Wednesday, October 3, 2018

WARNING: Nearly Meatless Post

Hey y'all! I'd like to start by wishing my mom and soon to be sister-in-law Lisa Happy Belated Birthdays. I hope you had fun celebrating them! I will be heading to Gatlinburg, TN with Lisa tomorrow for her bachelorette trip! It should be a fun time. I am not exactly in strict diet mode right now but I do plan to try not stuffing EVERYTHING in my face this weekend…just mostly everything. I'm about the same as always. I fluctuate the same five pounds back and forth pretty much every other week. When I get back from the trip, I'd like to get in the zone a few weeks to prepare for the wedding, Halloween AND the book release. That's right y'all, My Life With(out) Ranch will be here in a month! I'm so excited!

This week, I wanted to share a recipe with you that took be way back to a time when I actually tried not to eat meat. It's been awhile, but sometimes I like to relive those days and try a delicious veggie dish. This time, I went all the way out on a limb and cooked tofu. I know at this point, some of you have stopped reading. I get it. Tofu can be gummy and it's flavorless…BUT if you prepare it correctly, it can be good. First, and most importantly, you HAVE TO PREP IT. Seriously, if you don't, it will be gross. To prep it, put several paper towels on a paper plate. Place the block of tofu (I get extra firm) on top of the towels, then add several more. Then, add the cast iron skillet to the top and let it sit there for about an hour. Once all the water has soaked into the paper towels, I kind of treat it like chicken at that point. I cut it into cubes and it's ready to go. I popped some steamable broccoli from the freezer into the microwave while I let a pan heat with non-stick cooking spray, a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil and one squirt from my olive oil sprayer. Then, I pile in the tofu and the broccoli. To that I add onions, salt, pepper, garlic, a tablespoon of teriyaki sauce, a teaspoon of brown sugar, a tiny pinch of crushed red pepper and a LOT of low sodium soy sauce. You can play with the measurements but I have to go light on anything sugary if I'm counting Weight Watchers points. They don't like sugar y'all. At that point, you just have to make sure the tofu is cooked (I don't think I cooked it long enough still) and that everything is all married together. I just put it in a bowl and topped it with a bit more soy sauce, toasted sesame seeds and green onions. It had great flavor but at the end of the day, I think I'd just rather use chicken. It's free on Weight Watchers and I prefer the texture. It was a good way to knock out a Chinese food craving though.

The other quick thing I wanted to show you was a charred corn and cucumber salad. That seems summer-y but since it's still around 90 in Alabama every day, I can no longer tell what season it's SUPPOSED to be. This is super healthy and tasty and of course, easy. I had Ian grill me up some corn and then I scraped it off the cob and combined it in a bowl with chopped cucumber, light Italian dressing (Olive Garden's brand is pretty good), fat free feta cheese, and bacon bits. This could be totally veggie without those but they add a nice, salty flavor. I love salads but sometimes I just skip right over the lettuce and just have the veggies.

That's it y'all! I'm busy as all get out right now with this semester!

Until next month!


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

School's In Session

Hey y'all! I'm back in the swing of things…though I'm not sure I'm completely ready yet. I have a butt-ton (actual measurement) of students and life is well…hectic. That's OK though, I'll live. In terms of weight, I'm hovering around the same I have been. I am up and down depending on what's going on during the week. I've had a decent bounce back from my beach trip a few weeks ago and with school back in, my routine is leveling out a bit. I'm feeling OK about where I'm at on the scale. I've really come a long way in berating myself all the time. I'm a healthy person who works out several days a week and is conscious of what I'm eating at least 75% of the time. I can't do anything about the stubbornness of my metabolism, so, why make myself feel like crap all the time? Having said that, I still have a small weight loss goal for the Fall. I'm keeping it small because this is a difficult time of year to keep weight off, but I'm confident in my ability to keep myself in line.

It's an exciting time! Football is back! Roll Tide! My book is a little over 8 weeks away from being released (November 2nd) and my brother is getting married in October! Not to mention the fact that the most wonderful holiday of all is just around the corner (Halloween). My mom and I threw a bridal shower for my brother's fiancé, Lisa a couple weeks ago and it turned out really great. I included some pictures above. My mom and I worked really hard to make it cute. I think we did a pretty good job. We can officially say that the wedding is next month now so there are a lot of fun times ahead.

