Monday, May 31, 2010

The Veggie Decision, Weight Loss and Jillian DVDs!

So, now that I'm caught up to about mid-May...I'll catch you up the rest of the way. For the two weeks following Mother's day...I went on a salad diet. I had been eating too much lately and not enough veggies. Plus, I wanted to "jump-start" our weight loss again since I'd been plateauing. So, for two weeks straight, I had nothing but salad for dinner. I mixed up the protein source: using chicken, fish, turkey and tofu or beans.

It was actually refreshing and enjoyable. And it did help me get back in the losing column. :)

Somewhere along there, I wondered why I wasn't a vegetarin. I've always had a problem eating animals due to the treatment they get during mass production. If this was the 50s where meat was a rarity for most families and therefore the very questionable manufacturing techniques weren't needed, this would be a different story. But sadly, it's not. And the more and more I learned and thought about it, the more and more I realized that I already felt that way...and that I was just avoiding it and ignoring my feelings.

Then, I tackled the next problem everyone has with vegetarian diets: lack of nutrition. Well, the more research I did, the more I learned it's not really a problem. It calls for planning and I'm well aware of that. But I already plan weeks in advance so that won't change. I don't think I'll become protein deficient since I love beans and soy products. 

The only thing left was how expensive it was going to become. As a couponer, I know that the sales tend to revolve around meat or things that are made with meat. But, after a couple weeks of shopping, I've realized that it's difficult but not impossible. Everything about being a vegetarian just requires being creative with meals and doing a lot of planning. I do not think I'll have a problem with either of those ;) 

It seems once you make that decision, it's hard to eat meat. I always found it cliche, but now I understand. It feels wrong since you already made the decision and once you let those images and facts in, it's hard to block them out. So it's been difficult for me to eat the meat left in the freezer. But I do understand that I already bought it, and it would just be a waste to throw it all away. I'm not buying any new meat or anything new that isn't vegetarian friendly. In limbo right now but I'm gettin there!

As if the coupon Gods heard my complaints about becoming vegetarian, Publix had Morningstar Farms entrees on BOGO this week. I'm OBSESSED with everything made by Morningstar Farms. They're meat free entrees that are easily made into meals and they always taste great...I ate these long before deciding to go veggie and I never even missed the meat. So...I went crazy when I saw they were half price. I then headed to Ebay to look for coupons. For a mere $3.75, I had $40 worth of Morningstar coupons heading my way. We were able to get 40 boxes for $35!! I was ecstatic. Without coupons and without a sale, this would have easily been $160

Needless to say, my freezer is completely full! And I'll have quite a bit of goodness to start off our vegetarian eating with :) PLUS, while I was rearranging the freezer to fit it all, I found a box of Deep Chocolate Vitatops hidden in there! I thought I ran out 3 months ago!! WAHOO! It's like finding treasure :)

It's been a while since I've talked about my weight loss on here. Since this blog was actually started as an effort to document my food choices and therefore keep me accountable, I find it weird that I barely talk about it. So I guess it's time to show off what I've done ;)

Starting weight (Aug 2008): 180 lbs.
Current weight (May 2010): 146 lbs. 
Goal weight: 135 lbs.

As you can see, it's been a looong time. This is because I don't really believe in "dieting" as much as I believe in lifestyle changes. While I eat less calories per day than I would if I were maintaining my weight, it's not a drastic 1000 calories per day. I let myself indulge and have dessert but make healthy choices 90% of the time. I exercise 5 days a week but don't fill it with cardio "blasts" with only the purpose of losing weight. I focus on weak areas or areas that need to be toned, or on overall goals. I run to get faster, to build my endurance back to what it used to be, not to lose weight. Ultimately, my final goal is to lose weight, but I'm not going to make myself miserable for 5 months to get there faster. These changes are things that I can keep up with forever, like portion control, more veggies, smarter snacks and creative ways to get my dessert cravings satisfied. So, while I'm sure it's nice to drop the pounds quick, I enjoy doing it my way. My way includes leniency for slip-ups and sometimes even month-long slumps.

