Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Back to School

Howdy y'all! It's almost September and life is about as hectic as it gets right now...until the paper grading starts. Since I have more students than ever and I'm working on finishing a book (and maybe starting another?), I think I'm going to start posting once a month. My goal is to begin utilizing Twitter (@mylifewoutranch), Facebook (mylifewithoutranch) and Instagram (mylifewithoutranch) much more so please, if you haven't already, find me there and follow. When I make an official post to the blog, I will give more thorough updates and (hopefully) have more food-related ideas. I am not married to this idea yet but I'm trying to learn how to prioritize so when I'm not managing around 130 students, I need to be working on the book. I am excited to say that the third draft is done. Now it's time to read through it and begin the revision process. If anyone would like to be a "reader," please let me know! I can't pay but I can tell you how awesome you are! I'm also heading to New York in November for a non-fiction writing conference and I'm terrified and thrilled all at the same time. Things are happening...I just have to keep going.

My family and I went to the beach for a quick trip last weekend and before I went, I was somehow down 1.4 pounds. I'm not complaining. To be honest, I've been very zen about my body the past few weeks. I haven't recoiled at my sight or beaten myself up nearly as much. I see this as a positive thing. The whole premise of the book is to love who you are in the moment. If I'm healthy (mentally and physically), the rest kind of falls in to place! Having said that, I have found that during the day I'm super busy and eat to sustain...when I get home...I'm a ravenous monster. To fix that, Ian and I went on a huge shopping trip yesterday so I'm not searching for something quick and unhealthy to eat after a long day. The beach was fun. Work is hectic but I love it...and here we go.

I've made a lot of toast in the day. Bread is a vessel and it is laden with a world of possibilities. Prior to the grocery trip I took last night, Ian and I had a bare pantry. I was being super creative with the remaining options. I had bread, cheese, pizza sauce and frozen pulled chicken. So, I made chicken parmesan toast. It is pretty simple. I put the bread under the broiler and while one side toasted, I heated the chicken, combined it with pizza sauce and grated parmesan. Then, I pulled out the bread, flipped it over and added the chicken mixture. I popped it under the broiler for two minutes, pulled it out, then added low fat mozzarella slices. I let it go a few more minutes under the broiler and then it was done! It wasn't pretty but it was quick, easy, tasty and fairly low in calories. I can be quite crafty when I need to be.

This semester I have an 8AM class. It pretty much sucks to have class that early. The students hate it and you and well, it's not my favorite time to have class. I'm always in a rush and I'm poor so I need to avoid fast food and have something I can heat up quickly. Last night, I made an assembly line of light English muffins, eggs, ham, and cheese and built quick breakfast sandwiches that I can freeze. Most people recommend baking the eggs in jumbo muffin tins. I only have regular sized muffin tins so the eggs turn out too clunky to go on the sandwiches. Instead, I had the idea to just bake them in a casserole dish. I scrambled all 12 eggs in a bowl, added a splash of water (you could use milk but I decided to skip the calories, and then sprinkled in some salt, pepper and garlic powder. I sprayed the bottom of a casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. I baked the egg on the bottom rack of the oven at 350 for 10 minutes. Then, I moved them to the top for 15 minutes. Once they were done, I let them cool while I got out the plastic wrap and started cutting the muffins. The most difficult part of this was most definitely the plastic wrap. I fight with that stuff on a regular basis. Once I got going (with Ian's help), the sandwiches assembled in just a few moments and then I had 12 sandwiches ready to go in the freezer! This morning, I defrosted it in the microwave for one minute, flipped it and then heated it at full power for a minute. It was pretty good! I was full and though I would obviously prefer an egg that wasn't THAT cooked, my idea worked pretty well. I think maybe next time I may add some veggies to the egg too. Now I have about a month of breakfasts to grab before my 8AM class. I am saving money and calories so I will most definitely do that again.

I hope you all have a great month!

ROLL TIDE!!! (It is football season after all!)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

I've got five minutes...

