Monday, August 22, 2016

Hobo y'all

Howdy everyone! I am teaching A LOT this semester (my credit card companies will be happy) so on Mondays and Wednesdays I start my day VERY early. I know many of you are used to early mornings but it's going to take awhile to get accustomed to a 5:30 alarm. Things are still quite hectic so I'll be happier in a couple weeks when I've settled in to everything. I weighed last week, a bit nervous about the results and ended up losing 3 pounds. I couldn't do anything but laugh. My body is so weird. The good thing is that the loss motivated me a bit and I've been pretty successful (other than stretching the rules during dinner on Saturday and Sunday) since the weigh inso I'm hoping for decent results again on Wednesday when I get back on the scale. I have made a small goal for myself. I want to lose 5-1/2 pounds by the morning of September 7th when I go to Denver. Small goals are so important to me right now since I've been struggling.

I wanted to share a foil packet meal that I made. I was inspired by a message I got from my friend Carina who sent me a picture of a foil packet she made. I've always wanted to do it and I'm glad I did. It's super easy, and it's always nice to add the smoky flavor that the grill provides. There are no precise instructions for this because it's so versatile. I used chicken sausage that's already cooked so it didn't take too long on the grill. I took a sheet of foil, added sliced chicken sausage and pieces of zucchini, mushrooms and cut up slices of corn on the cob. I flavored it all with salt, pepper and granulated garlic. Then I added just a tiny bit of oil. I wrapped up the packet and threw it on the grill for about 15 minutes (it probably could have gone about 5-10 more minutes but I'm impatient). When it came out, I added some freshly chopped green onion to the top. My only tip on this would be not to put the packet over direct flames because it got a little scorched in some places. This was a perfect, filling summer meal. I have discovered a new found love for fresh corn on the cob from the grill. I'm not a big fan of it otherwise. This was flavorful and easy. You can add whatever meat/veggies you want, it just may change the time it takes to cook. I highly recommend.

Since I've met Ian, he's gone from someone whose culinary skills were limited to grilled cheese and bowls of Ramen to someone I can rely on to have dinner ready when I get home from busy school days. I'm so impressed and grateful for his efforts to cook (especially since he works every day too). A lot of times, he'll get most of it done and then I'll come home, help finish and dinner will be ready to eat in 10 minutes. He doesn't do anything with vegetables because he doesn't eat them and is afraid he will screw them up, haha. Last week, he got everything done and when I got home I threw zucchini and corn on the grill and we ate a wonderful steak dinner. Since we have moved in together, he's become an expert chicken-griller and taco-maker. What more do you need?

I hope you all have a great week!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Bang! Bang! Y'all!

Hey everyone. It's the first week of school so I'm in a mad rush to start classes on Wednesday. Surprisingly, I was only up half a pound after my whirlwind, caloric Nashville trip. I didn't have the best weekend so I am starting fresh today and I've set a small goal for myself that I hope to reach by the time I go to Colorado in a few weeks. I had some pretty fierce moments of self-loathing this weekend and I'm trying to get out of that today. It'll be good to get back on a busy schedule. Staying busy always helps me on my diet struggle.

I am in love with anything that says "bang bang shrimp" or "uptown chicken." It's usually got an Asian zing type flavor but it's always fried. I attempted to achieve that flavor without frying anything and it worked pretty well. It was Taco Tuesday in my house and Ian used ground chuck for his but shrimp was on sale at Fresh Market so that's what I used for mine. I combined peanut sauce, sesame garlic sauce and sriracha and put it in a bowl. I sprayed some non-stick spray in a skillet, added the shrimp and sautéed them at medium heat a few minutes on either side. I removed the tails and tossed them in the bowl to get the sauce evenly coated. I added them to a corn tortilla and topped the shrimp with lettuce and onion. The flavor was great and pretty close to the Asian fried goodness I love so much at restaurants. In the future, I think I'll also add sesame seeds. Oh, and FYI, I also added the same sauce combo to grilled chicken tenders for a spicy "naked" tender effect. Quite tasty. Bold flavors are so important when you are trying to eat healthy.