Even still, it's nice to see when the hard work pays off. Like this weekend for example, when I went dress shopping for my sister's wedding. I've been wearing 8's and was already super excited to be back in single digits with that. But I decided to get crazy and try on a dress that was only available in a 6. And it zipped. Without a problem. I then proceeded to do a little dance in the dressing room and try to walk out and show everyone without acting like a four year old. If this sounds like bragging, that's because it is. And I deserve a little bragging. Since the trigger for me to change was in American Eagle when I had to buy a size 14 jeans (the highest size they have), getting down to a 6 is an amazing achievement for me. And the fact that on Sunday, when I went shopping, I was able to buy a pair of size 6 shorts as well, just made my weekend. Bragging over. :D

In case you were wondering, this is the dress I chose.

Ignore the face...I don't even know how that happened. And the terrible posture. And the color...and the size was one too big as well. hahaha I promise, I tried on the right size and I've seen the color so I know that it was the right choice. This one is actually for a different wedding, but it's the same color...

So use your creative powers to meld them together :) haha

Turning vegetarian had me thinking of easy, cheap and healthy lunches for me. They have to be portable and able to be heated in a microwave or a toaster oven but not take ages. First thing that came to mind: Amy's burritos. But those suckers are like $3 each! So... I made my own frozen burritos! Yup! Because I'm cool like that. (This would be a great after-school snack for any moms reading...)

Stephanie's Vegetarian Bean and Cheese Frozen Burritos
Makes 12 Burritos
  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained (but not rinsed!)
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) vegetarian refried beans
  • 1 can (10 oz) Ro*Tel tomatoes, partially drained
  • 1 Tb. taco seasoning (I used my own homemade - chili powder, cumin, cayenne, garlic powder and onion powder)
  • 1/3 cup (+/-) 2% milk cheese, cheddar or mexican blend
  • 12 fajita size flour tortillas

After draining the black beans, mash them up a bit. You don't want the beans completely mashed, just about half mashed and half "broken" to add some texture. 

Mix with the can of refried beans.

Add the tomatoes and seasoning.

Warm tortillas up according to package directions so they'll be more pliable and easier to fold.

Place about 1/4 cup mixture in the tortilla and top with about 1-2 Tb. cheese. Fold up into a burrito. Or, if you're like me and completely terrible at this step, ask your husband with puppy dog eyes and he'll do it for you. ;)

Place the burritos, seam down on a large cookie sheet. Freeze for at least an hour (I put mine in the deep freeze for 30 minutes). Wrap each burrito individually in saran wrap or place in individual baggies...and put all the individually wrapped burritos in a gallon freezer bag and keep in the freezer. 

To reheat you can use the microwave but it'll probably come out a little soggy. I take out a burrito each morning and by lunch it's pretty much thawed. Then 10 minutes in a toaster oven set to 350 and it's toasted on the outside, warm on the inside. YUM!

And now, as promised ages ago, I'll go ahead and give you my opinion on the two Jillian Michael's DVDs I've tried. Hopefully someone will be interested :) haha

I first tried Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism.

This DVD contains a 55 minute workout split up into 7 circuits, a warm up and a cool down. 

Completing this DVD start to finish is HARD. The first time you do it, I would not recommend doing more than 2 circuits. I am very thankful I was able to listen to my body and do this. Each time I did it after that first time, I added a circuit until that fabulous day when I was able to do all 7 circuits. Now, this may vary from person to person but I calculated via my heart rates during the workout, height (5'5") and weight (then 157 lbs) and doing the whole workout burns 582 calories. I'll agree any day that this workout is hard but it feels good and burns almost 600 calories, you can't beat that! Plus, it's easy to see how you get stronger. Even when I first did all 7 circuits, there were moves that I skipped. That I wasn't strong enough to do or I just found to difficult. I slowly added these moves in which helped me realize how far I had come. Jillian is a great trainer who always says the right things to keep you moving. However, the more I did the DVD, I knew what she was going to say and it didn't have the same effect on me.

