Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Seafood, Easy Lunch Ideas and More Solicitation

Hey y'all! I wanted to thank everyone who subscribed last week. I saw an influx of followers and I really appreciated it! I have also created new social media accounts. I will share all of them on social media but for Facebook, just type in My Life Without Ranch. Twitter: MyLifeWOutRanch Instagram: mylifewithoutranch. I hate to keep asking you for things but as soon as you can, please hit me up on these sites. I'm hoping to have a completed manuscript by fall of 2017. So, wish me luck! I didn't have any change on the scale this week, which was a blessing, believe me. I have been taking things in stride over the past week and I hope that continues.

This week, I wanted to share my simple lettuce roll ups. I'm so sick of salads. I know it seems like a lettuce roll up is a glorified salad and truthfully, it is but for some reason, having my salad in a different format has helped the monotony. All I do is use iceberg or romaine lettuce leaves (because they are the biggest and have the best rolling potential) and pack whatever I want to stuff in it. I opt for easy things to go in my lunch box. I have been putting deli meat in my container along with reduced fat feta cheese and cucumbers. I always think that adding extra steps, like rolling your own tiny lettuce sandwiches helps you get full faster. I don't think that's exact science but it works for me. Anyway, it's a way to make your salad less boring.

The main dish today is almond-crusted fish. This is a Pinterest inspired recipe. I used cod from Fresh Market because it was on sale but I feel like you could use any white fish. All you do is season the fish with salt, pepper and smoked paprika, then you cover it in dijon mustard. For me, I love the kind of dijon that makes your nose burn and your eyes water but you may want to use a milder mustard. Then, you dunk the fish in crushed up almonds. I used my brand new Ninja food processor which made the whole process extremely easy. Once that's done, just plop them in a warm skillet that has melted coconut oil. They only need a few minutes at medium heat on each side. I placed the fish on top of cauliflower "rice" that I sautéed with squash, garlic and onions. As always, I added fresh green onion to the top. This was delicious! I loved the flavor of the dijon and smoked paprika. It added an extra kick to the flavors I'm used to.

Jordan and I went to Kentuck this weekend and had a fun time! He's the best! Alabama has a big game this weekend, I'm going to see Ron Pope in concert with Cassandra on Friday and I have friends coming into town. Should be a great weekend.

See y'all next week!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Change, Accountability and Sweet Potatoes

Hey y'all! It's Wednesday and I know I usually post on Mondays but I'm going to start posting on Wednesday because it's my current weigh in day and if I'm being honest, I just flat out haven't had time to devote to posting this week. When I weighed this morning, I was miraculously down almost a pound and a half. I mean, I guess it's not that big of a miracle. I exercised a lot last week and stuck to my guns for the most part but my body hasn't been cutting me any breaks lately. I noticed that since I started counting points again in July, I'm down almost 7 pounds. On the one hand, that number should be way higher but I've had a lot of ups and downs. On the other hand, I'm happy with the fact that I haven't gained. I am constantly struggling with how I feel about numbers and my body and so, I'm going to try to be more positive about myself. That number doesn't define me and I'm a successful person. Now, that's how I feel right this second. Five minutes later, I could start picking at the fat on my arms with disgust. I got my MFA in 2009 and since then, I've written a number of poems and essays and even 300 pages last summer based on this blog and I came to realize that all of that could be leading up to a book that talks about food, family and the struggle of loving who we are...I was always thinking that I would need to be "finished" before I could produce something like this but the truth is, we are never and should never be finished products. I am beginning to think that words and suggestions from someone who isn't always a perfect example might be helpful and so that's what I'm working on now. In the meantime, I want to add a little pizzazz to the site and make sure that I have more of a social media presence. I will be creating a Facebook page and probably a Twitter account in hopes to gain followers. If you read this blog regularly, first of all, thank you. Second, please make sure to officially subscribe. It would be a huge favor to me. Then, when I need to recruit you for other social media platforms, I'll let you know. In the meantime, I have a few things for you today.

I wanted to give a shout out to my parent's ducks because they have been laying eggs like crazy so I've had the honor of eating a couple of them. Spoiler alert, they taste just like chicken eggs. They are just a little bigger so the calories aren't interchangeable. Because I'm a weirdo, I consider eggs a side dish to pretty much anything so I ate them with pork chops and asparagus. If you have any interest in duck eggs, I think I may know where you can find one.

I also wanted to share the giant wedge salad I've been making. There's no recipe, really. I love a wedge salad so I took the skinny buttermilk ranch I always use and applied it to an iceberg wedge and then added bacon, onions and blue cheese crumbles. I love doing this because it feels decadent but the dressing is low cal and that's where all the calories typically come from.

