Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016: Bye Girl

This will be my last MLWOR post for the year. Everyone keeps joking about 2016. For me personally, I can't complain. I have more fluff on bones and my plight with debt seems like it's here for good but overall, I am blessed beyond measure. I don't usually use phrases that can be heard in Southern Baptist church but dangit, it's the truth. I feel lucky to have health and friends and happiness (most of the time). For the world, it's been a bit different. The path of the country is unsure, violence is ever present in many places and celebrities are dying left and right. There are also so many I know personally that are struggling. I hope with everything that 2017 is a better year for everyone but especially those having a tough time right now. I resolve to try and be a better, healthier human. I have lots of smaller goals too since that's pretty vague. They include changing the way I view success and failure, finishing two manuscripts and traveling as much as I can afford. Well, those aren't small goals really but what the heck, I'm ready for you 2017. Let's do this.

I'd like to wish my brother a happy early birthday! You are great. No pithy remarks or sarcastic jokes. Thanks for being my friend. I love you. You probably won't read this so I feel even better about being sappy. I'll return to my normal ribbing on Friday.

In terms of food and weight, I need a metaphorical life preserver thrown to me because I feel like I'm drowning. I am supposed to weigh on Saturday and I may still do that but GAWWWDDDDDDDD I don't want to. *makes gurgling vomit noise* On the one hand, things could be worse. I've been counting calories with a bit more success this week. I've eaten less than usual and when I know a big meal is coming, I tend to eat light the rest of the day, which is what inspired my super healthy salad that I had for lunch. It was simple. I took the Asian inspired sauces in my refrigerator (a serving each of peanut sauce, sesame ginger dressing, and chili garlic sauce) and mixed them together in a big bowl. I chopped some lettuce, green onions and about two tablespoons of peanuts. In the bowl I added some peeled cucumbers. I was going to use my Veggeti to get them into a noodle shape but the cucumbers were aging and not cooperating so I used the new vegetable peeler I got for Christmas and made cute lil ribbons. I added the lettuce, onions, peanuts and a tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds. I tossed it all together. It was yummy. Next time I'll add a protein other than the nuts so it stays with me longer but I love those flavors. Also, it was heavily dressed, which I like, but if you are less heavy handed, you may want to do half a serving of each sauce.

I didn't take many pictures during Christmas since I spent most of it either traveling or in my pajamas. Other than a flat tire and a couple blinking "Check Engine Lights," I'm thankful we were all safe and got to see family. Ian and I were so blessed with stuff for the house from many people.

I hope you all had a great holiday and of course, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Oh, and ROLL TIDE!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Don't Skimp on the Shrimp

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays y'all! Next week I will publish my last post of 2016. Time just keeps moving more and more quickly. This has been quite a year and it will be interested to see what 2017 holds. We got our tree up a little late this year but it's still bringing a little holiday joy to our house. I hope you all have safe travels and pleasant holidays, wherever you end up. I haven't weighed for a couple weeks and don't intend to until the last day of the year. I am holding strong for at least 2 of the 3 meals every day and as usual, exercising. I am looking forward to the new year as I thrive with a strict schedule and food plans. For right now though, I'm staying positive!

Since I've been eating more rich foods, I try to balance that out with healthier options. So, if I know I'm going to a Christmas dinner and party at night, I have been making a healthier lunch which is an improvement from my normal attitude when I stuff myself all day just because I'm not going to be perfect. The holidays are among us which means a little more food than normal. That means my appetite is let's say...hearty. I found some shrimp in my freezer from when it went on sale at Fresh Market and made a huge, healthy salad that kept me full all day. Shrimp is super lean and the only fat I added was about a little less than a tablespoon of oil (much of which was left in the bottom of the bowl), less than that of light balsamic dressing and low fat blue cheese. To prepare the shrimp, I just tossed it in oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and smoked paprika. My goal was to cook them on kabobs on the grill but alas, I discovered we were out of propane. So, I sautéed them in the skillet and that worked just as well. I laid all the shrimp (peeled, deveined and tails in tact for flavor) on a bed of lettuce with just a little of the cheese and dressing. There was so much shrimp that it didn't need much else. For crunch, I crushed up about 5 pita chips. It was nice to have something that wasn't so rich and still be stuffed at the end of it. And, yes, I ate all of it. The only thing left on my plate at the end was a pile of shrimp tails.

I made my last Blue Apron meal last night. We will get a new box next weekend and it will probably be our last for awhile since money is a little tight right now because of the holidays. Anyway, I made Broccoli White Bean Burgers. For those watching at home, Ian didn't come near these with a ten foot pole. The concept is simple, mash the beans and combine them with small chopped, sautéed broccoli, one egg, bread crumbs and spices. The problem came when it was time to make a patty out of these bad boys. Ian did a better job than I did but and we got one solid-ish patty but for the most part I wound up with a plate of broccoli and beans. It was OK. The potatoes and cheese were a good side but overall, not my favorite Blue Apron dish. And, if I'm being honest, it made my stomach blow up like a balloon and it's been dangerous in my house for 12 hours. Anyway, I'm sure I'll share the results of the next box too.