That same night I decided to balance the healthy shrimp with homemade queso. I've never tried making it before so I found a recipe. It was a combination of white American cheese, fontina, half and half, jalepenos and crushed red pepper. It was so creamy and delicious. It hardens pretty fast but heats up nicely in the microwave with an added splash of cream. It's not a good thing for me to have around the house. I used the leftovers to make Ian a quesadilla the next day.

One thing that I never thought I would love is fruit in a salad. I'm completely on board with that now and decided to make it at home. I found a nice ginger sesame dressing that is only 45 calories per two tablespoons. It's got nice flavor and paired well with strawberries. I added some strawberry halves, the Asian dressing, reduced fat feta cheese and a 100 calorie pack of mixed nuts to a combination of spinach and romaine for a healthy, delicious salad. It was bright and very summer-y.

I am going to have a super busy schedule this semester and it's going to take a minute to get used to it but I'm off and running.

I hope you all have a wonderful Monday/week.

Until next time...

Bye y'all.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Another Swing At Blue Apron

Hey everyone! One of my most notable diet traits is that I tend to take an awesome week of weight loss (like I had a couple weeks ago when I lost almost 4 pounds) and then STOMP all over it. I went to Nashville this weekend and man, I went crazy. I am paying for it physically in terms of bloating, weight and just overall fatigue. I guess it's OK because it was my last hoorah before school starts. I'm setting some really small, doable goals for myself in the coming months and as usual on Mondays, I'm back on the wagon.

I have only had one week of Blue Apron meals before. Even though I enjoy it, I haven't gotten it again because it's a bit pricy so I just go in and skip every week. Well, I forgot to skip it and ended up getting a box of food the last Saturday in July. Luckily, it ended up being a pretty good week. Ian hates pretty much every vegetable and even though I like a lot of veggies, I wouldn't touch a collard green or a raw carrot with a 10 foot pole. So, this distaste led Ian and I to give away the collards and carrots we received and combine two meals. I know this isn't the healthiest thing in the world because it added carbs to the meal but overall it wasn't bad. We had one buttermilk biscuit each, which was a good thing because they were delicious and we could have eaten 10. Then we used the chicken that was supposed to go with the biscuits and added it to our pasta. Ian had is own pan with tomatoes and I had mine with zucchini. It turned out great! I had a side of spicy mayo with the biscuit (which also came with the meal).

The one meal I did receive that was actually healthy and totally delicious was the "Spicy Ponzu-Glazed Catfish with Zucchini, Garlic Rice & Ginger Peanuts." I have never made catfish before so I was a bit hesitant. I like fish pretty well, especially if it's fried. Typically though, I choose other meats above fish. The fish they sent was really fresh. I got no fishy scent on my hands which surprised me. I had never had Ponzu so I went light on it. I'm glad I did because it had a strong citrus flavor which isn't really my thing but ended up being OK. The catfish was easy to cook in the pan...a few minutes on each side. My favorite part was the chili paste they gave combined with the garlic rice and peanuts. The preparation made everything have awesome flavor. I could put sesame things on everything. Plus, it was pretty! The only problem was, Ian doesn't eat fish so naturally I had his too. I won't always get Blue Apron but it's fun to have every once in awhile.

As I mentioned, I went to Nashville and had fun with friends. Part of the reason we went was to have an early birthday celebration for Cassandra. Her birthday is tomorrow so HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Add Asian Flare To Your Salads

Hey y'all! The good news is, I finally saw the number on the scale go down last week for the first time in a LONG time. The bad news is, I did everything in my power to put that back on this weekend. I was so motivated for an entire week and it really showed and now I feel like I'm back out of it mentally again. Today is a new day and even though I feel inclined to eat things I shouldn't, I'm going to do my best to stay within my parameters and have a good attitude. We will see how it goes. I'm going to Nashville this weekend and I think that's why I'm in no mood to diet. I know I'll probably have too much in Tennessee so like always, I want to give up the whole week. I won't though. The other good news is that when I wasn't eating too much this weekend, I was being extremely active! I walked a ton, ran and helped someone move which is about the best exercise you can get it seems like. I'm really sore today.