Finally, and I must give a shout out to Ian's sister-in-law Shelly for this idea, I used slices of baked sweet potato as a bun for sliders. This was super easy and filling. All I did was take one of those sweet potatoes that is ready to stick in the microwave and then I baked it to make it a little more firm. I threw tiny one ounce lean burger patties into a pan and then added some thinly sliced swiss cheese. BAM! A slider is born. I loved these little guys. It's great for when you just need to quench a burger craving.

I look forward to working hard and having accountability when it comes to writing and staying strong. Thank you all for your constant support!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Making Life Easier

Hey y'all! I am exhausted this morning because I didn't get much sleep over the weekend and didn't have any down time really. I was super depressed last night because I ate too much over the weekend. When I weighed Wednesday, I was up a few ounces but I wasn't surprised or too bummed. I'm hoping it's not bad when I weigh in a couple days. I'm super defeated right now and I'm tired of being sore all the time, eating how I should most of the time then beating myself up all the time. Then the worst part is that I've been steadily gaining weight for 2 years. It's really hard. Today is really hard. I have been going through old posts because I'm working on this book and I realize that I've been whining about this for around 7 years. Even when I lost weight I still complained incessantly about the daily struggle and the way I looked. I'm just sitting around waiting on it to get easier. How's that for Monday morning motivation?! The good thing is, I realize my mentality is a problem and it's something I really do try to work on every day and I have a great appreciation for all the wonderful things I have in my life. If I could just figure this one major issue out.

On a lighter note, I wanted to share a couple clutch "go to" recipes I've been using lately. The first isn't really a recipe but it helps me through on my extremely busy Monday and Wednesdays. I was inspired by the pre-made salad kits I've found at Target and other grocery stores. Those are OK but I figured I could make the same thing at home. I found these adorable containers with built in forks at Wal-Mart and I've been using those. The night before my busy days, I fill them up with veggies and then I also pack the homemade skinny ranch dressing I make and a container that usually has a protein like bacon bits and/or almonds. All I have to do in the morning is grab them from the fridge and I'm ready to go. The containers are pretty big so I feel like I'm getting a nice-size salad.

So, cauliflower rice isn't new. I've shown you plenty of recipes with it. However, what I have found is that Target now carries bags of cauliflower that already come in crumbles. Y'all, this is revolutionary for me because I HATE making cauliflower rice. Now that I have a good food processor, it might not be as bad but I still don't think I'd do it much. Cauliflower is messy and who has the time to make it in to rice. Now that I can just pick it up in the store, I've been using it a lot again. I made "cauliflower rice" as a side to go with my pork chop and then one night I made a cauliflower rice bowl with a Mediterranean vibe. It had Greek olives, almonds, balsamic vinaigrette, mushrooms, squash, garlic and green onion. I roasted the fresh veggies for about 15-20 minutes and then tossed it all together with the other ingredients. It was filling and had good flavor. Cauliflower will never be an official replacement for a starch but it's nice to have on deck when you need to get in your vegetables.

Alabama has away games the next two weeks so I'm hoping to stay out of trouble and get some actual rest.

Have a great week, y'all!


Monday, September 26, 2016

Miracles Don't Exist in the Diet World

Hey y'all. It's early on a Monday and I'm already in a downward spiral of grumpiness. I was tired this morning but in an otherwise fine mood. I don't drink coffee but I am addicted to diet Coke. I've cut WAY back on it but most Monday and Wednesday mornings I get a Large Diet Coke from McDonald's. It's my thing. This morning, I ordered my nearly $2 fountain drink, paid for it and then when it's time for my vice, the woman goes, "We are out of Diet Coke, would you like anything else?" It's funny how in one instant, you can go from a weary-eyed, well-intentioned citizen on a Monday to an enraged monster. Um, OF COURSE I DON'T WANY ANYTHING ELSE. And, don't ask me that after I've already paid! I shook my head in pure disgust as I sighed and violently said, "Is Diet Dr. Pepper possible?" She said yes and so about 4 minutes later (not joking), she handed it to me. I know you'll be shocked to find out but it wasn't diet, it was real Dr. Pepper. The torrent of brown sugar water filled my cheeks and there was no mistaking the taste. Since I was about to bubble over with anger, I opted to go to the gas station next door, chunking the McDonald's drink in the trash. While there, I overfilled the drink and spilled it all over the cup, counter and me but it's fine. I was a little late to work but I've simmered down now. Kind of.