Have a great week everyone and Merry Christmas!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Tuna Steak Tacos

Hey y'all! I am so fortunate to have a flexible schedule this winter break because it's allowing me to make mad dashes to the store and elsewhere to tie up loose Christmas ends. The holiday season is always so hectic! This past Sunday, my whole Alabama family drove to Chattanooga to celebrate my Grandma's 84th birthday. It's been so long since everyone (cousins, extended family, grandparents, great aunts, etc) was in one place. It was such a special thing. Thanks to my Aunt Brenda for organizing and for everything you do. We had a photo shoot, of course and we we were able to get a group shot.  Before I left for Chattanooga, I hopped on the scale. I was down about a pound and a half. I was pleased with this because since then, I've been eating too much. I haven't been eating unhealthy foods that much but let's just say I'm padding up for the holiday season. I just feel too soft. At this point, I'm trying just to maintain or gain only a few pounds over the next few weeks. I went to the doctor for a checkup yesterday and other than the number on the scale not being my favorite, I'm healthy as all get out. I'm grateful for that. Anyway, I've decided not to weigh until the morning of New Year's Eve. I will do my best to stay on track but have an understanding that it's the season of indulgence. Best of luck to everyone else out there! I know the holidays are full of temptation for everyone.

Y'all, not only are these tacos one of the prettiest thing I've ever made, they may be in the top 5 best dishes I've ever made! They were SO good! Also, it's my recipe! I was inspired by a salad I had this past summer but I made the whole plate without a recipe to guide me. I had some tuna steak in the freezer and exactly two aging corn soft taco shells and thus, the tuna steak taco was born. Tuna steak is so great because it takes almost no time to cook. In fact, the less you cook it, the better it tastes. Trust me, I've overcooked LOTS of tuna steak. All I did was marinate the tuna steak (after sprinkling with salt and pepper) in a light ginger sesame dressing I have, a garlic chili sauce and minced garlic. While that was taking a bath, I chopped up some salted peanuts, chives, and lettuce. I also mixed together some light mayo and sriracha sauce. I heated some sesame oil in a non-skillet pan and when it was hot, I added the tuna steak. I seared it on each side for 2-3 minutes. Truthfully, it could have used about 30 seconds less on each side. While it was searing, I took the taco shells, and I spread a little of the sriracha mayo in the middle. I added lettuce, chopped peanuts and crumbled blue cheese. Don't add too much blue cheese...just enough for tang. When the tuna was done, I let it rest a few minutes (long enough for me to put some festive chips and salsa on my plate for a side). I sliced it in strips and placed those strips on the tacos. Then, I put a few drops of low sodium soy sauce on top of the taco and finally, sprinkled toasted sesame seeds and chives. Y'all, I obviously didn't invent fish tacos but I have to say, I'm proud of these. They were so delicious, salty and crunchy! Oh, and they were super filling. I will most definitely make this again.

Ian and I get Blue Apron only a few times a year because first, Ian is picky and there are a lot of recipes I have to modify just so he will eat them and second, it's expensive. I don't care how they spin it, it's not cheaper than grocery shopping. However, it's fun and convenient because everything is right there for you. So, when I see a menu that I think we can both get on board with and we have the money, I get a shipment. So far this week, we've made Spicy Shrimp and Kale (which was chewy, I must have overcooked it) Pasta. It came with bucatini pasta, which is fun because it's like a pasta straw. It was filling and pretty good. I made Ian's with chicken and his version lacked flavor so I ended up adding jarred Alfredo sauce to it. The second one we made was potato chowder. This came with a side of cheese sauce toast and it was probably one of the best Blue Apron meals we've had yet. I added a bit of sour cream and bacon bits to it because it had a little kick and also, I love sour cream and bacon. I still have one recipe left that I'll share next week.

Have a wonderful week everyone!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

What A Crock

Hey y'all! It finally rained in Alabama and then it like didn't stop for 3 days. Now it feels like classic southern winter. Cold and wet and dreary without all the fun, powdery snow. I am preparing for my winter hibernation as school is winding down. It means some time to relax so we will see if I actually do that. So far I've spent my "spare" time cleaning and decorating the house for Christmas. When I weighed last week, I was actually down a few pounds since Thanksgiving. I was pleased but didn't take too much stock in it. My body has been throwing around a few pounds for over 6 months. It's got quite an attitude. I'm doing less weigh-ins right now so I'm not too dependent on the numbers but plan on weighing this upcoming Sunday morning just to see where I'm at. It's the holidays so my only goal is to not turn into a crazed holiday yeti that consumes everything she sees. 