I don't have much to share as I didn't cook much to write home about last week BUT I did want to tell you about a new salad dressing option. When people eat healthy, salads are often part of there regimen. If you're like me, dressing is one of the biggest obstacles. It's no secret that I love ranch and I have found an acceptable "skinny" option but sometimes, an alternative version of ranch makes me sad so I want a totally different flavor all together. So, I was spending more money than I should at Fresh Market (as usual) and I was browsing the sauces in the Asian aisle and picked up some peanut sauce as well as some sesame garlic sauce. Both of these sauces are about 25-30 calories per tablespoon. I am obsessed with Asian flavors, especially peanut sauce so I made a very simple salad with greens, peanut sauce, sesame garlic sauce and a 100 calorie pack of mixed nuts. It was full of flavor, healthy and very light in calories. It also helped me curb my never-ending craving for Thai food.

While we are talking about salad, I know I've shared it before but you can also use salsa as dressing. I used leftover ground chicken from taco night and tossed it with greens and salsa and it was delicious.

This weekend, I helped put on a going away party for a few friends and even though, Ian and I won't be quitting our day jobs anytime soon to pursue cake decorating, I more than likely won't be buying a cookie cake ever again. I made these at home with store bought cookie dough. My mom has done this in the past so I did it myself. It cost me less than $10 to make both and I just sliced up the cookie dough, placed them close together and baked them. Then I was done!

I hope you all enjoy your week!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Grilled Veggies and Love for the Fresh Market

Hey y'all! I trust everyone is having a typical Monday. Other than a couple moments Saturday and Sunday where I ate too much, I showed great restraint and had a renewed spirit. I counted everything and I'm hoping that I remain consistent with this new boost of energy. We shall see. I had a great weekend. I go to see 98 degrees at the Amp with some of my favorite people and actually got a bit of rest. I am still running weekly and this heat is killing me. I can't wait until the fall so it's not so miserable outside.

As I've mentioned, my grill is my new favorite kitchen appliance. I grilled some veggies a couple weeks ago and got the idea to wrap asparagus in turkey bacon. The turkey version doesn't wrap as well as the pork so you need to make it stick by using toothpicks. I didn't have any toothpicks so I improvised and used safety pins. It worked pretty well! Something about the grill takes vegetables to another level and I highly recommend it.

My current obsession is getting meal kits from Fresh Market. They are always a great deal and aren't ever too indulgent (other than the desserts they give you). For 20 bucks, you can feed a family of four. I've gotten several of these and I posted some of the pictures here. The first is a pic of the grill as I grilled veggie and pork kabobs. These kabobs were huge and they came with a salad kit, pita bread and gelato! The second is a beef and vegetable stir fry that came with rice, meat, veggies, simmer sauce and a pound cake. It was really delicious. Ian and I made two separate pans so we could eat the veggies we wanted. It made a ton of food. It also made me decide I need a rice cooker because I can't cook rice without it sticking to the bottom of the pan to save my life. Finally, I posted a pic of the most recent one...spaghetti! They gave you fresh noodles, sauce, ground beef, lettuce and chocolate cake. I added the zucchini noodles to mine for a little bit of green. Ian and I made several meals of this and still have some left we will probably have to toss. If you have a Fresh Market in your area, I seriously suggest that you get down there on Thursdays and take advantage.

That's all I got for today! Until next week...

Monday, July 18, 2016

Pork and Beans

Hey y'all. Up again this week. Shrugging my shoulders and changing the subject at this point. My mind ain't right. I hope you all had a nice weekend and that Monday is treating you OK. I had a lot of fun over the weekend and took a day trip to see my family in Chattanooga yesterday so I'm a little tired today but overall satisfied with the friends and family I got to see.

