like it, so I was hesitant to try again with yummy shrimp and yummy asparagus. Inevitably, I did not find a recipe that called to me, so I decided to create my own, and I turned to an old reliable. Fettucini Alfredo.

Fettucini Alfredo apparently originated in Rome. The original sauce was made with simple butter, cream, and parmagiano-reggiano. That's it. Most of the Alfredo sauces I know and love (as well as my own) also contain garlic. And of course, a sauce made with cream, butter and cheese just screams coronary problems, so I at least do my part by eliminating the cream and using low-fat milk and adding some flour to the mix. I do find it amusing that at restaurants we frequent, plain old Fettucini Alfredo is usually one of the more pricey menu items. It is actually a very economical meal to make at home. And also amusing, is how many people cannot believe that I make homemade alfredo sauce. Come on people, it's not brain surgery.

And not only did dinner turn out great tonight, but it utilized things I had on hand without a trip to the store. (Which I am trying to cut back on.) I only wished I'd given this enough thought earlier, I would have made some breadsticks to go with it. Then again, given that tomorrow is Weigh-In Wednesday, I seriously doubt I needed the added calories. Come back tomorrow when I start dishing about that dreaded word we all cringe at: Exercise.


This morning I wake up and I see that Alysha has posted the weekly round up for the Virtual Recipe Club. This week's theme was Italian. That was a tough one to pick just one recipe for. I have made several Italian inspired meals over the past few months, so it was a little difficult to narrow it down to one. However, Chicken Parmesan is a clear winner at our house. I really had no idea how much Andy loves chicken parmesan. We have had it quite a few times since it first made an appearance here. He sees a chicken breast out defrosting, his hope get up, he gets a twinkle in his eye- "Is that what I think it is?" Um, no dear, not today. So we've had it quite a few times as of late. So that was this weeks contribution to the VRC:Italian.

If you're in the mood for some delicious looking Italian food, head on over to The Savory Notebook for the complete round-up. I assure you that you will not be disappointed with what you find there. I am going to have to take a close look at every single one of those recipes. Yum!! Thanks Alysha for doing the VRC round-up this week! Tune in next week for VRC:Cinnamon! That will be a tasty round-up over at Sweetnicks.

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Monday, March 6, 2006

Is it Ever Gonna Stop????

Snowing that is.

I am sooooo done with winter. I have had enough snow and slush and cold weather. I want to be warm. I want to watch my children play in the yard in the lawn. I want to cook on the grill, and have a salad to go with it. Hmm. Guess I have to wait a while. There is one benefit to the addition of a little snow today...

Abigail and Zander had a good time with Daddy playing in the snow. :-)

In other news today, we had an addition to our kitchen family. Last week Andy made his coffee for the next morning. Usual procedure is to load the coffee maker and set the timer for the early morning. On Tuesday night, Andy did that and then went about doing his other things, and before you know it, he was smelling freshly brewed coffee. From the very much off coffee maker. It was actually pretty funny. But it did mean that we needed a replacement. The next day after work Andy stopped at Target to pick one up. He just couldn't find one we were happy with. So I turned to Old Faithful- I just love the product reviews on Amazon. I searched through literally hundreds of coffee makers looking for the perfect one. It had to have good reviews, be in our price range, and had to come with a timer. I was really surprised that a lot of the makers I was familiar with had poor reviews. And then I found it. And here he is:

This Braun Coffee Maker is simplicity at its finest. It has very few frills and whistles, but man does it brew a good cuppa. It houses a Brita water filter right in the tank, so it purifies our tap water. This not only produces a nice cup of coffee, it also prevents calcification of the maker. We do need to replace the filter every few months, but the end results are so worth it. This also came with one of those gold cone filters, which replaces our need to buy paper filters. It brews perfectly hot coffee in such a short amount of time. I just love it. I am looking forward to many mornings of beautifully perfect coffee.