The title of my post today is a play on the vessel I used for my recipe, the fact that it didn't turn out the way I wanted and because I used fake rice. I saw a recipe for crockpot teriyaki chicken. The photo of the recipe online made it look like a bowl of chicken from PF Changs. It looked sticky and delicious. I was sold. The thing is, it didn't really work that way. It called for a cup of chicken broth, half a cup of teriyaki sauce, 1/3 cup brown sugar and 3 garlic cloves. Of course, chunks of chicken were also involved. As I was mixing and adding to the crockpot I thought to myself, "This is never going to thicken." As my mother pointed out, crockpots keep moisture in. I thought it should have corn starch or something. So, as I predicted, it didn't look a thing like PF Changs. Having said that, it still tasted delicious. The meat soaked in the juices for hours so it was tender and tasty. I added Ian's to frozen, sticky rice and we both decided that stuff is awesome and way faster and more foolproof than boiling rice. I added mine to frozen cauliflower rice. Y'all, I HIGHLY recommend this. The non-frozen, pre-made crumbles go bad so quickly. These stay in your freezer so you can get them out anytime. The cauliflower rice had good texture and soaked up all the teriyaki sauce flavor. I ate the whole bag because that's how I roll and it only set me back 112 calories. I don't recommend it if you want to make a cauliflower pizza crust because in my experience, I don't think you could ever drain enough water out of it to make it work. For this meal though, it was perfect. When it was time to eat, I chopped up some green onion and sprinkled that and some toasted sesame seeds to the top of it. Oh, and as an appetizer, I had my chicken potstickers that I ordered from QVC (YUM). Even though it didn't fulfill all of my needs, it was still good. I will definitely be attempting other ways to make Chinese restaurant dishes at home.

Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

One Month More

It's hard to believe that there is only one month left in 2016. Personally, I have had a great year. I have my health and my career and I've done more writing this year than ever before. As far as the state of the world goes, others out there haven't been as fortunate. I hope that the last month of 2016 bring peace and happiness to so many who don't have it and that 2017 is much, MUCH better for everyone. I had a nice Thanksgiving with family and friends and today, I will finish my participation in National Novel Writing Month. That means that I have a first, rough draft to my first novel. I've always written poetry and non-fiction other than a couple school required short stories so this was insane! I plan on weighing tomorrow but I'm not sweating it at this point. I'm taking one day at a time. Alabama beat Auburn which makes them undefeated and we will be playing for another SEC Championship!!! Roll Tide!

All I have to show today is a kind of tart, kind of ratatouille that I came up with based on a few pictures of things I've seen. It's been something I have wanted to try for awhile. So, I guess I will call it a zucchini and potato swirl. You can use any vegetables you want. I've seen people use peppers, tomatoes, squash, and anything you can cut to so it fits in that shape. I pre-heated the oven to 375 degrees and then cut round slices of potato and zucchini. Keep in mind that if you use potatoes, it could take up to 45 minutes to bake, depending on how thick you cut the slices. I thought about using a mandolin but I thought it would take too much time to alternate that many slices. While you're slicing, you can also sauté some onions with olive oil or light butter spread. When all that is done, take a round pie dish and add the sautéed onions to the bottom. Then, toss the zucchini and potatoes with a little more olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Take the slices and alternate them in a circle around the dish. Continue until it's full. Then bake it. At the end, I added a little parmesan and mozzarella cheese. You could even top with some scallions. It was delicious. The potatoes could have cooked longer which is such a classic mistake for me but whatever. See y'all next week!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanks & Beans!

Happy Thanksgiving y'all! I truly hope you get to have time to rest this week and spend time with the people you love the most. I have a lot of grading to do over the next several days but I'm grateful I can do that in my pajamas at home, on my own time. I am looking forward to the food and family time as always. Thanksgiving always reminds me how lucky I am that my family is healthy and that they will all be present at the Thanksgiving table. Not everyone has that luxury.

I was up a bit in weight this week but that was no surprise. Looking back over the course of the year, I haven't really gained weight. I've fluctuated a few pounds. Sometimes it feels like I'm gaining every year, month or even day but it was nice to know it wasn't as much as I thought. Weight loss is just as much (if not more) a mental game than anything else. I'm feeling very zen about it right now. I need to learn to love who I am and I'm working on that! I plan on doing my best when I can but not stressing. I decided not to weigh for a couple weeks. I'm also trying to depend less on the scale to determine how I feel about who I am as a person. We will see how it goes. The other update is that I've paused long runs for now. They were killing me. I'm not ruling out half marathon training forever but for now, I'm focusing on shorter runs to work on my speed and taking care of my body.

