Monday, March 30, 2015

From Soup To Summer

Panda Express must be putting these fortunes in everyone’s cookie because the service at the Tuscaloosa Panda Express is beyond heinous right now.  Last time I was there over 20 minutes.  This time, it took extra time for vegetable and when I pulled up to the window during lunch, I was read a list of options I could choose from because the kitchen was behind.  Because they were out of my normal, I had to get something I usually don’t and found out later that teriyaki chicken and vegetables is over 700 calories.  I was NOT happy.  So, I don’t think I’ll be rewarded for patience anytime soon.  I can’t believe it’s almost April y’all.  It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time seems to move.  I worked so hard last week and played pretty closely to my new set of rules (a wedding on Saturday got a bit sketchy but I did OK) and actually managed to lose almost a pound, even after the calorie debacle of New Orleans.  That means I have lost a total of 18 pounds since January 5th. The holiday weight is gone! I’ve also lost 12.4 inches.  I was definitely surprised I lost but I’ll take it.  I’m hoping it doesn’t have a delayed come back.  I’ve got another wedding to fight through this weekend but other than that, it should be smooth sailing.  I have 19.7 pounds to lose still to get below my lowest weight.  Again, I don’t think my birthday deadline is looking realistic but I’m just going to keep on plugging away.

If you follow this blog every week, first of all, thank you.  Second of all, I know you’re probably tired of seeing cauliflower.  No worries, I’m a bit sick of it myself so this will be the last cauliflower recipe you see for a bit though I am certain it will return at some point. I know that it’s starting to warm up but since it’s supposed to rain all week here and it’s going to be chilly at night, I thought it would be OK to show one more soup recipe before summer starts.  For those out there who are staunchly against cauliflower, your brain probably wouldn’t let you enjoy this recipe but I hope you trust that I wouldn’t steer you wrong.  Cauliflower soaks up flavor so when it’s pureed and mixed with tons of potent ingredients, I promise you will feel more comfortable about eating it.  You’ll need a food processor for this because basically, you dump all of the ingredients in it then heat the soup up.  All you need to do is combine cauliflower (about two cups) with onion, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes (both of the two previous ingredients are jarred and soaked in olive oil), mushrooms, chicken broth (about a cup) in the processor until it’s smooth and resembles potato soup.  Then, you heat it up.  You can heat it on the stove top but I just used the microwave.  The best part is the garnish.  I put the soup in a bowl, added fajita chicken strips, a crumbled piece of fried bacon and a couple splashes of hot sauce to the top.  The soup was filling (because you can eat all of it) and it’s bursting with lots of yummy flavors.  If you have one more cold snap where you are, give it a shot.

My mom recently gave me a grill pan for my oven because I can’t grill outside at my apartment.  I put it to use by making kabobs.  Essentially kabobs just consist of meat and veggies but they are easy and fun to make and they are kind of pretty.  I added chicken sausage, turkey sausage, chicken breast, onion and mushroom.  I did learn that all items on the kabob need to be the same size. The mushrooms were a bit bigger to it put some of the ingredients off balance.  All I did to remedy this was pop the kabobs in the oven to let them finish cooking to temperature.  I served them with lettuce and salsa and they were delicious!

Finally, I threw together a brunch like recipe last week.  I took fajita sausage, chopped it up and mixed it with scrambled eggs and salsa.  I served it with a side salad that used olive oil vinaigrette as the dressing.  It was perfect for a 10:30AM meal.  It wasn’t pretty but it was tasty and had quite a kick.

I get to see Jordan this weekend! His sister is getting married on Saturday and other than cake and finger food temptation, I'm very happy for her.

I plan on working hard again this week.  I hope it pays off when I weigh this weekend.  Good luck everyone!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Louisiana Style

Hey y’all! Spring Break is over and Monday has come out swinging’.  I probably chose poorly by going to New Orleans on the weekend after spring break because I’m struggling today.  It was worth it though because we had a great time.  I opted not to weigh last weekend.  I let myself slide a few times late in the week.  I’m not sure what prompted this but I was feeling a bit drained with the dieting and knew I had a fun, calorie-filled weekend ahead of me.  Also, I know this will anger those of you who don’t get a spring break but now that I’ve experienced it, I realize that too much down time is terrible for me.  I found myself not wanting to do normal tasks like workout or shower even.  I was productive the first day because I cleaned and graded but after that I just lied in bed most of the time and actually felt a bit depressed.  I am now considering finding a summer job more than ever.  The money would be helpful but also, it would keep me from becoming a non-exercising, pizza eating recluse.  Anyway, I realize I change things up a lot but I’m going to do it again.  I like to combine the aspects of the slow carb diet with aspects of reality which is some day, in the future, I may crave Mexican food in the middle of the week.  Sometimes, those things should be allowed.  I want something I can do forever.  In addition to that, the one cheat day a week is making me quite ill.  I’m a classic binge eater so I stuff my face to the point of nausea and discomfort on Sundays.  So, I’m keeping the slow carb vibe, counting calories, adding a bit more for exercise but not as much as they give me credit for, incorporating a few non-slow carb items during the week (possibly sweet potatoes or quinoa) but only roughly one serving of those a day and finally, 2 cheat meals a week and 3 servings of cheat “other” which may include dessert, a drink or an appetizer.  I’m counting all of these things as a set calorie count so I don’t overeat the rest of the day.  I’m also going to try and split these cheat meals in half so I can have them later in the day when I get hungry again.  My goal is to stop overeating all together so I stop expanding my stomach and I get a chance to work on my mental issues when it comes to binging and my other goal is to eat healthy about 85% of the time.  I’m fighting every day.  I will weigh at the end of the week.  Hopefully my fun time in NOLA doesn’t take long to get rid of but honestly, it was worth it. 