Hey y'all! Today is the first day of school at the University of Alabama which means, I'm sweating, couldn't find a parking space and have 300 emails. Summer is officially over, so I'm going to make this quick. I didn't weigh last week because I haven't exactly been a picture of perfection on the weekends. I plan on weighing Friday before a quick trip to the beach with my family. Once that's over, I am hoping routine and general hectic-ness will keep me on a more healthy path. The good news is, I'm not beating myself up mentally. I feel fine. I have a lot going on and as Popeye says, I am who I am. Cheers to the new school year!

The first recipe today was snagged from Pinterest. They are called Parmesan Potatoes and they are tasty and easy to make. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grab a bowl and combine grated parmesan (about half a cup), and roughly half a teaspoon of salt, pepper, smoked paprika and garlic powder. Take a baking dish and add around 2 tablespoons of olive oil, swirling it around until it coats the bottom. Then, sprinkle the cheese mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Line baby potatoes that you've cut in half to the bottom of the pan. This makes an awesome crust on the potato. The crust is most definitely the most exciting part so bake this dish around 40 minutes or until you can see the oil/cheese all bubbling and brown underneath the potatoes. I still added ketchup to these potatoes but they were a nice change up from the norm. I served them with grilled chicken and broccoli.

Since I'm a Food Network addict, I often see things I want to try when watching it. I was watching Guy's Grocery Games one day and one of the chefs said he was going to add a "5-Minute" egg to something. Essentially, it's a soft boiled egg. I'd never made one before so I decided to give it a shot and top a salad with it. The idea is to bring water to a boil, add your eggs, boil them for 5 minutes then remove them from the water and put them into a bowl of ice water. This KIND OF worked. The problem I had was removing the shell. Because the yolk was still runny, the egg kind of exploded on my hand when I tried to crack it. The result was still acceptable. I had most of my runny yolk left, added salt and pepper and it made a nice addition to my salad. I'll have to work on this one a little bit.

Have a great week!

Until next time!


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Zucchini Season

Howdy y'all! I'm typing this from a Nashville hotel room. I'll be leaving soon to head home but it's been an exhausting and fun couple of days. Ian and I drove from Tuscaloosa to Atlanta on Monday morning, helped load a moving truck for his mother and then drove to Nashville (where she will now be living) in one day. We got there right at dinner time on Monday, ate then slept and then moved her in to her new apartment yesterday. When we were done with all that, we got a chance to play in Nashville and had a blast. I am SO TIRED though. Yikes. I was worried about not getting enough exercise but the soreness in my butt, calves and arms tell me that I am going to be just fine on that front. We are stopping in North Alabama to see more of Ian's family on the way home and then I get to do nothing all night. I'm pretty excited about that. I have decided I probably won't weigh this week. Or, if I do, it will be with the full understanding that it's going to be...let's say...unfavorable. I managed to luck out and drop a couple pounds before this trip so nothing is too dire. I am going to the beach next weekend and then I am going to have an INSANELY busy semester with more students than I've ever had so I'm hoping the routine will be good for me. 

I feel lucky because I'm not someone that hates vegetables. But, to be honest, I find them pretty boring unless they have fat and carbs in or around them. Because of that, it makes it difficult for me to get excited about vegetables when I'm trying to eat healthy. I use them as something I put on the plate to take up space so I don't eat too much of something I'd rather be eating...if that makes sense. I eat a crap ton of broccoli and I'm SO OVER it. So, I thought I'd get a couple zucchinis and jazz them up a bit for a little excitement. The first recipe I made: Zucchini Boats. I've made something similar to this before. I don't like peppers but I like the idea of "stuffing" things so I enjoy stuffing both zucchinis and mushrooms. However, I don't love putting forth effort and because zucchini boats have more than two steps, I rarely make them. This day, I was feeling OK about having a lunch that took more than three minutes to make. I kicked on the oven to 350, cut the zucchinis in half, gutted them (to make a boat), seasoned them with salt, pepper, garlic powder and smoked paprika and threw them in the oven with some cooking spray so they could start softening. In a skillet, I browned some ground chicken and then added onion. I split the chicken into two bowls. In one, I mixed Sriracha, ranch (a TINY bit) and some string cheese for a "buffalo chicken" effect and in the other bowl, I combined pizza sauce, shaved parmesan and string cheese for a "pizza" effect. I stuffed the zucchini with those mixtures and put them back in the oven for about ten minutes. They came out perfectly. I really liked the spicy one. The Sriracha gave it a nice kick! These are awesome because they had almost zero fat and they were super filling. 