The only food I have to show you today are these awesome green beans I made. I used to only like canned green beans. Over the past couple years, my mom has converted me to a fresh or frozen green bean lover. She uses great seasoning and sautés them in the oven. Last week, I made Asian inspired green beans from an aging bag of frozen beans I had in the freezer. I made them as a side dish to a ground chicken/hash brown hash I made. Now, I will say, I like my green beans cooked practically death. I don't like the crunch as much. So, that's what I did. I added a bit of toasted sesame oil to the pan. It was about a teaspoon and then I added about a tablespoon of light butter spread. Then, I plopped them right in the pan. I added the typical salt, pepper, onion and garlic flavors. I also added Teriyaki sauce and soy sauce. When they were done, I topped them with some chopped peanuts and shaved parmesan. They may have been the best green beans I've ever had! They were so salty and good. They would go perfectly with any protein. I plan on making my next batch of stir fry the exact same way.

This week is also Iron Bowl week. Alabama will be faced with their last challenge before the SEC Championship. It's been a great year for Alabama football and I'm looking forward to watching them dominate on Saturday. I am so lucky to be able to go to the games with my Dad!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Potato Purge

Hey y'all! The picture above is of the running track at Bryant High School in Tuscaloosa. Instead of going left out of my neighborhood last week, I went right and found myself running around the school. It was a long, hard run but I did it. It was 7 miles. I'm due to run another 7 miles tomorrow. My hope is to do the half marathon again but I'm not putting too much pressure on myself because I'm going at a super slow pace right now and well, that crap is hard. The reason I posted the track picture is because while I was running, I decided to take a lap around the track since nobody was around. It brought me back to high school. Now, the track itself is much nicer than the one I had in high school. The track at Holt was mostly gravel but I remember Coach Belcher yelling at me to finish my mile run. I couldn't run in high school. I was chubby and got made fun of for it and I definitely couldn't run. I would try. I would run and then my side would throb in pain and I would get too winded so I would stop. I tried to make jokes out of it and just walked slowly around the track. "Pitiful," she would say when I finally got done. I wish teachers had to run the mile with you in school. Knowing that I can now run one, four, twenty-four laps around a track is satisfying when I think about how far I've come. I may have gained some weight this year but I can't forget about the accomplishments I have outside the scope of the scale. I stayed around the same weight this week. I am happy with that because I trusted myself rather than my tracker and everything didn't fall apart the way I thought it would. As the holidays approach, there will be temptations ahead but my goal is to not binge and not beat myself up. I'm getting better at that every day.

I mentioned last week that I have a boat load of potatoes at my house that I'm trying to use so I made a couple recipes with them. The first was a breakfast potato skin. The only thing about this recipe is A) you probably need a bigger potato than I used and B) if you're hungry, you may want to have a bowl of cereal instead. Having said that, I really liked it. All you do is bake the potato (this is the time consuming part) and then split it in half. You could use the microwave but this time I wanted the skin a little crisp so I used the oven. You could probably do some kind of combination. After you split it, gut it. I used the inside of the potato in the soup I talk about below. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray and add the potato skins. Add salt and pepper, sprinkle a little cheese, maybe some bacon, whatever you like. Then crack an egg onto each piece of skin. My potato wasn't big enough so egg went everywhere but it was OK. Pop it into the oven (which should still be 350 degrees from baking the potato) and cook for 15-ish minutes. I cooked it too long for my taste because I like a runny yolk. You kind of just have to watch it. When I pulled it out of the oven, I added salsa but only because I was out of green onion, which would have been my preference. This was yummy and filling but I'm usually into much quicker breakfasts.

In addition to the potato inspired breakfast, I also made potato soup on Sunday to eat throughout the week. The internet labels it as "skinny" potato soup. It's finally soup weather and I'm happy about that. I'm a big fan of soup. This one is super easy and it's been great to take for lunch so far this week. I browned some turkey bacon (which needs a little help with light margarine) and onions. Then, I added a few tablespoons of flour which helps thicken the soup. I personally think I put a little too much flour because it was really thick. Then, pour in two cups of chicken broth or stock and two cups of warmed milk. Stir it all around, add the potatoes and let it all boil until they are soft. It takes around 15 minutes. Then, I added some shredded cheese into the soup and a few tablespoons of light sour cream. I didn't measure much when I made this, it's kind of up to you. I stirred that in and it was all done. Since it was Sunday, I added a little extra light sour cream and mozzarella cheese because I'm crazy like that. This comes highly recommended. I also wish I had had green onion for the top of this. Your girl likes to add green onion on things. I have remedied the problem and bought some. Soups are great to make and eat on all week.

I'm excited because next week I get a break from teaching (but not a break from grading) and then it's pretty much home free. This has been one heck of a semester and I won't be sad to see it go.

Alabama has two home games left and unless everything completely falls apart (knock on wood) we are sitting REAL pretty right now, so that's a positive thing.

Wish me luck on my run tomorrow!

Y'all have a great week/weekend!