Anyway, I want to wish my mother an EARLY HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Her birthday is Saturday and we will be sure to celebrate on Sunday. I hope you have a good week!

Several years ago, I made what are sometimes called "Miracle Noodles." They are also known as Shirataki noodles. I found them to be repulsive. The texture and smell were gross and I vowed to never try them again. I see people in the health world recommending them all the time but I refused to deal with them again. Then one day, I saw someone recommend the "regular" version and NOT the tofu version. Looking back at what I tried so long ago, I noticed that I got the tofu version. "Hmmm," I thought. Maybe I should give the "regular" version a try if I did it wrong the first time. I also figured that perhaps the noodles had gotten better over the years. So, I decided to give them another shot. What I don't like is that they are referred to as "miracle" noodles. There is no such thing in the diet world. There is nothing miraculous about them. My new weigh in day is Wednesday and I worked extremely hard last week. I actually lost nearly 4 pounds. Miracle? No. I know what did it. A lot of lean proteins and veggies and no over-eating, with 6 HARD days of exercise. What's even less miraculous is that I think I screwed it all up Thursday-Sunday by stomping on any progress I made. As an aside, going through old posts, I've realized I do a lot of whining and complaining so if you still read at this point, you are the real hero. Anyway, I'm just hoping I don't gain so much on Wednesday that I totally reverse the good week I had before. I'm also hoping my crazy weekend was just a case of me not being used to home football games yet. Back to the noodles...I tried them again. It would be difficult to deny that my second experience with these noodles (which can be found at specialty stores like Manna in Tuscaloosa) was better than the first. They are not amazing though. I used them as a substitute in the Asian noodle bowl meal kit I got from Fresh Market. Luckily, the simmer sauce they give you along with veggies, chicken, soy sauce, sesame seeds and green onions helps to mask the noodles. They still have a weird stench you have to rinse off and an odd texture but getting the thin noodles and piling a bunch of stuff on them made them acceptable. That's my review, ultimately. They are acceptable. I bought a couple bags I will find some use for at some point but overall when it comes to substitutes, I'd still rather use cauliflower for rice and zoodles for noodles.

One thing I have made the past couple weeks that was a hit: potato kabobs. This is a Weight Watchers recipe. I took really cute, colorful, tiny potatoes, microwaved them a few minutes, tossed them in olive oil, salt and pepper, skewered them, then threw them on the grill. They were yummy! The skin gets a little charred and crisp because of the olive oil (they don't need much) and they are a nice, salty side dish. For some reason, Ian was put out by the fact that the purple potato was purple on the inside but other than that, they were a hit overall.

Have a good week!

Roll Tide, y'all!

Saturday, September 24, 2016


I generally react only in my head to Facebook posts because engaging in an argument on Facebook seems to be the least fruitful way to spend my time. I don’t even know why I’m writing this now. I guess it’s because I write in order to express myself and the current race relations in America have been clouding my mind for several days now.

There are people that I love on both sides of the debate that are angry. In fact, the whole country seems to be scared and angry and forgive me, but that doesn’t seem right to me.

It occurs to me that the issue is a fundamental disconnect between what certain people believe to be “the problem.” If you don’t believe that racism is inherently engrained into “the system,” then of course, it doesn’t make sense to you why black people are so angry.

So many of us live in a bubble. “Well, I’m not racist so I guess I don’t understand what this is all about.” Here’s the thing, I don’t even think that every white cop who has discharged a weapon on a black person is what we think of as a racist.

In general, we consider racists to be those whacky uncles that live in the boondocks that we only see once or twice a year. Sure, they throw around the “n” word, but they’re harmless, right? They don’t play a role in modern day society. That’s not true. Violent bigotry still exists in the voting booth. Until it doesn’t, it’s a problem.

Systemic racism is a little different than flat out racism. Systemic racism is that thing we don’t really think about. It’s what may make us clutch our wallet when we walk near a black person in the mall or lock the doors when we are driving in the west end. Systemic racism is when we see an image of black folks after Katrina running with groceries and we call it looting but see the same image of white folks doing it and say they were taking it for survival.

Systemic racism happens when we are taught certain neighborhoods are bad. This is also why the media uncovers every bad thing they can find on people being shot by police when they are killed but when a cop is killed, they talk about them being a good husband and loving father. This is why when you see a black person getting shot by police, the knee jerk reaction is to be like, “why didn’t they just do what they were supposed to.”  I’ve thought it too. In my head I’ve screamed, “PLEASE JUST DO WHAT THEY SAY.”

