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!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Making Choices

Hey y'all. Americans made choices yesterday but in order to stay in my food wheelhouse and keep positive, I won't be talking about those choices here. At least for my post today, I'm going to distract myself from the things happening in the nation and talk about food...which is really one of the only things I know how to do. After not weighing for a couple weeks I really didn't see much change on the scale this morning. I don't know the exact number because I totally forgot to weigh when I woke up and got completely dressed. Seeing as how I'm usually in my birthday suit when I step on the scale, I figure my clothes added about a pound or maybe less which means I've seen no change. I'm grateful for that. This week, I'm going to practice trusting myself, going easy on myself mentally and not worrying so much. There are way more important things in life than my jiggly arms.

I may indulge too much on the weekends but I can say I've made some good choices the past couple weeks that tell me I know how to eat healthy, I just don't always choose to do so. Ian and I saw Dr. Strange in the theatre and I am someone who loves to have popcorn in a movie. He wanted popcorn too but wanted butter so what I did was order a large popcorn and then asked the cashier for an empty kid's popcorn bag. She obliged. I filled the kid's bag up with unbuttered popcorn and then Ian was free to drench it in buttery goodness as much as he wanted. This worked out great. It was a perfect portion and I still got to have popcorn. Between me and you, I also snuck in some leftover Halloween candy.

Last night, I didn't make all good choices but I threw together a steak dinner (with help from Ian because he gets grumpy when I don't give him credit) for election night. We weren't sure what would happen but it felt like a night we should have steak. I'm glad we did. It was delicious. I will say that I cut most of the fat off my giant steak which felt like a victory. The potatoes were easy and delicious. The last time I went shopping, I wanted a couple potatoes in case I wanted to bake them. It occurred to me that I could buy like 2 potatoes or pay $2 extra bucks and get a bajillion potatoes. I went with the huge bag because I'm always trying to get the most out of my money. The problem is, there's only two people in my house and one of them is fine with living on Taco Bell and artificial macaroni and cheese the rest of his life. So, getting through these potatoes will be a challenge. I decided to make baked fries. I didn't look at a recipe and they still turned out good which means I'm starting to get the skills my mother has when it comes to throwing meals together. I cut the potatoes into french fry shapes, added them to a glass bowl with some water and popped them in the microwave for about 5 minutes. You don't have to do this if you have a lot of time. I was starving and wanted to eat in the next century. Potatoes take forever to cook so I took a shortcut. When they were done in the microwave, I drained the water. I added about a teaspoon of olive oil. I didn't want to overdo it as I was TRYING to make them a decent option. I then added a couple tablespoons of light butter spread. Then I added garlic, salt, pepper and a little parmesan cheese (the kind in a green can. Ian loves it). Then I just baked them about 20 minutes. When they were cooked through, I broiled them for a few minutes to get more crispy. They probably could have been in there even longer. When they were finished, I added a bit of shaved parmesan to the top because I love that dang stuff. They made a nice compliment to the steak. They had a ton of flavor and they weren't deep fried. A little oil and parmesan goes a long way. Not necessarily healthy but not not healthy either.

Finally, I wanted to show you something that my mom told me about and that I highly recommend. When I first started Weight Watchers, I ate so many frozen "healthy" meals that I got sick of them. I haven't really even looked in that area of the freezer section in years. My mom told me that Lean Cuisine makes a Vermont White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese that I needed to try. We are a family of mac and cheese snobs so I trusted her opinion. I am so glad this exists. It's the best product they've put out in awhile. It's perfect for a weeknight. You don't have to make mac and cheese and you aren't tempted to eat the whole pan. It's one portion and it's not a dinky portion. It's delicious and a perfect side dish. I highly recommend it. 

Ian and I saw Ingrid Michaelson Monday and it was amazing. I love her. I also took a picture of a tire in my backyard that I used to think was an eyesore and now kind of like. Here's to loving life, each other and making good choices.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Cheeseburger in a Bowl

Each year I wait anxiously for Halloween, planning every detail of my costume and I look forward to being with friends and having a good time. This year was no different but Halloween happened to come on a Monday at the end of an insane weekend that was filled to the brim with wedding activities. I had fun on Halloween but it wasn't quite met with the same fervor as usual. I was tired and parts of my costume weren't thought out well enough. Ian, however was a huge hit. He was the white swan and I was the black swan (though my costume was mediocre). Either way, it's been a crazy, long several days and I was glad to stay in last night. My 5:30 alarm seemed just plain cruel this morning, especially since I was having trouble sleeping last night for some reason. I opted not to weigh this morning. I feel positive about the next few days because I'm actually looking forward to detoxing and getting my diet back to normal so I didn't want to ruin that vibe by getting on the scale. To be honest, I don't feel like I gained too much but sometimes, it's better not to let a number dictate your mood and or your actions. I've had a number on the scale totally make me spiral and when that happens, I make bad decisions. I will play it week by week but as for this morning, I looked at the scale and said, "Nah, no thanks."

Even though it's still hot in Alabama, I've determined that I'm going to will fall into existence by making "fall" foods. Monday night, before we went out, I made a Weight Watchers Cheeseburger Soup. It's something easy, tasty and filling. It's also nice because I was able to just toss it in a container and I brought it for lunch today. Most cheesy soups have a lot of fat and calories. With this recipe, they combine broth and a bit of flour with not as much cheese as you'd normally see in a cheesy soup and the flour helps thicken it up and make it creamy. That wasn't the best sentence structure but hopefully you see what I'm saying. So, sauté onions and garlic in a skillet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. When the veggies are soft, put them in a crock pot. Then, in the same skillet, add one pound of lean ground beef. Brown it completely. Drain excess fat. Dump it in the crockpot. In the skillet, combine 2 tablespoons of flour and half a cup of chicken broth. Get the lumps out as best you can then bring it to a simmer. Add that to a crockpot, then add 2-1/2 cups additional broth and a can of low fat evaporated milk (which also helps make it creamy) to the crockpot and finally, season the whole pot with salt, pepper and paprika. Stir it all up and let it sit on low for a couple hours (I took it out a little early and it was fine). It was cheesy and had nice flavor. I crank up the soup recipes in the fall so you may see some more.

In addition to the soup, I also brought a few snacks to the Halloween celebration. One of those snacks included homemade tortilla chips. I took Halloween cookie cutters that I got on sale from Michael's for about a quarter a piece. I bought large flour tortillas and cut out tiny bats, skulls and witch hats. I tossed the pieces in a couple tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder. I spread them out in one layer on a cookie sheet and baked them until they were crisp like chips. With tortilla chips, it's hard because they are good baked but they still need oil so I wouldn't exactly call it a healthy alternative but they were tasty and cute all the same.

Have a great week y'all!

Until next time...