I started doing this DVD in February and did 2-3 a week until May. I lost 9 pounds during this time. The cover says "Lose up to 5 pounds a week!" I'm sure this is possible if done everyday but I did not have the time to spend 55 minutes on exercise each day. I also felt like this was a strength training/cardio combo and my muscles needed a break from the intensity some days. 

I would recommended this DVD to anyone looking to jump start weight loss or slim down. I feel like I didn't loose a ton of poundage at first but I definitely could see a difference in my silhouette. Jeans felt looser, my arms got so much stronger and I looked leaner, even before the scale started moving. I still use this DVD when I need a heavy workout day, following a big meal or a couple days off, etc. 

Just recently, I started using Yoga Meltdown. I have done this DVD three times. It contains two 35-minute workouts, level 1 and level 2. The first time I did it, I didn't really feel like I burned anything. I was so busy trying to watch her and pick up the moves. I have done yoga before but just with the programs on Fit TV so I still consider myself a beginner. I am able to follow the beginner's version of most of the moves and on some, I able to do the advanced. I like how it gives the two versions so you have the ability to find the middle as well. 

After that first time, since I know what the moves are, I can definitely feel a burn and this last time when I could easily follow without looking up, I even got pretty sweaty. I was able to focus on completely moves and my muscles instead of wondering whether or not I was doing it right. Jillian's hard-ass techniques weren't as strong in this one. She is encouraging, which is a nice change. :) The workout is a collection of power poses. Each poses is repeated with motion to burn calories and then held for 15 seconds to build strength. 

I really like this DVD. I feel that I get a good workout and it's nice to change it up and get those muscles confused so they keep getting stronger. As for whether or not you can "Lose up to 5 pounds a week!"...I'm not so sure about that. It's a challenging workout but I didn't feel like I burned enough to lose that much. However, I feel like this DVD has helped me build more muscles and muscle burns more calories than fat so I do not discount it as a way to lose weight.

The consensus: I liked them both. If you're trying to lose weight and fast, BFBM would be the most helpful if done several times a week. I would still give at least 2 rest days a week since it does a lot of muscle work. The yoga is a challenging workout that I feel like I will be able to stick with longer since I can increase the difficulty of each move and then move onto level 2 and do it all over again. 

Right now, I'm going to continue doing the Yoga DVD while I work on my running endurance. I'm following a Couch to 5k plan in order to get back to "high school shape." I was on the cross country team and used to run for half an hour, sometimes an hour, each day and would love to get back to that. I'm hoping to be able to do a 5k in the fall when they start popping up everywhere :)

Catching Up!

I need to get better at blogging. For real. Each time I get a chance, I feel like it takes me 5 hours to write a post since I have so much to write. Since I used up all my desserts for the last post, I'll highlight some of the dinners made lately. And by lately, I mean 2 months ago. ;)

The reviews of this dish were kind of blah. Which made me very nervous to try it. However, I'm really glad I did. This dish was super yummy and all it needed was some chili powder. I wish the other reviews would have known their way around a spice cabinet so they could taste this yummyness.

Cilantro Beef and Orzo
from Eat Better America
serves 3 for dinner, 6 as a side

  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 9 oz orzo pasta
  • 1 can (11 oz) corn (I used 1/2 cup frozen)
  • 1 can (4.5 oz) chopped green chiles, undrained
  • 2 tsp. oil (olive, canola, soybean...)
  • 1/2 lb. lean ground beef (it says stir fry beef but I just used ground beef...)
  • 1 large bell pepper (used 3/4 cup frozen bell pepper and onion mix)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a 2-qt saucepan, mix broth, pasta, corn and chiles. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. 