In the spirit of my trip to New Orleans, I am sharing a Cajun inspired recipe.  This recipe is what I call “Dirty Rice.”  I used cauliflower for the “rice” as I’ve been doing quite a bit.  I LOVE dirty rice….especially from Bojangles so I thought I’d give it a shot.  I sautéed up some turkey sausage, added onion, cauliflower, Rotel and Cajun seasoning.  Next time I will probably use more mild tomatoes and less Cajun seasoning because it was super spicy.  I really liked the flavor, though.  It was filling because I got to pretty much eat the whole pan and the flavor made it feel like you were eating something.  I served it with some grilled chicken.  I would definitely make it again.

I know that Spring is here (especially by the amount of pollen I’m seeing) but I’ve heard we may get one more cold snap so I wanted to share a soup this week and next week before it got too warm to consider having anything hot to eat.  A couple weeks ago, we had a “snow day” so I decided to make some taco soup.  Taco Soup is one of those great things because it tastes awesome, it’s filling and I’m not sure there’s much out there that’s easier to make.  There are lots of recipes out there. I skipped the corn and used black beans and chili beans because I had them on hand and I HATE kidney beans.  All I did was sauté the meat and onions and then dump in the rest which included things like tomato juice, ranch dressing mix and taco seasoning.  You let it simmer awhile and then it’s done.  Be careful with this though because if you’re like me, you’ll want to go way over your portion allowance.  I suggest putting several servings in the freezer so you can just grab it out, thaw it and eat. 

I’m getting much better at throwing things together.  It’s something my mother is good at and she’s passed it on to me.  I love buying those fajita strips in the produce section.  I’m also a bit of a hoarder of Moe’s salsa.  I may or may not stock up and grab a few extra salsas when I go get my burrito bowl every week.  Eggs can get a bit boring so last week I heated up some of those steak strips with mushrooms and onion and served it with my eggs.  I put salsa on top to finish off a quick version of steak and eggs.  It was delicious and made for a quick, tasty breakfast.

Ian and I made the most out of our trip to New Orleans.  We had a fancy dinner in the Garden District, experienced the touristy and less touristy parts of Bourbon and visited the WWII museum yesterday.  We spent a lot of money and consumed too much of everything but it was totally worth it.  We had a blast! Wish me luck this week and I hope you all are all fighting for things you want too! Until next week...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Poppers & PB

Happy SPRING BREAK & ST. PATRICK'S DAY Y'ALL! This is my first legitimate spring break where I get a paid week off from school and don't also have another job I have to do.  I have a bit of grading to complete every day and of course, I'm going to pile on the work outs but other than that, I can just chill out and that's pretty cool.  I'm sure by the end of the week I'll be bored out of my mind but I'm not going to complain about that.  I was well-behaved last week (aside from a low-cal ice cream snack I had Saturday night that was in my calorie limit but not slow carb) and exercised like crazy.  When I weighed Saturday morning I was down 1.4# so I was happy with that but still feeling like my body is being stubborn.  I'm going to work hard this week but I will have a green beer tomorrow because St. Patrick's Day is one of my favorite holidays.  Also, I'm going to New Orleans this Saturday so I don't have the highest hopes of losing weight the next couple weeks but I do intend to maintain with hard work.  I'm down a total of of 16.2 pounds and 13.6 inches since January 5th which puts things in perspective because that is a solid result I just get bummed every time I realize my life will always consist of hard work and bread-skipping.  I still have a little over a pound to rid myself of the holiday weight and 21.5 pounds to go to reach my birthday goal.  This goal is seeming a bit more unrealistic with each passing week but I'm going to keep working like crazy and put a good dent in it.

