Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Jingaling Y'all

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, y'all! I'm finally done with the most intense semester of my life. And other than doing some planning for next semester, I'm home free until January 11th. Next semester won't be nearly as insane but that will mean I have less money. It's what I believe they call a double edged sword. Also, I'm working out super hard, especially now that I have more time, but in terms of diet, I'm hanging on by a thread. I'm hovering around 5 pounds up from Thanksgiving still (Thanksgiving was great btw) and it's only going to get worse as I travel to Nashville and Chattanooga and then spend Christmas at home. I'm trying not to go crazy but there's always something holiday/calorie-related challenge thrown in my face. This is how it is every year but the problem is, the older I get, the harder it is to lose the holiday weight. But, I feel optimistic.

The last couple weeks of school were rigorous and I was tired of frozen meals so Ian whipped me up some ground beef/taco seasoning. I split it up and every day that week I brought it along with a spinach tortilla wrap and some leftover Moe's salsa to go with it. It was great and easy...especially since Ian made the meat.

Also, I had some frozen lemonade leftover from my vegan for a day experiment and used it to make a more calorie friendly margarita for myself and Cassandra. They were DELICIOUS! I put the frozen lemonade in the blender, added tequila and a little bit of skinny margarita mix. It was pretty much a stroke of genius on my part.

I've experimented with Blue Apron before but then a friend sent me a free week of Hello Fresh. It's essentially the same as Blue Apron but for Ian, I think the options are slightly better for a picky eater on Hello Fresh. First, we had a yummy chicken pesto pasta. They sent enough chicken and extras to have a chicken salad sandwich the next day. The next meal was a giant, delicious, juicy cheesy burger. The last dish was a simple but tasty chicken and rice dish. Ian really likes cooking these because they make him feel fancy. Plus, all the groceries are right there for us. For me, it's a bit pricy so we won't get them all the time, but it's nice occasionally.

For a quick breakfast, I tried the frozen Special K Quiche that had quinoa, cheese and mushroom. I put it on top of toast and to be honest, for a frozen meal, it wasn't too shabby. It was filling and mostly enjoyable.

My mom cooks dinner every Sunday and so I got an urge to cook for my family and give my mom a break last Sunday. I wanted to bake a crap ton of Christmas cookies and four hours later on a Saturday night there were one million cookies in my house. On Sunday night, I wanted to get fancy so I make a standing prime rib roast, havarti and spinach mac & cheese and yorkshire pudding. I am always getting pictures of the process but sometimes I get excited and forget to take a picture of the completed meal. The prime rib was SOO good. I was scared to make it because it's an expensive piece of meat...but I played it low and slow...and it turned out fantastic. The rest of the meal was great too. Lots of food and fun and family right now.  I'm in the "bowl full of jelly" portion of the Santa story right now.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!

Roll Tide!

See you all in January!


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Vegan For A Day!

Hey y'all! It's been another busy month and tomorrow is Thanksgiving! I am immensely blessed and so thankful for everything that I have...even when I complain. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday with the people you love!

Since I last posted, I've celebrated Halloween and been to a conference in New York. For Halloween, Ian and I made a last minute change. He went as Princess Leia and I went as Hans Solo...not exactly my cutest look but we had fun.

A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege of heading to Long Island, New York for the inaugural Sag Harbor Creative Nonfiction Writers Conference. It was there that I met a group of people from all different walks of life, all expressing their past and present on the page in different ways. To be honest, the criticism and praise I received in workshop was both helpful, confusing, terrifying and wonderful. Long Island is a beautiful area and I hope to get back there one day. By far, the most rewarding experience was getting to know the other writers at the conference. Everyone was so warm and supportive. I am so glad that I went.

Ever since I watched the documentary What the Health about the meat industry, I wanted to see what a day in the life of a vegan would look like. To give myself a warmup, I had a vegetarian lunch this week. I used a can of fire roasted tomatoes, garlic, onion, Greek Yogurt cream cheese, a little olive oil and jarred pesto. I threw it all in the blender and heated the mixture on the stove for a creamy tomato soup. I served that with a grilled cheese sandwich. The next day I had it for breakfast with eggs on top. I had no problems with not having meat in this meal because it was delicious. I also had cheese, which is my deepest addiction. This was a small preview for yesterday, when I went completely without meat and cheese.

For breakfast, I had biscuits and jelly. For the jelly, you have to find one that doesn't have gelatin. It needs to have fruit pectin instead. The biscuits are made just like normal biscuits but instead of butter, you use butter flavored Crisco and instead of milk, you use almond milk. I discovered that my taste for jelly is limited to the fake stuff you get in tiny packets, but the breakfast was delicious. The biscuits were fluffy and delicious. I didn't feel like I was lacking anything.