Cover, simmer about 10 minutes or until pasta is just tender. Remove from heat. Let stand about 5 minutes or until almost all liquid is absorbed. (This didn't happen for me...the pasta was done and there was quite a bit of  liquid I just drained it a bit to get that sticky consistency).

Meanwhile, spray 10-inch skillet with cooking spray. Add oil; heat over medium-high heat. Add beef and bell pepper (I added onion too); cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is brown.

I'm I chop my cilantro with a food processor ;)

Stir beef mixture into pasta mixture. Stir in cilantro.

It tasted like it needed some oomph. So I garnished each with more cilantro and about a tablespoon of chili powder. Perfect. Yumm! I was impressed by this simple, healthy and easy meal.

When I was a kid, my mom had this cookbook for me. It had many recipes for "kids." The language was simple enough for me to understand when I was younger and the recipes were very simple. One of my favorites, to this day, is Oatmeal Pancakes! So I asked my mom and she emailed me the recipe...after changing some of the ingredients for a more filling, grown-up, and healthy pancakes...I made them for dinner. And I think I made something great...even better!

Oatmeal Pancakes
modified from kids cookbook Mom has
makes 12 pancakes
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1 cup buttermilk (1 Tb. white vinegar + enough milk to equal one cup)
  • 1 Tb. brown sugar
  • 2 Tb. butter, melted
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
Soak oats in 3/4 cup buttermilk for 5 minutes. Mix dry ingredients together (flour, baking powder, soda, salt and cinnamon). Whisk brown sugar, butter and egg lightly in a separate bowl until just combined. Add soaked oats, 1/4 cup leftover milk and dry ingredients to the bowl and mix together until combined.  

Grease a heated griddle or spray with cooking spray. Pour about 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. Cook until pancakes are puffed and dry around the edges. Flip and cook until the other side is golden brown. Top with syrup.

These pancakes are the best ever! Seriously, they're fabulous. They're higher in calories than normal pancakes due to the oats...but they're FILLING. I have 3 for dinner and I'm good all night. They freeze well, too. You can freeze extras and pop them in the toaster later for a quick breakfast!

I have become the weirdo who like tofu. Even before I decided to become vegetarian (more on that later), I loved tofu. So I wanted to try to make tofu parmigiana. I looked at some recipes online, but didn't like them so...I made my own. It wasn't that hard, trust me. It's just all about the process.

Tofu Parmigiana
from my brain :) 
Serves 2-4 (depending on how hungry they are!)
  • 1/2 package firm or extra-firm tofu, sliced in 1/4-in thick slices, pressed and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs, whole wheat if you can find them
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tb. Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 jar spaghetti sauce, or your own recipe (this is my own sauce)
  • 1/4 cup mozzarella
Slice the tofu into 1/4-in thick slices. Half a block should make 4 slices. Be make sure to press and dry the tofu slices. (How to press tofu slices: Place several paper towels beneath the tofu and on top of the tofu. Put a cookbook, skillet or other heavy, flat surface on top and press gently on the tofu until tofu is dry.)

In assembly line fashion, place the flour in a shallow dish, followed by the lightly beaten egg in a different shallow dish, and a third shallow dish with the bread crumbs, Parmesan and Italian seasoning.  In the bottom of a small casserole dish, spread enough sauce to cover the bottom. One at a time, cover the tofu in flour and pat off excess. Next, dip the tofu slices in the egg and then in the bread crumbs. Be sure to cover completely with bread crumbs.

Heat 2 tsp olive oil in a skillet. Place breaded tofu slices in the skillet and cook until browned. Flip and brown the other side. 

Arrange tofu slices in the casserole dish. Top with sauce and cheese. Bake at 375° F for 20 minutes. Serve each slice over 1 oz whole wheat angel hair pasta. 

YUMMM. Seriously. Anything drenched in my fabulous spaghetti sauce would be divine but even still, this was delicious.