The other zucchini recipe I made was a combination of a recipe I saw on Pinterest and a couple ideas in my own head. I still had polenta left from another recipe so I heated it up in a skillet after I seasoned it with salt, pepper and garlic powder (which I do with everything including the ground chicken I mentioned above). In another skillet, I sautéed zucchini, onion, garlic, bacon (the pre-cooked kind that's 80 calories), and sun-dried tomatoes. Once everything was hot, softened and all brown, I placed the polenta on a plate and then added the zucchini mixture. To top it all off I added shaved parmesan and those little fake onion salad topper things you put on green bean casserole. I never think about getting those but I'm so glad I did. I've been putting them on everything for texture...including hot dogs (that idea came from the Kitchen). Anyway, the dish was so easy and DELICIOUS! I don't know why but there's something luxurious about a sun-dried tomato for me and I think they were my favorite part. Essentially, you can pile anything on polenta if you want. I recommend both of these dishes highly. If you don't like zucchini, you could choose pretty much any stuffable or sautée-able veggie. 

That's all I have! Y'all have a good week!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Birthday Wishes and French Fry Dreams

Hey y'all! I'd like to start the blog today by wishing my bestie/former common law wife Cassandra a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I know you're working right now but I still hope you have a great day! Things will be a little wonky in the next few days in terms of diet as I'll be traveling some and eating a couple rounds of Mexican food but I'll work to do as well as possible when possible and only indulge when it's really, really worth it. I've done well this week and when I weighed Saturday I was down almost half a pound. I'll take it! The Fall semester is looming, I have one more beach weekend at the end of August and then I'll have a rigorous teaching schedule that always helps keep me in line and less mopey about eating healthy. The students are baaaaackkkkk and I think I'm ready for them.

This week I wanted to show you a dinner that I made that substituted fried foods. Notice I didn't say they "replaced" fried foods...just a substitute. I made Trisha Yearwood's recipe for "Unfried Chicken" and a Pinterest find for curly fries with no oil. Both actually tasted great! I especially loved the chicken because even though it didn't taste better than fried, it was really crunchy so it had my approval. All you do is season chicken breasts, dip them in a mixture of non-fat buttermilk and sriracha sauce and then dredge them in a combination of Panko breadcrumbs, grated parmesan and whatever spices you want. I am always using salt, pepper, smoked paprika and garlic so that's what I added. Add the chicken breasts to a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil, parchment paper and non-stick cooking spray and bake at 400 for about 30 minutes. I left it in a bit longer to get it crunchier and more golden brown. To go with it, I made curly fries with no oil. I took my zoodle maker and stuck a potato in it. Now, if you've got the Kitchen-Aid attachment for zucchini noodles, I feel like this would be super simple. It was a huge pain in the rear end with the cheap plastic thing I have. I feel like Zeus himself couldn't have gotten more curly fries than I could have out of that potato. Once I had enough for two servings, I gave up. Other than the annoyance of getting the curly fry shape, it was a cinch. You just toss the potatoes in a bowl with salt, pepper, garlic powder, smoked get the idea. I stuck those in with the chicken at 400 and let them go just as long. I could have let them go a bit longer but even though they don't have oil, they actually do crisp up pretty well because they are so thin. I really enjoyed this meal. It had flavor and crunch and it was there was almost no fat in the entire thing. That's all I have today! Until next week!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