When I say I'm talking about pork and beans, I don't mean that in the sense that you are probably used to. I know it makes me incredibly un-Southern but I hate baked beans. My version of a post about "pork and beans" is to tell you about a black bean burger and pork chops. The two aren't really related at all. First, my mom shared Morning Star's Chipotle Black Bean Burger with me. I've had my share of veggie burgers in the past but she provided a rave review. I tried it and at 190 calories, it's pretty dang good. It's not the most beautiful "patty" in the world but I dressed it up. I added a "fried" egg, barbecue sauce and skinny ranch and then I used an Everything Bagel Thin as the bun. It tasted great. I will say that an extra lean burger made with actual beef is about 170 calories so typically, I'd prefer that but the added bonus to the black bean burger is that it doesn't shrink down the way beef does. It's filling and has good flavor. I recommend it especially if you are trying to reduce the amount of red meant you consume.

I also whipped up this collage to show how far I stretched some pork chops I grilled up the other week. I marinated them with Asian flavors (soy sauce, honey, W sauce, garlic) and had them with mashed potatoes. Later in the week, I put them on a simple bed of greens and they tasted great. As always, making things ahead on the grill has been a really great way to save time during the week.

Hang in there, y'all. It's only Monday!

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Tiny Taste of Cuba

Hey y'all. It's a very Monday-ish Monday today with assorted ups and downs. The world is still a crazy place with violence and opinions and it doesn't look like the tension is going anywhere. So, I am still going to talk about food and how hard it has been for me not to gain weight the past year and a half because my problems with that don't seem to be going anywhere either. I have mental barriers placed strategically all around my brain that are working against me. Then, last week, after going almost 20 miles on foot and kickboxing 4 times over the course of seven days, not only did I fall yesterday while running in 100 degree weather, I gained two pounds. I kept my food in tact all week too so you know, whatever. I haven't lost weight in months. But, somehow, here I am again today, working at it again...taking it one day at a time...hoping something changes. I know that's not exactly uplifting but I don't feel uplifted. I feel beaten down by my brain and my body. I haven't and won't give up though.

It's hard to transition from the gloomy intro into talking about Cuban sandwiches but I'm going to do it anyway. I LOVE a Cuban sandwich. Mostly, I love pork, cheese and spicy mustard. One thing that makes me a Cuban sandwich loving impostor is that I hate pickles so I can't be called a true fan I guess. During my first week of Blue Apron, they sent us Cuban sandwiches that were delicious but a little high in calories. I wanted to whip up a quick Cuban inspired lunch that would cut the calories in half. So, I took a low cal/carb flat bread (use whatever kind you want), added a tablespoon of light butter to a skillet and placed the wrap in it, added ham, ultra thin sliced Swiss and a combo of stone ground mustard and deli mustard. It was delicious and only a few hundred calories! Since I made it at home, I saved money and didn't have to tell a server at a Cuban restaurant "no pickles" and have them sneer and say, "that's not really a Cuban." It's also nice to do it in the skillet with just a little bit of the light butter to give it a bit of a grilled cheese vibe.

I am not the biggest fan of sweet potatoes. I like sweet potato fries in many cases but that's about it. I try to eat them like a baked potato but I just can't get completely on board. I had a couple lying around but I was having trouble finding motivation to eat them. Then I decided to try to turn them into chips. I used a mandolin slicer which is handy for consistency in size. Then all I did was add a tiny bit of olive oil and salt and toss it together. Throw it in the oven and that's pretty much it. The only thing I wish I had done is leave them in to the point where they were almost burned because they weren't crispy enough. They tasted fine and when they were warm, they were satisfactory but they didn't keep well. I was over it the next day. Not a rave review. Maybe someone has better sweet potato tricks?
Also, I volunteered to make dessert for Sunday dinner last night. It's not healthy but I wanted to share anyway. I'd never had strawberry pie and this is a Pinterest inspired recipe called "Strawberry Poptart Pie." I used leftover pie crust I had in the freezer. The filling requires 3 cups of cooked strawberries, 3 cups frozen, 1 grated granny smith apple, corn starch and sugar. Bake it and then combine powdered sugar with vanilla and drizzle it on top. Oh and the best part...sprinkles. My only regret is that I wish I had eaten the pie when it was still warm. Overall it was tasty though!

Dad and I went to see a Fleetwood Mac tribute band on Saturday. Other than some sound issues and a bit of diva behavior from the lead singer, it was a fun night. It was a nice weekend overall. I hope you all keep your head up out there and have a great week!