I also got one more surprise in the mail today. One that I am very excited about. As everyone knows, I am a loyal subscriber to Cooking Light magazine. But I have been on the lookout for a few other good food magazines to subscribe to. I had been subscribing to both Gourmet magazine and Bon Appetit magazines. And while they are perfectly fine publications, I just wasn't using them. I enjoyed reading them, but there was rarely a recipe that piqued my interest. I had been thinking about Food & Wine, but due to recent developments and their choices of articles to publish, they will not receive my subscription dollar.

What did I find in my mailbox today? This lovely card:

Andy's Mom has gifted me with Eating Well Magazine- one that has definitely been on my radar, but I've been a little hesitant because of the subscription price. I am thrilled to receive Eating Well, and I am very thankful to Mom Waz for the very generous gift. It will most assuredly be put to good use.

And that's all for tonight. I spent the day rearranging my cupboards again, so supper was a quick and easy one, and one I have already shared, so I will refrain from the double post. :-) Have a great night everyone!

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Simple Supper

Tonight's supper was simple and yummy. This is one of my go-to recipes for company. The original recipe came from a Pillsbury Bake-Off. I don't know who wrote it, or what book I got it from, but I do know it was in the bake-off. Creamy Spinach and Tortellini is a great way to dress up frozen spinach. The sauce is remarkably easy, and takes just a few minutes. I have changed the recipe a tad. The original version called for 1 cup of heavy cream. Hmm. I will save my heavy cream calories for dessert. So instead I use 4 ounces of low-fat cream cheese and 1 1/2 cups of low fat milk. It may not get quite as creamy, texturewise, but it's pretty darn close, and doesn't leave you feeling like you ate too much. We had simple salads to accompany tonight, and it was a perfect meal for our Sunday Company Dinner. You can find the recipe at the Recipe Trove, or you can click on the link above.

Battling the Sugar Demon

On the path to healthiness, I have encountered resistance. As a former "Trekkie" I tend to think in the terms that only The Borg will understand, and that is that "Reistance is futile." And for the most part, it really is. I can spend two days eating very well, being conscious of my food choices, and ultimately having a great couple of days. Then I will get in the mood for a sweet, and out comes the cookies (or cake). And do I help myself to one portion? Oh no. Portion could be one cookie or two cookies, or if they're really small, maybe even three. But my problem is that I will have three cookies and think to myself "That's plenty, I don't need anymore." Then 30 minutes later I'm remembering those cookies, and I want more. So I have just one more. Okay, maybe two. And then the cycle just continues. So rather than battle with my resolve, I think I need to work with it.

Battling the Sugar Demon is a pointless endeavor. I don't really want to win. I love my sweets, and I love what sugar does in my kitchen. No matter what form, and I don't intend to give it up. Sugar substitutes just don't cut it for me. You cannot fool my tongue into thinking that processed chemical tastes just like my beloved sugar. So what options do I have? I intend to snuggle up with that Sugar Demon, take him out for a walk, and see just how small I can make him. I intend to be careful.

The worst time of day for me is early afternoon. Zander is sleeping, Abigail is at school, and I usually spend that time curled up with a book, last night's episode of Project Runway, or my blog. I get the munchies really bad, and the Sugar Demon is at full strength. One option that does work for me is dark chocolate. Specifically, Dove Promises. Two of those beautiful pieces of chocolate will take care of any cravings I have, so long as I make it a point to fully savor. I slowly nibble each Promise, letting each nibble melt slowly on my tongue. But what about when that doesn't work? Well, I have recently begun discovering loose-leaf tea, and if I make myself busy brewing a pot, and enjoying every delicate sip of tea, that should also help keep the Sugar Demon satsified. I enjoy my honey with a tiny 1/4 teaspoon of honey, so there is actually very little sweetness involved, but just enough for me.