So, I guess I could share some food since it's a food blog. My phone started acting up awhile back and I had to get a replacement. Even though I backed up my phone on the cloud, some of my photos were lost. Because of that, I'm having to use a photo from Pinterest. That's fine because I got the recipe from there and because it's a better photo than mine was anyway. I made salsa verde chicken in the crock pot. It really doesn't get much easier (or healthier) than this dish. We threw chicken breasts into the bottom of the crock pot and then topped with fresh tomatoes, onions and a jar of store bought salsa verde. After it's been going on low for around five hours, you just take a couple forks and shred the chicken. This is a zero point recipe on Weight Watchers but don't let that scare you…it's DELICIOUS! Ian fattened it up a bit with sour cream and corn chips but I just ate it straight out of the bowl and I was satisfied. I definitely think we will make this again. Next time I may serve it over beans. It may end up being a Fall staple for us.

I grabbed some of those high fiber, low calorie flatbreads at the store and made a few different things with those. The first picture is from the Internet because my photo got lost, but essentially, I just toasted the flatbread in the oven, then topped with pizza sauce, chunks of chicken breasts, zucchini and cheese and put it back in the oven to get warm. Shout out to my friend Erin for the chicken/zucchini combo idea. I also made chips from the flatbread by simply broiling both sides. Then, I smeared smoked gouda Laughing Cow cheese on them to add some flavor. It was a tasty, easy, low calorie snack. Finally, for another flat bread, I sautéed some chicken sausage and then added that, pizza sauce and of course, a little cheese and made a tiny, but satisfying pizza. I think this one was my favorite because I LOVE sausage. That actually IS my photo. These are great for when you're craving pizza but you're like me and can't just have one piece of pizza.

Until next month, y'all!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Salads and Summer

Hey y'all! I wanted to give a belated birthday shout out to my friend Lauren and then a birthday eve shout out to my wife/bestie, Cassandra! Cassandra and I got a chance to go see Little Big Town and Miranda Lambert at the beach this past weekend and it was so much fun. I got roasted by the sun and I also got to say goodbye to summer because in just 12 short days, I teach my first class of the Fall semester. I THINK I'm ready…but I never really am. I've got a super busy semester coming up. In terms of weight, I was still trying to work off a few pounds from my trip out west before I left for the beach. I plan on weighing on Sunday to see where I'm at on the scale. The good news is in terms of over indulgence, is that I have no trips planned until October. (I also included a picture of Ian and I in Nashville as we made a quick trip through Tennessee to see our families) Plus, once I'm busy with the semester, I'm much better at keeping on track. My mom is planning a bridal shower for my brother's fiancé next Saturday and there is going to be a ton of delicious food so I plan on saving my "extra" points so I can indulge. Other than that, I'm hoping it's smooth sailing. I'm a bit fluffier than I like because of vacations, but honestly, I'm doing better at not beating myself up and I feel pretty good.

I don't have a ton for you today, but one thing I cling to when I'm trying to get back on track are delicious, humongous salads. The other day I made a giant salad that included grilled chicken and corn (thanks Ian for all the grill work), bacon bits, hard boiled eggs, edamame, cucumber, etc. I like putting light Italian dressing and make sure to pack lots of protein in the salad so it's filling. If you ever watched Seinfeld, this salad reminds me of the "big salad" episode.

Another addition to my salad in the past couple of months has been Lay's Poppables. I bought the individual bags because there are only 70 calories in each snack bag. These are great, because they don't taste like diet food, they are crunchy, salty and fill the craving I sometimes have for chips. Also, they worked as a perfect salad topping!