Here’s a fact. This country has a foundation and part of that foundation is that every American citizen has a right to a fair trial. Now, back in the day, black people weren’t considered citizens. Since the law made it clear that they are citizens A LONG TIME AGO, things have progressed in some ways but black people have been fighting a long time to get what the constitution promises: a FAIR trial.

So, let’s for a moment assume that every black person approached by the police had a reason to be followed. Let’s assume that they had drugs in their pocket, a gun on their hip (which is legal in a lot of places) and let’s even assume they said something they shouldn’t have to the cop. Is it annoying that they aren’t following the rules? Yes. Does it mean they don’t deserve a fair trial? No. The truth is, they were also somebody’s family and now they are dead and they can’t get the rights afforded to them by the constitution…which is inherently, un-American.

Are black people the only ones mistreated by police? No, so let’s have more checks and balances. I believe that a majority of cops are doing their best to serve and protect their community. It also seems to me they would want trust from the community so how do we do that?

Well, I for one, don’t get the feeling that any of us are really listening to each other. We live in the greatest country in the world and with that comes a level of arrogance. We are automatically defensive over what is “ours.” Don’t you talk about MY country that way! If we think about it though, we all have issues in some capacity about the way the country is run.

Do you think Hillary is a crook? I know many of you do. I’ve even seen some of you compare Obama to ISIS. Should I call you out and say that you aren’t patriotic? You called our president a terrorist. When people condemned Bush, it was an all out slug fest to claim those people aren’t real Americans.

The point is, America is so much to so many. We can disagree with the way it’s run and still think it’s great. I get so confused by the “Make America Great Again” statement because people are also very defensive about it. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said, “If you don’t like this country, leave” in the past few days. So, is it a country that needs to be great again or a country that is already great and threatened by people wanting to change it?

I feel as lost as many of you do. I get it. I am torn on many levels. I have a wide range of students this year. Some are students at Shelton’s Fredd campus who have been afforded very few privileges in life. They don’t know many basic things that a lot of us take for granted. One student even asked me if I thought he was dumb.

Then, I have some (not all) students at UA who are privileged (not that they should be punished for that) and one of them, out of all the argumentative papers he could have chosen, decided to write his paper as an advocacy of hate speech. In his mind, his version of someone taking his freedom is to not have the ability to use racial and homophobic slurs. I found this mind blowing.

Sure, you have a right to use hate speech and nobody should be able to take that away. If I can admit to that than can we all take a moment and admit that in this country, we have a problem and it’s a problem that isn’t going anywhere. Can we unite and at least agree to hear each other out?

There’s always someone to hate. As a country, people have united against members of the LBGTQ community, the Muslim community and anyone else looking to be treated like a normal member of society.

So many people that are so angry are people who have preached the gospel, shared Bible verses and treated others with kindness. Then they turn around and say some of the most hateful things. I don’t feel the love.

In the same sense, I also don’t appreciate being told what to do. I have seen a lot of people I agree with say that silence is just as bad as racism. I hear you but I don’t necessarily agree. In our day to day lives, we are all trying to just make it through. I have a unique opportunity with young people to listen and engage and perhaps even change some minds. I am doing much more to try and make change in my job than I would do by posting daily articles on Facebook. I’m fine with people who do that…that’s how you speak out but it’s not for me. I guess I just believe that building relationships of trust and dialogue is the most important thing you can do.

Everyone can protest or speak out in their own way. As for me, the American Flag symbolizes soldiers who have died for our country. Therefore, I wouldn’t sit during the national anthem but I also don’t think someone that does should leave the country or is any less American.

Many athletes and rappers that you all follow and worship, grew up in underprivileged communities. They’ve seen some of these things first hand. Who am I to step out of my bubble and tell them what to believe? These athletes and musicians are so important because they are beacons of social change. The kids that are from the neighborhoods they are from look up to them, listen to their lyrics so what they say and do DOES matter.

I know this is long and if you’ve made it this far, I appreciate you listening. I don’t know everything. I do know that I care if there are people who are uncomfortable in their own country. I’m a woman and though I’ve never known what it’s like to be a black person, I have seen wage discrimination first hand, I have had a man grab me inappropriately because he can and I have felt that my opinion isn’t important. I know how that makes me feel and I know the people I love wouldn’t want me to feel that way.

I know that I am proud of many things about this country. I’m proud of the countless men and women in the armed services and police force that do what they can to protect us. I know that there are problems though and I don’t know all the answers but I do know that unless we engage in dialogue and actually listen to each other, nothing will ever change.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Not Tuna in a Can

First, today is my Oma's birthday! I wanted to give her a shout out. I know you are working but I hope you have a great day anyway!