And if all else fails, I may just brush my teeth. I really don't care much for mint as a flavoring. So if I feel like indulging, a nice coating of toothpaste ought to keep me out of the cookie jar for at least a little while. So I guess it will be a grand experiment. And of course, if anyone has any tips for fighting the Sugar Demon, please feel free to pass them on. I will try and be back tonight to post a yummy pasta recipe, but if not, stay tuned for Wednesday's Weigh In, where the subject of Exercise may come up.

Friday, March 3, 2006

Pizza, Pizza, Pizza

Tonight was pizza night. Who doesn't love pizza? Everyone in our house loves pizza. Especially homemade. Tonight's toppings included cheese, canadian bacon, pineapple, mushrooms, and onions. The portion for the kids was just the bacon and the pineapple. This is our standard pizza. Usually we'll add red bell pepper, but tonight I was out, so they were left off. Of course, come grill season, the toppings change into something more suitable for the grill. :-) If you are in search of a good pizza dough, you can find the recipe at this post. It is a thicker dough, and one recipe makes enough dough for two large pizzas, or when we're grilling it makes three pizzas.

Short post tonight. Zander went without a nap today, and Abigail is tired, so bedtime will be early, and we can settle in for a night of television viewing. Speaking of, if you haven't watched InJustice yet, you really should. It is a fantastic show, enough drama, enough suspense, and enough heart to keep you coming back for more. Please watch it if you haven't. So many of our favorite shows get cancelled. Apparantly the TV viewers would rather watch another version of CSI or a new reality show than watch something with substance. CBS just cancelled their new show Love Monkey after only 3 episodes. 3 episodes! We liked that one.

Anyway, that's it for tonight. And of you're looking for a great cookie, check out the Butterfinger Mounds on Cookie Madness. Mmmmmm.

Thursday, March 2, 2006

A New Talent

Today I determined I was going to learn a new skill. A kitchen skill. Today I turned my attention to a daunting little pastry staple- Pate A Choux. For those who may not entirely be familiar with Pate a choux, it has another term, or discription to be exact. Choux Paste is also known as the shell upon which a decandent cream puff is made. The shell which is filled with mounds of heavenly whipped cream and bought at county fairs across the country. The shell, which when made into a log shape is topped with chocolate and called an eclair. And today I met Pate A Choux head on, ready to be challenged.

My first step was to find a method or a recipe. I turned to the genius minds on FoodTV. Certainly someone like Jacque Torres or Gale Gand would have a foolproof recipe for Choux Paste. I was right. A search on FoodTV's website turned up several recipes, but I immediately became alarmed. Most were labeled as "Expert" recipes. I read through several, and then turned to a trusted friend in the kitchen. The Joy Of Cooking. Ah. Joy. I read the procedure several times to be certain I understood every step, every precise indicator. And then I proceeded. The dough started to come together very quickly. And before I knew it I was beating in eggs one by one, wondering to myself- "When does this get tricky?" The next step was the piping bag, and I carefully plopped 24 little mounds onto my baking sheet, smoothing the tops with a wet finger. Again- "Where is the difficulty here? What am I missing in this expert recipe?"

The baking process was a little more hands on. The first baking is 15 minutes at 400 degrees, to get the little buggers nice and puffy. Then another 15 minutes at 350 to lightly brown the puffs. The interesting step came next. I turned the oven off and pulled the pan out. Next I proceeded to flip each puff over, and using a paring knife, pierced each individual golden puff. Back into the oven for another 10 minutes, and then to the cooling rack. A little bit of chocolate bavarian cream and some powdered sugar, and this is what I ended up with:

I'm still trying to figure out where the difficult part was. These things are incredibly deceptive. They are quite simple to make, provided you have a little time on your hands. These Choux Puffs are perfect. They are perfectly full of air, so they can easily be filled with whipped cream, pastry cream, or split in half and filled with ice cream. These are definitely an impressive thing to make, and will get many repeats here. Imagine surprising guests with homemade cream puffs, eclairs, or profiteroles. They will think you slaved all day in the kitchen, and only you and I know better. Anyway, here is the recipe and method I used, courtesy of The Joy of Cooking.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Weigh In Wednesday

Well, today is the day I promised to talk a little about weight loss and dieting and my personal goals on this. I admit though that I am not entirely sure where I should start. I could go on and on about any of those subjects, but I will try to not ramble on so much. Let's start with my personal goals.