Sometimes, I like to take certain elements of salad and deconstruct it a little (when I put it like that it sounds fancy). One day, I made what I call "Shrimp and Cucumber Bites." I'm sure you can guess what it includes. I sautéed some shrimp using salt, pepper and non-stick cooking spray. I sliced the cucumbers so they could be my base and then I added lettuce, onion, kalamata olives, the shrimp (of course) and then grated parmesan cheese. These would be great as a party appetizer and it made a nice lunch too. As with anything that includes fresh produce, this was a bit time consuming because of prep, but they were tasty and fun. Y'all, I know some of you hate olives but I think they add the best punch of salty flavor. I eat too many of them sometimes…it's kind of my thing.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

If You Like It Put An Egg On It

Hey y'all! Happy 4th of July! I hope you're enjoying your day off if you get one. If you don't, I'm sorry! A special thanks to you! My hope is that one day everyone is able to experience the freedom, peace and safety that so many fought for to gain America's independence! Enjoy the privileges of living free and remember those who don't have that privilege and those that died for that privilege. 'Merica, y'all!

I would also like to wish my Dad a Happy Birthday! We celebrated his 56th yesterday and last Sunday. And, we're having ribs today…so celebrations everywhere!

This is a random aside, but I wanted to share anyway that I'll be having gum surgery in a couple weeks. This is probably TMI but I am prone to gum recession and cyst tumors that get swollen and ugly. I guess more than anything, I want sympathy as they "grind" everything down. This isn't the first time I've done this and I'm not "worried," I just feel the world (or my dozens of followers) should  know that for a couple days, it will be perfectly acceptable for me to eat milkshakes and my mom's homemade potato soup.

As I mentioned last month, my parents and I headed out west a few weeks ago. We visited Vancouver, Seattle and Portland (including the coast of Oregon). We had an incredible time. The area out there is beautiful. Both the scenery and the food were my favorite part. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that in one week I gained 9.8 pounds! I was honestly impressed more than anything. I ate so many sweets and decadent foods and it was all worth it. The next week, I was able to lose around 6 of that and then the next week I lost nothing. I don't anticipate a loss this week either due to the celebrations but I will give myself a couple weeks to get the rest of the vacation weight off.

I think in the past I have shown you a corn, black bean salsa. To be honest, I don't remember. But, I wanted to show you how far I stretch the stuff. I take thawed out frozen corn (or just corn then I guess at that point), canned black beans that I've rinsed, , a drained can of Rotel tomatoes, a chopped onion, salt, pepper and garlic powder and toss it all together. On Weight Watchers, this is a "free" salsa. That means I can eat it until the cows come home. So, I use it as a dip with baked tostitos, but I also mix it up by adding chicken or fat free feta or a fried egg or all of the above. It's a versatile, filling salsa with nutrients, flavor and protein. It tastes good for about a week in the fridge which is the perfect amount of time because you have just started getting sick of it. Having it about once a month is the right balance.

I'm a firm believer that a runny egg yolk is the most sultry, delicious way to add flare to a dish. There's not much that won't be improved by slapping a over easy egg on top in my honest opinion. So, I do that a lot. Recently, I took one chicken sausage link, cut the casing and emptied the contents into a skillet sprayed with non stick spray. I let it start to render a bit and added a boat load of shredded hash browns. I can't stress the importance of these shredded potatoes enough. They are low in calories and tasty! I added my standard spices of salt, pepper and garlic and let it get cooked all the way through. Obviously oil or butter would make this a crispier, richer dish, but when I'm still trying to recover from a vacation, no fat works well too. Once this skillet of sausage and potatoes is all cooked, guess what I put on top? An egg. That's right. I actually get sad when I overcook my eggs and can't get the satisfaction of taking my fork and watching the egg drizzle out over everything. OK, I'm done now. OH! And PS, I pretty much add taco sauce to everything too so that's what you see in some of the photos.

The last food I wanted to show you today did not get an egg added to the top…though I wouldn't be opposed. These are zucchini chips. They are super easy to make. Just use a mandolin to slice the zucchini into super thin chips. Then, toss them all with a tiny teaspoon of olive oil, non-stick spray, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Lay them all out on a cookie sheet that you've set up with foil and parchment paper and then cook them at 250 for 45 minutes, turn the sheet around and cook them another 45 minutes. I know it's a long time and to be honest, that will probably be why I don't make them regularly, but it does help them crisp up. If I make them again, I will add a bit less salt because mine had too much. They are not sturdy enough for a dip or anything but pretty tasty for a healthy snack.

