Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Spring Cleaning




It seems almost certain that I've used the title "Spring Cleaning" before but I don't care. It fits. Over spring break, I played in the snow in Boston with Ian and had an amazing time. I did a full recap on this in my "Chasing the Sun" piece on readtheleaf.com (not to plug myself too much). It was cold but it was a blast. When I came back, it was St. Patrick's Day and I had fun celebrating that. On Saturday, I went to a baby shower and made adorable strawberry parfaits in mini mason jars. After that, I tried to squeeze in as much rest and school work as I could. This week, I'm back on track. I weighed on March 10th before I left and weighed the exact same amount I did on February 22nd. I am sure that I gained over the break so I'm waiting to weigh again until 3/31 in hopes to do a little "spring cleaning" with my body.


You can tell that I'm back on track when I have hard boiled eggs on toast for breakfast. It's not that I don't like it and it actually fills me up but on vacation I took advantage of the free omelets and unlimited bacon every day. I've done well this week getting back into a routine.


I love 9 Round but it's not open on Sundays and sometimes I just don't have the energy to drive across town if I don't have to. I try to go there 4-5 times a week but there are occaisions where I exercise at home. Sometimes I like to kickbox at home on the bag Ian got me and I will walk but I don't have a lot of stamina when someone isn't pushing me or the exercise isn't regimented.  I discovered an app called SworkIt while watching Shark Tank. It's awesome and I highly recommend it. It's kind of like Pandora. You choose your style of workout: cardio, stretching, strength or yoga and then you choose how long you want to work out: 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 minutes and up to an hour. I often choose cardio and what I like about it is that you do 30 second increments of each exercise and if you don't like it, you can just skip it. It's great for when the gym is closed or when you don't feel like leaving home. Best part is that it's free.





Since I've been back, I've also managed to whip together one recipe. I made Spanish Chicken Lettuce Cups. Or, at least that's what I'm calling it. All I did was add cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt and pepper to a chicken breast and had Ian grill it up for me. When it was done, I shredded it, added it to two big pieces of romaine and then topped it with leftover Moe's salsa, green onion and these ADORABLE and DELICIOUS baby Brie bites I found at Fresh Market that are only 70 calories and soooo goood. This was great because it had a lot of spicy flavor. It's amazing how far one chicken breast can go when you shred it. I'll holla at y'all next week!








Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Soup's On!

Hey y'all! I am soooo close to Spring Break that I can taste it. Ian and I are going to Boston on Monday and I can't wait! It's making it difficult to complete the week but I'm getting there. I'll probably weigh on Friday or Saturday just to see where I'm at then wait a couple weeks AFTER vacation so I can drop a few pounds of "travel weight."


Since we are going out of town, I wanted to make something that would last a few days and use up some groceries we have rather than buying too much that could go to waste while we are gone. I found a chicken enchilada soup on Pinterest so it's not my recipe. Ian actually made it! It was a crockpot recipe and super delicious. You cook up a pound of chicken breasts in a skillet (they need to be cut into bite size pieces or you can shred them) and then toss the cooked chicken into the crockpot along with 4 cups of chicken broth, three small cans of green enchilada sauce and two tiny cans of green chills, 1-1/2 tablespoons cumin, tablespoon chili powder, teaspoon garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste. Let it go for 3-1/2 hours. At that point, add in instant rice and a block of cream cheese (cubed) and let it go another 30 minutes. We used low fat cream cheese so it didn't melt in as well as full fat would but honestly, I kind of liked having little bites of cream cheese. I think an immersion blender would have helped. We added low fat sour cream, a few crushed blue corn tortilla chips and skim mozzarella cheese. It was so filling and had awesome flavor! I think it was using the green chili sauce. I've eaten it three times and Ian has eaten twice and we still have a lot left.



Also, I wanted to share my quick pita lunch! This isn't anything revolutionary but it was delicious and huge! I went to the Cheesecake Factory a few weeks ago and noticed that sold their "Skinnylicious" dressings. I ended up buying their sesame ginger dressing and it's really tasty. It's a bit on the sweet side but I mixed with salty feta and ham. It's only 15 calories per tablespoon! All I did was add that, lettuce, cucumber, ham, fat free feta and toasted sesame seeds. I thought it was pretty and it tasted great.

Because I'll be in Boston, there will be no blog next week. I will pick it back up on the 22nd. So, have a great couple weeks and St. Patrick's Day!

I also wanted to take a moment to wish my Aunt Brenda a HAPPY BIRTHDAY! She lives in Chattanooga and had a birthday Monday. Hope you had a great day!