No Pain No Grain

Happy August y'all! School starts back in a few weeks and I'm totally ready! Jk. I'm going to be scrambling around last minute like always. I'm proud of what I've accomplished this summer but, of course, wish I'd done more. In terms of my life sentence of weight/body image issues, I used my own scale to weigh last week and it was quite different than the scale at Weight Watchers. It worked in my favor because it showed I was down around four pounds in the past couple weeks and I would bet money that's not true. Having said that, I'm totally going with it and I'll probably use my scale from now on. It's a mental battle as you know. I used all of my "extra" points over the weekend enjoying my 15 year high school reunion (oh, boy!) and the required amount of comfort food on Sunday. It's been a decent week but I'm a bit deflated in terms of motivation (surprise, surprise). Having said that, I have branched out a bit this week with the food I make at home and changing things up always makes me happy.

Ian and I have this routine where he grills a meat and then we throw together our own sides. He pretty much eats instant mashed potatoes and frozen mac and cheese every night and I usually have a bland vegetable with frozen hash browns or French fries. As convenient and "fine" this food is, I was going a little crazy eating the same thing over and over. This week I decided to make something different that Ian and I could both agree on to have with our grilled pork chops. Ian likes two vegetables other than the iceberg lettuce and onions he drenches in ranch to have a "salad." Those two vegetables are tomatoes and spinach. I am not a huge fan of tomatoes unless they are cooked to a pulp so I tried to find a recipe using spinach. Of course, Pinterest didn't disappoint. I made a spinach and brown rice recipe that was delicious and different from our norm. Just sauté some onions and garlic in a tiny bit of olive oil and then add 1-1/4 cups of brown rice. I found some garlic flavored Uncle Ben's that said it would be ready in about 10 minutes. Just follow the instructions on the bag for how long it should take. I let the rice toast in the oil, onion and garlic for a few seconds. Then, I added 2-1/2 cups of low sodium chicken broth, salt and pepper to the rice. I stirred it all together and brought it to a boil. I gave it one last stir and covered it for about 6 or 7 minutes. I stirred it again and then let it go about 2 or 3 more minutes. Y'all, for the first time EVER, I didn't burn the rice. Not one grain stuck to the pan. I think it was in part due to the olive oil I used for the onions and the fact that I used the copper chef skillet. Either way, it was monumental. Once the rice was all fluffy, I added a whole bag of fresh spinach that I roughly chopped. It looks like a lot but cooks WAY down. Once it was all incorporated, I added "1/4 cup" of shaved parmesan. Can I just go ahead and admit that I have a problem with shaved parmesan? Like, if there's a support group out there, let me know because I can't seem to quit eating it. Once the cheese was added, it was done. I added more shaved parmesan (obviously) and it was creamy and delicious! I usually refrain from eating pasta and rice because it's hard for me to wrap my head around the portion sizes so I saved up quite a bit of points to have a bit extra. It was yummy and something Ian and I could both eat so it was a win!

In order to change up breakfast a bit, I made polenta with poached eggs. I have eggs every morning. Usually I eat two "fried" eggs on top of low cal toast. I'm OK with that but saw the polenta in the store and thought I'd try it. I'm so happy that I did! If I've made polenta, I don't remember. All I did was spray a skillet with non-stick butter flavored spray and add two half inch slices of polenta that I seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder and smoked paprika. I cooked them about 3-4 minutes per side on low-medium heat. That serving of polenta was only 70 calories! Once the polenta was done, I topped each slice with poached eggs. This wasn't my best poached egg effort. I lost most of my whites but the yolks were still in tact and I was able to get the runny yolk I love. I topped it all with a tablespoon and a half of real bacon bits. Y'all, this was so rich and decadent and the whole thing was under 250 calories. I highly recommend it. I may try the polenta some other ways while I have it. I'll let you know.

That's all y'all!

Enjoy your week!