Have a wonderful holiday y'all! Talk to you next month!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Slow & Steady

Hey y'all! It's not officially summer yet but it sure does feel like it in Alabama. My sweat has sweat and I'm not loving it. This horrible heat is why I'm super pumped to be going on vacation out west with my parents on Saturday. We are going to Seattle, Portland and Vancouver to check out what all they have to offer. The best part? The temperature forecast looks AMAZING for those three cities. It should be a fun time and of course I'll share about the trip next month. After all the birthday, beach, and other celebrations/festivities, I was up about four pounds when I weighed last week. To be honest, I was pretty happy with that because I just knew I managed to gain 50 in a month. My goal is to knock a pound or two off this week before I head on vacation and then really put my nose to the ground when I get back. I've had fun so the softer belly has been worth it. Having said that, I'll be ready to level out and get off the summer fun pounds.

I haven't had a chance to congratulate my brother on graduating last month via my blog…so…congrats David! Not only did he graduate from THE University of Alabama, he's also snagged him a job. He'll be moving to Birmingham soon, which makes me sad, but I'm so happy for him. Also, he got engaged almost exactly a year ago and will be getting married in October…so 2018 is a big year for him.

Major shout out to 9 Round. Y'all know that I love 9 Round because the trainers/workouts are great and it really helps my mental health to hit things. Well, evidently, I've been to 9 Round over 500 times. Because of that, they sent me an email. I had to send them a selfie of myself at 9 Round and then they sent me FREE GLOVES! I was in desperate need of gloves so I was so excited. I had no idea the "prize" they were going to send would be awesome. I just knew I was going to get a key chain or something.

In other exciting news, My Life Without Ranch, the book has had an exciting June so far. Thanks to 50/50 Press, my book was featured/presented on an independent books panel at Book Expo in NYC. The book isn't out until November but 50/50 printed some copies for the occasion. According to 50/50, the book was received well. I'm so excited for it to come out that it's hard to wait. There are still some tweaks that will need to be made, but I'll be letting you know when you can buy the book this fall. Also, I googled the ISBN number and it came up! It's not showing on Amazon or Goodreads yet but hey, it exists!

Happy Early Father's Day to my Dad! We will get to celebrate you a couple times in the next coming weeks. Thanks for all you do! Love you!

Finally, Jordan and I went to Atlanta on Monday to see Shania Twain. He absolutely loves her and I've been a fan since junior high. She always puts on a great show and I legit cry every time she sings "From this Moment On." It was a fun day with Jordan.

So, as I've mentioned, the new Weight Watchers has a ton of "free" foods. One of those free foods is turkey breast. I eat a lot of chicken, and though there's not a huge difference between chicken and turkey, I thought I'd try making turkey as a bit of a change up. I actually made it in the crockpot and it was super easy. I just bought two huge turkey breasts, seasoned them (use what you want…I used paprika and Ian didn't like that, so just use whatever you like), added a bit of broth to the crockpot and let it do its thing. Even though Ian didn't like the paprika, the turkey was SO juicy. Turkey has a tendency to dry out but that was not the case with this. I served mine with sautéed mushrooms and it tasted like Thanksgiving! And, it was all zero points on Weight Watchers.

Speaking of low point Weight Watchers meals, I also made a low point cheesecake using egg, fat free Greek yogurt, one packet of Splenda and sugar free cheesecake flavor Jello. All you do is combine them all and bake it. I have made this twice. One time I mixed the cheesecake batter with blueberries included and then the next time I just made it plain and served it with fresh raspberries. To be honest, this is just OK. It's good because you can have a heaping serving for one point. The downside is that it definitely has that "diet" taste. The fake sweetener is definitely present…so be warned. It helps with the sweet tooth though, that's for sure.

My last food share is NOT healthy. I made a giant nutter butter cookie cake for Mother's Day this year and it was fun/yummy. I just bought a store bought powdered mix for peanut butter cookies and made those. The filling is just peanut butter, butter (Two Sticks! #yikes) and powdered sugar. I served it with chocolate ice cream. I probably could have made it prettier, but whatever, it tasted good.

I hope y'all have a great week!

Holla at you next month!