I also need to give an early shout out to Lisa, my brother's girlfriend! Her birthday is Sunday and even though she's a hardworking nurse now, we will still find time to celebrate.

Ok, so my final shout out is a Roll Tide! Alabama broke their small curse with Ole Miss by winning Saturday but not before making me sick with nerves. It was a long and crazy game. Hopefully, since Bama plays Kent State Saturday they will get a bit of rest.

After my Denver trip last week, I was a bit scared to get on the scale but it turned out that I only gained about a pound. I found this to be motivating. My body did me a favor so I've done it a favor and eaten the way I'm supposed to (with the exception of two allotted cheat meals). I am going to a concert tomorrow night in Birmingham which will be a challenge BUT I have to be up on Wednesday morning at 6AM so I'm hoping that will deter me from partying too hard. Essentially, what I'm saying is, I weigh on Wednesday so I am in the home stretch of a potential weight loss and I'm not going to screw it up now.

I'm not sure how long ago it was but at least 10 years ago, I branched out at a restaurant in Chattanooga, Tennessee and tried something I had never tried before: Tuna Steak. I figured everyone was always saying how healthy fish was and I liked canned tuna so I ordered it. I'm so glad I did. It was perfectly cooked and delicious. Over the years, if I see tuna steak at a trustworthy place, I will order it. Well, a couple weeks ago, Fresh Market had 7oz tuna steaks for a ridiculously good price so I got a couple to make at home, which I'd never done before. First, I skip oil in a lot of my cooking just to save calories. I add fat and flavor in other ways. With fish, it's so lean so you need a little oil. I used my toasted sesame oil along with soy sauce and garlic to marinate the fish and then I simply seared in a hot pan for a few minutes on each side. If tuna steak is overcooked, it quickly becomes canned tuna. I like my tuna steak rare but it hops over the line between rare and too done in a hot second so if I could turn back time, I would take off about 10 seconds on each side for both of my tuna dishes. It was still delicious, though. I made a salad with the first tuna inspired by a DELICIOUS tuna steak salad I had at Cosmo's at the beach last year (pictured first). I added feta, green onion, balsamic vinaigrette and sesame seeds. It was pretty and tasty and I loved it.

The second dish I made was pretty much the exact same except instead of a salad with feta, I served the tuna over a bed of rice. Carbs make everything better so I really enjoyed it this way too.

As I said, I'm going to a concert tomorrow night. I get to see Heart which is basically a life long dream of mine because my 7 year old self could be heard belting out, "All I Wanna Do is Make Love to You," and my mom would be like, "Um, let's not sing that in public." I also get to go to my first home game of the season this weekend. I wanted to give my parents a shout out too because out of nowhere, I now have a really nice, new TV for my living room!!! It was a total surprise. Ian is happy because he had fun setting it up and my Dad is happy so if he comes over to the house, he can actually see the TV. I did nothing to deserve a TV really but I'm certainly glad my parents decided to go to Best Buy yesterday.

I hope y'all have an awesome week!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Back to Reality and Low Carb Quesadillas

Hey y'all. I have kind of a short post today as I'm jolted back to my normal routine. Coming back from vacation is never fun. Before I left Denver I weighed about the same. I know that vacation usually packs on a few pounds so I expect to see a gain this week but I'm trying to normalize today and eat normally/drink plenty of water. Going to Colorado/Wyoming was an amazing experience. The weather was beautiful and so was the scenery. Ian and I didn't want to come home. We drove up and through mountains, explored a ranch in Wyoming, ate German food and played in downtown, Denver, I can't wait to go back out west.

All I will share today in terms of food is the Fresh Market quesadilla meal we made a couple weeks ago. As I have mentioned, I'm a big fan of their "Little Big Meal" that is $20 and serves 4. This meal came with tortillas, cheese, guacamole, black beans, salsa, chicken and vegetables. Instead of normal tortillas, I used the low carb/chia/60 calorie wraps that Fresh Market has. I'll be honest, they aren't great. They have a gummy/diet characteristic BUT I do like to use them in cases where I'm going to have a lot of flavor to trump the lack of flavor in the wrap. For the quesadilla, it made sense. Filling it with cheese, black beans and chicken then topping it with guacamole and popping it in the oven, I was OK with the wrap...especially since it was only 120 calories for two to have on top and bottom.

Next week I plan on sharing a more FULL post but today, I'm just trying keep my head above water.

Thanks again to my friend Arianne for letting us stay with you in Denver!

Roll Tide this week as we face Ole Miss...a team that has had our number for some reason for a couple years.

Until next week...