As we all know, every person's body is different. One person's 125 is very different than another persons when it comes to weight and weight loss. But according to the chart in my doctor's office (you know the one, the one with the BMI and how much you should weigh if you are healthy) I am only about5 pounds overweight before I reach "healthy weight" status. That's a great start. But realistically I wear a size 12 jean, and I would like to fit into a 10 again. I know darn well that five pounds is not going to give me a new pants size, so my first goal is 12 pounds. Monday this week I dug out the bathroom scale and stepped on it. I haven't done that in a very long time, and surprisingly enough I was 6 pounds lighter than where I thought I was in the first place. So that was very exciting. And as for a timeline... that's a hard one to say. Common sense tells me that if I was hard core dieting and exercising, 2 pounds a week wouldn't be unheard of. But since I don't intend on hard core dieting, or having time to do a lot of exercise, I will realistically say that I would like to drop a size by June 1st. That will get me into many pairs of fun shorts for the warm weather season.

So how do I plan to do it? That is a loaded question. I don't believe in diets. I believe in diet. I think that for many people diets are the answer to a short term weight loss goal- but they are not the answer to long term weight loss and maintaining it. So many people lose weight while on Weight Watchers, or following one of the many diets (Atkins, South Beach, The Zone, Sonoma, etc.) , but they don't keep it off. They don't maintain the healthy eating habits. I beleve the key is moderation. The last thing I want is to deprive myself of anything I want. And I also have a family to think about. Diets are certainly not healthy for children, and cooking more than one meal at a time is just crazy. So my main focus is going to be on portion control. That is where I think I suffer the most. Instead of eating that entire chicken breast, I am going to eat half, and save the other half for lunch the next day. I am also going to try and incorporate more whole grains. They are more nutritive and more satisfying than their white counterparts. That does not mean there won't be white bread and white rice. It just means that I will eat a little less of those.

In the past I have really only "dieted" twice. And I use the term dieted very loosely. Inspired by women on the CLBB that I frequent, I spent six weeks without sugar, two years in a row. That was so difficult for me. I am a sweet freak. My sweet tooth is really huge, and I am always craving cookies and cakes. The first time I did six weeks it was unbearable, but I really liked the way I felt. I had more energy from day to day, and I didn't have those ups and downs I usually experience throughout the course of a normal day. The second time I did the six weeks, it was because I felt the need after a holiday season of cookies and candymaking. It was definitely easier the second time, but it wasn't a lifestyle worth maintaining to me. I love cake. I love pie, and by golly, I want them from time to time. What I can change is frequency. The last few weeks have found me actually tossing out cakes and brownies because I knew I would sit and eat them all if given the opportunity. That is a huge step for me.

(I know it, I am rambling. I promise to stop soon.) What it all ultimately comes down to is calories. Plain and simple. If I take in less calories than I expend, I will lose weight. That means that if I really want to have that scoop of ice cream at night, I must give up the brownies at lunch time. I need to trade off. Do I really need all that sugar in my oatmeal? Maybe a nice dollop of applesauce will work, and then I can help myself to a chocolate chip cookie in the early afternoon. One resource I find invaluable at times like this is Fitday allows you to input the foods you consume throughout the day and helps you keep track of what you are eating. They also have output options, where you put in your daily activities and exercise and they show you how much you are using. So if you are looking to trim your own waistline, I highly recommend Fitday.

Okay, enough for today. I'm sure next week Wednesday I will come up with something new and profound to discuss. And I'm afriad there isn't much of a dinner report tonight. I am making chicken parmesan and gemelli with red sauce tonight, so it's nothing exciting that I haven't discussed before. Tomorrow though, I am thinking about tackling a form of pastry. So stay tuned for that cream-filled fun.