At lunch, I whipped up some mixed vegetables. I will say that being vegan for a day required much more preparation than I'm used to. Luckily, it's fall break so I had time to make homemade biscuits for breakfast and sautéed vegetables for lunch. If this were a long term diet, I'd have to figure out some grab and go lunches or do some food prep. I used a vegan approved wrap (Mission brand, spinach flavor) and topped it with hummus, lettuce, olives, cucumbers and the sautéed vegetables which included mushrooms, zucchini and onions. On the side, I had some Fritos. Yes! They are vegan. The lunch was filling for sure and pretty tasty. Looking back, I would probably add additional flavor. I seasoned the vegetables with salt, pepper, garlic, chili powder and smoked paprika but the entire time I kept thinking I wish the wrap had barbecue sauce or some kind of marinade. This was also the first moment I started to crave cheese. I mean, the veggie wrap was good but a good sprinkle of feta or parmesan would have been clutch.

For a snack, I had a few Oreos. I was happy, surprised and a little freaked out to discover that Oreos were vegan.

Dinner was an Asian pasta dish. Finding vegan pasta took several minutes. Since I'm not a pro, I looked at a lot of different brands to make sure it didn't have eggs/didn't come from a place with eggs. I finally found a good brand of thin spaghetti noodles, so I guess I'd eventually find a few "go to" brands. For this dish, I used tofu. I've had tofu several times in my life, but I think I've only cooked with it once and that was years ago. I had Ian prep the tofu for me because I was at the gym. That was probably a mistake because the process grossed him out. Essentially, you have to drain all the water off the tofu. I bought extra firm. Ian added several paper towels to a plate, placed the tofu on top, added more paper towels and then topped with a cast iron skillet. Then, he left it for about an hour and it worked like a charm! We sautéed the tofu with onions, seasoning, sesame oil and soy sauce. We also boiled the pasta (obviously) and mixed together a sauce to toss it all with. The sauce had peanut butter, soy sauce, red chili sauce and sesame oil. My first taste of the sauce about blew my head off with spice. So, we added more peanut butter and soy sauce to try and simmer it down. It helped a bit with the spice, but ended up making the pasta a bit gummy because of the added peanut butter. We tossed it all together and then topped with green onion and chopped peanuts. So, Ian HATED the tofu. He tried so hard to eat it. If I cook it again, I'll toast it instead because it was still a bit soft, but I actually didn't mind it. The pasta itself was really yummy but still a bit too spicy for my taste. I love Asian flavors that include spicy and peanut but I added a bit too much chili sauce. When Ian finally gave up on his vegan pasta, he went in the kitchen and heated a frozen cheeseburger and some macaroni and cheese. When he started eating it, my mouth flooded with water. I wanted to rip his face off for eating that in front of me. It was actually eye opening to realize how addicted I am to meat and cheese...specifically cheese.

My last snack was dessert and it was frozen lemonade. That I will eat again, especially since I bought a whole box of them, but it was yummy! I had the strawberry flavor. It was low in calories and pretty tasty.

I think that I want to be more conscious about eating meat. I don't know that I'm ready to make any kind of drastic change, but my dependence on meat and cheese is not good. Cheese would be more difficult to give up than meat I think. I'm so obsessed with it. It's a problem. I will say that I ate too much on vegan day. I was making sure that I didn't feel deprived so I ate a few junk items I normally wouldn't like Fritos and Oreos. My weight is about the same so I know I'll gain this week because of Thanksgiving and I plan to detox next week. I hope y'all have a great break!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Noodles, Zoodles and Oodles of Other Stuff

Hey y'all! Long time no speak! I have been running around like a mad woman since August. To be honest, when I started collecting pictures to include this post since the last time I posted, I couldn't quite believe what all I've eaten and where all I've been in the past month (football games and Kings of Leon concert pictured). I've been to concerts and football games and I've been having a great time. Time is flying by. I normally don't like to wish time away (at least not out loud), but this has been the busiest semester I've ever had and I'm most definitely counting down the days until winter break. Having said, that I'm excited about all the football, travel and food that will happen before I get to that point. Next week is Halloween and even though I will have class at 8AM the next day, I'm still looking forward to it. The highlight for next week, though, is my trip to Long Island, NY! I am headed to the Sag Harbor Creative Nonfiction Writer's Conference. I'm terrified but super stoked to be headed northeast to get some writing time in. With school being so busy, I've barely had time to think. I work on my book weekly but I haven't been giving it enough attention. As soon as I leave for the airport Thursday morning, I'm hanging up my teaching costume and donning my writerly attire. I have no issues with traveling alone, but I am a bit nervous about going from LaGuardia to Long Island. I've gotten some great advice but traveling in NY can be confusing. I'm sure I'll figure it all out.