Now that I've listed the boring numbers that serve me more than any of you, I'll share one of my  most favorite slow-carb recipes ever.  I took chicken and cashews and chopped them together (actually Cassandra chopped it) and stuffed it inside jalepenos and then wrapped them in bacon.  First, if you've never worked with jalepenos, I recommend taking the seeds out before stuffing them because they are super spicy.  Also, when you do that, make sure that you don't put your fingers in your mouth or eyes after working with jalepenos for I don't know, A COUPLE DAYS.  It's an unpleasant feeling, I promise.  All you do is bake these guys in the oven and enjoy.  They are bit more fattening than usual slow carb recipes so don't eat a whole pan like I almost did but they are perfectly slow-carb legal.  Oh, and by the way...they are delicious.

My mom told me about this new product called PB2.  It's a powdered version of peanut butter that you add water to and stir to create a much more calorie friendly peanut butter option at only 45 calories per two tablespoons.  Now, because I've been at this awhile, I knew it was probably too good to be true.  I did some research and of course, there appears to be some nasty chemically and processed ingredients found in this guy so it's not slow-carb, clean or paleo.  However, it still has nutrition and since I have removed most artificial ingredients from my life during the week, I've decided to use this ingredient in moderation.  So, having said all that, I decided to take the leftover cashew/chicken mix I had, mix that with some soy sauce and create some Asian lettuce wraps.  All I did was take the giant lettuce leaves, spread some prepared PB2 on them as a base and add the chicken/cashew/soy mix.  I rolled them up and ate them and they were AMAZING.  I was pretty proud of this round 2 recipes.

To continue with the Asian/PB2 theme, I wanted to share a "throw together" recipe I made.  I once again used cauliflower to make steak fried "rice." I made a slight change though by adding a bit of water and PB2 to the skillet to give the dish a nutty flavor and it gave it a yummy, rich flavor.  Sure, the stuff isn't perfect and I'll continue to incorporate real peanut butter in my diet but this stuff is giving my food a much needed boost when I get tired of eating the same thing over and over.

My Dad and I went to Chattanooga this weekend so see our extended family in Crossville, TN.  We went with my aunt Brenda, Grandma and Grandpa and visited with people that we haven't seen in years.  It was nice to see everyone and it's always good to remember that family comes first no matter how crazy they can be!

Ian and I are headed to New Orleans on Saturday for a quick, one-night trip and I'm so excited.  We are going to cram in all the food, drink and fun we can before we come back Sunday night.

I hope you all have a great, festive, stress-free week!

Until next week!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Not Rice But Almost

Hey y’all.  I finally got around to posting today.  I am not feeling well.  I’ve had a cold on and off for over a month and last night I woke up in the middle of the night feeling miserable.  I couldn’t breath, my chest was on fire and I have been coughing like crazy ever since.  I don’t know what is going on but I should probably go back to the doctor.  Unfortunately, I owe them money from the first time I went when I was sick.  Anyway, I digress.  I didn’t run today which makes me feel awful but I plan on getting up early tomorrow and going to the gym.  I suppose I needed to skip the run since my chest was hurting but man, it throws me off.  I had a perfect week last week in terms of dieting and I worked out a ton and I saw no difference on the scale.  I won’t comment on that because I don’t have the energy to rant.  I only know to keep plugging away.  It’s all I can do. At this point I have 2.7 pounds to lose to get rid of the last bit of holiday weight and 22.7 to go to reach my goal by birthday.  I’m not sure if it will happen but I’m going to keep trying.

I have been going crazy with cauliflower.  I will have lots of recipes to show in the coming weeks.  I apologize in advance to those who hate cauliflower but I encourage you to at least try it.  If you season it enough, it really only has the flavor of the seasoning and it’s a fantastic filler.  I made fried “rice” twice.  I made it a couple different ways.

Round 1

I actually went through the process of putting the cauliflower in the blender and draining it so it would have more of a rice texture and shape.  I would recommend buying cauliflower in the bag because I had to get an actual head of cauliflower last time and it was terrible.  It is hard to get off the head and it gets everywhere.  I added a fried egg, green beans, broccoli, onion, soy sauce and pieces of pork chop.  I sautéed it all together and made a nice big bowl of the fried “rice.”  The best decision I made was adding a few cashews to the top.  It gave an extra layer of yummy, filling flavor. It’s my new go to meal.

Round 2

This time I actually made the whole pork chop in the skillet in order to mimic the meal my mom makes which is fried pork chops and fried rice.  I added the same ingredients this time but just served it on the side.  I’m in love with this recipe. I will say that I have gotten lazier about the cauliflower.  I've just been rough chopping it lately rather than going through the trouble of the food processor but it hasn't made too much of a difference.  I like anything that allows me to have a nice, hearty plate that I can just go crazy and eat the whole thing.