Finally, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO IAN! We celebrated 3 years "Facebook Official" yesterday and we are going to dinner tonight. You make me happy sir and well, that's not always easy to do.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Sesame Please



Hey y'all! It's officially March. I'm just as surprised as you. Happy Ash Wednesday to those out there celebrating. As I mentioned last week, I'm holding off on weighing until right before my vacation in order to decrease negativity and give myself a chance to shake off the few pounds I gained. The picture above is from the spread I had on Oscar night with Ian and Jordan. Despite my gluttony that night, I've done pretty well. I've been super busy which always helps my calorie intake. I went to a conference last week for writing which I've been saying was both motivating and soul crushing. The agent I met with said that I had a "tough sell," for a book called MLWOR because I am not famous. I am acutely aware of my lack of fame but feel my book deserves a chance. I figured out a lot of things I can do to work on the book and my "pitch." I have to make myself marketable so there will be some visible changes in terms of format but there will also be a number things I am doing behind the scenes to try and make this dream a reality. In the past few weeks, I posted more recipes than usual and it won't always be like that. There will be some inconsistencies so I appreciate those who have stuck with me and any new readers that I have. I'm a writer, not a marketer and in today's world, it looks like you have to be both...especially if you want to write non-fiction books about food and life.




Now, having said that, I only have one "recipe" for you. Ian and I discovered these Campbell's pouches and thought we would give them a try. Ian cooks dinner most week nights and for him, the simpler the better. That's not to say he isn't becoming a great cook but he is someone who admires quick and easy recipes and you know what, I'll take it. It means dinner is ready when I get home. He leaves the creativity and more complex food to me. So, as a warning, there's nothing "clean" about this recipe. All you do, is take chunks of chicken and cook them in a skillet until there's no pink left. Add the sesame chicken sauce (there are other flavors too that we haven't tried yet) to the chicken and toss around. We used instant rice because I have a strained relationship with cooking this sticky grain. And, of course, it was a time saver. We tossed the rice and sesame chicken together. Then, because I can't help myself, I topped it with some chopped peanuts, sliced green onions, toasted sesame seeds and a bit of soy sauce (the sauce itself is already pretty salty). This was great for a family who is already on the run or perfect for a single person who worked all day and wants a hearty meal within 15 minutes. It tasted great, actually! Jazzing it up with toppings made it even better. This is definitely something we would make again.

Until next time!

Have a great week!

Thanks for everything!


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Why


I'd like to start the post off this week by saying how sorry I am for the loss of Jack Pittman, Jordan's grandfather. If you read this, you either know me or know well enough to know how important Jordan is to me. It's weird getting older and realizing that the heroes in your family don't live forever. I'm so fortunate to have 3 living grandparents that care for me. "Papa Jack," as he is called, was a sweet and quiet man. While I didn't know him well, I know how much Jordan loves him and always will. I'd like to send out positive thoughts to the whole Pittman family. You are all incredibly tough people and though I'm not the most religious person, I can't help but hoping that Papa Jack and Angel are somewhere smiling and reminiscing. 


Jordan's grandfather passed away yesterday and my friend, David Earp, passed away a year ago today. I have not gone one single day without thinking about, or wishing I could talk to David. So many people loved him so even if I was worried I'd start to forget him (which I never could), I see his face in my news feed almost every day because people loved him and post pictures and say how much they miss him. Today, the lack of his presence is sticking out like a sore thumb. Memories flood my time hop every day and I can still hear his voice and still laugh at all the ridiculous Facebook conversations he had with me and other people. I'm not sure why anniversaries are harder than other days. It's hard to believe a whole year has passed. There's not much I can do, I guess. The good news is, the pictures and the memories make me smile. I just wish I had more time with him, as I know so many people do. Cheers to you, David! You were honestly such a bright spot not only in my life but the life of so many! 

It's difficult to transition from the uplifting topic of death to talk about the mundane, never-ending struggle of food and health but I'm going to try. I have managed to gain three pounds in the past couple weeks which is always fun, especially since I exercise until I can barely move every day and eat things like fat free milk and fiber-rich cereal for breakfast, but you know what, IT'S FINE! I was telling someone the other day that I have decided I don't care if I stay this size at this point. I've settled in for a long winter's nap as far as that goes. What bothers me is how hard I have to work to maintain a weight I'm not even happy with. I'm trying not to let it get me down. I know where I could improve from the past couple weeks. I'm still attempting a balance between insane planning and just throwing caution to the wind. I'd like to lose back that three before I go on Spring Break on March 12th. That is a doable goal. Today, I have more recipes from MLWOW, the book. I'm preparing a pitch for this book and presenting it to an agent at a writers conference on Friday. I have to sell myself in ten minutes. This conference will be a valuable learning experience for me but I'm SO NERVOUS. I've been working on this material for so long and now that it's "done," I have no idea what to do. I know it is going to require a lot of work. I'm taking deep breaths at this point and I know I will figure it all out. 