Before there is Long Island next week, there was Maryland a couple weeks ago. The University of Alabama sent me to Baltimore to learn about using technology in the classroom. I learned a good deal and I'm glad I got to go. It was a bit weird exploring a city alone but I felt I got a good sense of who Baltimore is... I went to Fort McHenry, peeked at an awesome, massive library, played at a fun park and visited Edgar Allen Poe's grave. Also, I ate. I enjoyed lots of great food and drinks. I ate macarons and an avocado BLT that were both tasty. I think the two most notable meals I had were the pit beef sandwich and the crab cake. Maryland is known for both. Pit beef is sweet and hearty and it didn't disappoint. What I was most enthralled by was the crab cake. I have tried crab cakes several times and I've never once liked them. They always have too much bread and the ones I've had tasted like sage...and I'm NOT a fan of sage. Well, I was told that I couldn't swing one way or another on crab cakes until I had one from Maryland and y'all, I've changed my ways. It was huge, with fresh crab meat. There was little to no filler and it was simply delicious! If you are a crab cake skeptic, let Maryland change your mind.

In terms of food around town, I have had my ups and downs as usual. I still exercise every day and because of my schedule, I'm walking around campus a lot and standing up to teach every day so I'm burning the heck out of some calories. I think that's helped. Because I have a forever sweet tooth, I'm always craving sugar. I tried out this "Cake For One" situation pictured above. It heats up in the microwave. It's not low calorie but the portion is smaller than a piece of cake I'd typically have and it was a perfect way to curb my craving. I found it tasty and easy and didn't have to worry about leftover cake haunting me. Also, because it's Halloween, I always find my way to a caramel apple. This time, I got a giant one from Kentuck Festival in Northport. I cut it into slices and savored each piece. So. Good. If you're not into apples, but you're looking for brunch in Tuscaloosa, head to Avenue Pub. I got the pork chop and it came on top a bed of potatoes, had a fried egg on top and was covered in conecuh sausage gravy. It was divine! Finally, today was the first day I tried AJ McArron's sushi restaurant AJIAN. He's a former quarterback and it became apparent today that he knows Tuscaloosa folks tend to want their sushi to taste more like food from the Hibachi grill and less like raw fish. I will eat "real" sushi, but, if I'm being honest, I prefer what I had today from their "Build Your Own Roll" menu. Mine had steak, fried shrimp, soy paper, brown rice, green onion, cream cheese and avocado. It was topped with crunchy tempura, sesames seeds, spicy may and Sriracha. It was sooooo yummy. I highly recommend.

As far as cooking goes, I haven't done much of it. I simply have not had time. I'm still relying mostly on Ian's culinary skills to get me through. (FYI, the picture of flowers above came from him. I just wanted to brag.) One thing he did make last week was a Little Big Meal from Fresh Market. Y'all, for $20, we got a pound of pasta, sauce, cheese, salad and four GIGANTIC chicken breasts. It really is their best deal. I tell you about this because I discovered that at places like Target and Fresh Market, you can now pay an exorbitant amount for zoodles so you don't have to waste your precious energy making your own. It's a first world luxury but that night, I wasn't mad at it. I like to eat about half zoodles and then mix in some regular past with it to play a fun mental game with myself where I trick myself into believing that zucchini and pasta are the same. Anyway, y'all know I'm a proud supported of the Little Big Meal.

I wanted to share with y'all that my mom and I have been participating in a self defense class for women the past month. Now, I'm not one to judge folks for having guns but they aren't my bag. There are definitely pro-gun murmurings in the class because they discuss them the first day and have an optional range day to round out the class, so if you can't even talk about guns, much less shoot one, either prepare to take their discussion on guns as a grain of salt or choose not to do it all together. Having said that, I highly recommend taking the class in T-Town (let me know if you're interested, I'll pass along the info) or taking it anywhere you can. They teach you practical skills to escape a potential predator. The class has made both my Mom and me feel more confident in case something happens. I think overall it has been an empowering and enjoyable experience.

When it comes to exercise, as I mentioned, I'm still going strong. I go to 9 Round 4 or 5 times a week and last week, they did a fundraiser for breast cancer. Why they always want me to take pictures AFTER a workout, I'm not sure, but that's OK. Also, I was going to tell you about my bunion woes. I'm so embarrassed to talk about this and I'm not sure why. Bunion is just the ugliest word. I have had bunions on both feet for years. I assume it comes from a combo of my fluctuation in weight, flat feet and years of wearing really tall shoes. Now, I suffer for it on a daily basis. The bunion on my right foot doesn't just hurt sometimes, it hurts ALL the time now. Even when I'm asleep in bed, it will throb in pain. Ibuprofen helps a bit but the over the counter bunion wrap thing I tried didn't work. Apparently, unless you have a very painful surgery, there's not much that can be done about it. So, basically, I just wanted to complain.