The slow carb diet doesn’t allow chocolate and it doesn’t allow much artificial sweetener.  The goal is to stay away from processed foods.  The problem is that I have a sweet tooth and I decided I needed some kind of sweet treat occasionally so I didn’t kills someone.  I found a recipe for low carb peanut butter cookies.  They take 1 cup of peanut butter (I used reduced fat), 1 egg and 1/2 cup of artificial sweetener.  In order to get my chocolate fix, I added a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips to the mix in order to get one or two bites of chocolate per cookie.  I know it’s bending the rules a bit but it’s homemade, I count the calories, and I don’t have a nervous breakdown from lack of sweets. That's all I have this week.  Ian and I celebrated one Facebook year on Saturday so that's fun.  We are going to New Orleans together in a couple weeks and I can't wait. That's why I plan on resting as much as possible so I can shake this cold permanently and have fun in NOLA.  Until next week, y'all.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Sausage Fest

Top of the Monday to ya.  I’m sitting here eating cucumber slices and hummus and preparing for a long day.  Last week Tuscaloosa got all caught up in a snow scare and classes were canceled on Wednesday.  I’m not complaining about the snow day because even though I had to do some lesson plan rearranging, it was nice to have a day off.  Even though the town was in a panic, it was only raining so I mustered up every bit of energy I had and made my way to the gym.  It wasn’t my smartest idea.  I guess I thought since the apocalypse hadn’t taken place that everything would be open.  I was wrong.  I was devastated to find out that the gym was closed.  Since it was gross outside I did a few crunches and pushups and called it a day.  I made some taco soup (that I will post soon) and to be honest, I was probably a little liberal with my serving sizes.  I maintained my exercise every other day but I just felt heavier at the end of the week.  Saturday night I made steak and stuffed peppers (I will also post these soon) and I also ate too much then and had a couple glasses of red wine.  I never strayed from the slow carb diet but I missed one day of exercise and went over in calories a little two days.  Because of this heinous crime, I was up .6 when I weighed on Sunday.  I’m irritated of course because I sure as heck don’t feel like it’s fair to gain weight when I’m still not eating cheese, bread, beer, rice, potatoes or you know, anything super fun.  It’s fine though.  Pending any potential tornadic/freezing rain disasters this week, I plan on hitting it hard every day and making sure I keep my calorie count down.  I want that half pound gone and I’d like maybe a little more loss as well.  On a positive note I managed to lose 1.4" so I'm down a total of 15 pounds, 12" since January 5th.  I have a couple more pounds to lose to completely get rid of the holiday weight and 22.7 to go before my birthday in May. I'm just gonna keep on keeping on.

I don’t follow the Paleo diet but there are multiple similarities with Slow Carb.  I know someone who is on the Paleo diet and she posts lots of interesting recipes.  She made a stuffed portabella mushroom with pizza ingredients and it inspired me to make my own version of a stuffed mushroom.  I got a large portabella and scraped the inside of it out.  I put it in the oven with some olive oil spray on low heat while I prepared the stuffing because I like my mushrooms cooked all the way through.  I sautéed turkey sausage, turkey pepperoni, kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes, onions and peppers together.  Once they were all done I simply stuffed the ingredients into the mushroom and then baked it for a few minutes.  When it got out I topped it with some roasted red pepper hummus.  I know not everyone is a fan of mushrooms but I highly recommend them.  They are meaty and filling and you can stuff the large ones with pretty much any ingredients that you want.  This was totally delicious.

I know me saying how much I love sausage prompts some of my friends and family to giggle because we are all so immature but I’m honestly not sure how else to say it.  I love sausage.  I have been making a lot of smoked turkey sausage.  You can have quite a bit and it’s fairly lean and low in calories.  I’ve just been buying the Oscar Mayer Turkey Smoked Sausage and it’s delicious. I added a little chili powder to give it more of a kick. It’s one of those no-brainer dinners because if you throw it with some asparagus, you’re getting a hearty meal in less than 10-15 minutes.

I would say the food I crave the most is Mexican.  I am a lover of cheese, rice and chips.  Unfortunately, none of those things are allowed on my diet so lately I’ve been pretending I’m at a Mexican joint by serving myself fajitas in a sizzling skillet (chicken, onions, mushrooms, bacon, etc) and then for my condiment plate I pile up black beans, salsa, guacamole and giant lettuce leaves that I use for “tortillas.”  There’s something about making it look more like the dish you want that helps a little.  Nothing can replace cheese, sour cream or tortillas but these fajitas packed a punch and served as a tasty substitute.

That's all for this week! I hope you all have a great, weather-safe week!  To anyone who reads this participating in the Tuscaloosa Half Marathon on Saturday, BEST OF LUCK!  I couldn't bring myself to do it again.

I'm looking forward to a productive and fun week! Bye!