The first recipe I wanted to share is what I call, "Sloppy Chicken Heathers." I don't eat Manwhich, and I'm not a fan of the traditional tomato-based sauce and green peppers.


Sloppy Chicken Heathers

Ingredients
1 Tablespoon Low Fat Butter Spread
1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic
Half Yellow Onion, Chopped
1 LB Ground Chicken
½ Cup of your favorite BBQ Sauce
Low fat buns or whatever your preference
Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder to taste

Directions
Heat butter spread in a skillet on medium heat. Saute chopped onions for 5-6 minutes. Add garlic. Stir a few minutes. Push onions and garlic to side of the skillet. Add ground chicken after seasoning with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Break up the chicken and let it cook all the way through. Mix chicken, onions and garlic together. Take a paper towel to dab up any grease in the pan. Add barbecue sauce. Mix it all together and you’re done. I prefer the taste of BBQ sauce to the tomato-based sloppy joe sauce and I don’t like peppers so, this is my version.


Here's a ground chicken burger that I love! There are tons of ways to prepare it.


Ground Chicken Burgers

Ground chicken works well for burgers. They don’t hold up as well as beef patties do on the grill so I usually prepare them in a skillet but I have made them a ton of different ways.

Ingredients for all ground chicken burgers
1 LB Ground Chicken
Your favorite buns (you can use lettuce, or nothing, or sandwich thins, or wheat buns or whatever you want)
Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder to taste

For Taco Burgers
1 Packet of Taco seasoning mix
1 Chopped Onion
Shredded Lettuce (for the top of the burger)
4 Tablespoons Salsa (for the top of the burger)

For Asian Inspired Burgers
2 Chopped Green Onions
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Peanut Sauce
1 Teaspoon Sriracha
¼ Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
Shredded Lettuce (for top of bun)
Toasted Sesame Seeds (for top of bun)

Blue Cheese Burgers
You guessed it, blue cheese

California Burgers
1 Cup Feta Cheese
Sliced Avacado (for top of burger)
Some type of trendy green for the top (like arugula)

Directions
Mix ingredients in with the ground meat. Heat up a skillet using either non-stick spray or your choice of fat (olive oil, sesame oil and even low fat butter spray work well) on medium heat. Form the meat mixture into patties and when the skillet is hot, heat the patties around 4 minutes on each side. When they are done, add them to your bread and include the fixins.

How about an Asian Chicken Salad. It's so easy to throw together and has plenty of flavor. 


Asian Chicken Salad

The key to making chicken less boring is adding lots of flavor. It’s important to know that flavor doesn’t necessarily mean fat. Adding a spicy flare to your food makes your mind think that you are getting something more decadent. That’s why I love spicing things up with Asian or Mexican flavors.

Ingredients

1 Grilled Chicken Breast
1 Teaspoon Chili Sauce
1 Tablespoon Peanut Sauce
2 Tablespoons Ginger Sesame Dressing
2 Tablespoons Reduced Fat Feta Cheese
3-4 Kalamata Olives (chopped and also optional. I put olives in everything. I’v also added grilled corn to this salad which was another great addition)
2 Tablespoons Chopped Peanuts
1 Tablespoon Toasted Sesame Seeds
1 Chopped Green Onion

Directions

If you haven’t already, grill or bake the chicken breast. I personally enjoy the grilled flavor that is added to the chicken. Some of these ingredients aren’t traditionally “Asian” but they work well in the salad. Once the chicken is grilled, you are ready to assemble the salad. Toss the chicken in the chili sauce and peanut sauce. Lay it on top of a bed of lettuce. Add the peanuts, dressing, feta, olives, sesame seeds and green onions.

For those that like zucchini.


Grilled Zucchini

My parents bought me a grill when I moved into a house with a backyard. I was so excited because I had been wanting one and since I’ve had it, I use it at least a couple times a week. We love the simplicity of the grill. It moves quickly and grilling things adds fantastic flavor.

Zucchini holds up really well on the grill and it takes on whatever flavor you want to give it so I enjoy popping it on there because it’s so quick and delicious.

Ingredients.
Zuccini (I cut it into horizontal slices but you could slice it up if you have one of those grill cages)
Olive Oil (amount of ingredients depend on how much zucchini you have…maybe one teaspoon of olive oil per every large zucchini)
Salt
Pepper
Garlic Powder
Reduced Fat Feta Cheese
Tablespoon of Reduced Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette

Directions

Once you cut the zucchini into wedges or spears (I just cut the length of the zucchini), put them in a bowl and toss them with olive oil and spices. At this point, you should already have the grill fired up and ready to go. Take them outside and place them horizontally on the grill so they don’t fall through. They only take 2-3 minutes per side depending on how hot you have the grill and how close they are to the flames.

When they are done, pop them on a plate and sprinkle with cheese and dressing. That adds just a little additional touch and flavor. It also makes it look fancy.