I have one more recipe for this post and it's another creation from my brain. For mother's day, my dad did a Mexican-themed meal. I asked if I could bring dessert since that's my specialty ;) but he had that covered...fried ice cream, anyone?? (It was absolutely amazing, in case you wondering...) So he asked for a side dish...something like Bush's Black Bean Fiesta. So I looked up what that was and tried to find recipes like it. But I came up with nothing. So, I looked at the ingredients. Black beans, corn and bell peppers in a spicy-sweet chipotle sauce. I can handle that. :)

Honey-Chipotle Black Beans
from my brain
serves...a ton! seriously, I didn't realize how much 1 lb. of black beans makes!

  • 1 lb. black beans, soaked overnight, then simmered until tender
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1-2 cups chicken broth (as needed)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 6 oz can water
  • 2 chipotle chiles, from can in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 Tb. brown sugar

Preheat oven to 325 F.

To make the sauce, add the oil to the pan and sauté the onion until soft. Add the garlic; cook for 2 minutes. 

Add the remaining sauce ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the sauce is thickened. 

Place the sauce in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. 

Sauté diced pepper about 2 minutes.

Place the beans in a large bowl, stir in sauce, pepper and corn. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. 

Transfer the mixture to a casserole or baking dish and pour 1 cup of the stock over. (I was so excited to use my new casserole dish I got from my MIL for my birthday!)

Bake the beans, covered, for 20 minutes. Check to see if the mixture is dry and add more stock, if needed. Continue baking an additional 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 minutes, remove from the oven, and fold in the cilantro, if using. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving; it sets up nicely.

I would use 1/2 cup broth the first 20 minutes and then add another 1/2 for the next 20 minutes next time. I think it would've done better. I forgot to use the cilantro since I had to take it somewhere and didn't serve immediately. I bet that would've added to the flavor even more. 

Overall, I was impressed with myself. They tasted good. Nothing to swoon over but they tasted like I wanted them to taste so I considered it a success. :)

Well, hopefully I'll be writing again today with the rest of the stuff I promised: an update on us people, instead of the food. Plus those reviews of those Jillian DVDs I promised ages ago! lol Oh, and in case you were wondering if my cat can get any weirder....he can:

Yup, that's the trash.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Easy Peasy Desserts

Butterscotch Blondies (or Chocolate Chip Blondies)
from Cooking Light "Butterscotch Bars", January 2000, as told on Me, Myself and Pie

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter or stick margarine, softened
2 large egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
cooking spray
1/2 cup butterscotch morsels (or chocolate)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Beat sugars and butter at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended (about 4 minutes).

Add egg whites and vanilla; beat well. Lightly spoon the flour into measuring cups and level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder and salt and stir well with a whisk.

Add flour mixture to sugar mixture; beat at a low speed until just blended.

Spread evenly into a 8x8 square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with morsels.

Bake for 28 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

YUMMMM. I drizzled mine with caramel because I'm a sugar junkie. I still think butterscotch would have been better and plan on trying them again when I get some butterscotch morsels. And maybe some ice cream :)

Cinnamon Mocha-Fudge Bars

1 tsp instant coffee granules*
2 Tb. hot water
1 pouch Betty Crocker double chocolate chip cookie mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg

1 tsp instant coffee granules*
2 Tb. hot water
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tb. baking cocoa
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 tsp vanilla
(This reflects half of the frosting used on BC, I ran out of powdered sugar and could only do half but I'm glad. I wouldn't have wanted more frosting.)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, dissolve 1 tsp instant coffee granules in 2 Tb. hot water. *I didn't have instant coffee granules. I just used our regular mocha flavored ground coffee and loved it!

Add remaining bar ingredients and stir until a soft dough forms. Spread in pan.

Bake 15 minutes. Cool completely, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, dissolve 1 tsp instant coffee in 2 Tb. hot water. Add remaining frosting ingredients, stir until smooth. (Such an EASY icing!!)

Spread over bars. Refrigerate 30 minutes, or until set.

Cut into bars and enjoy!

Yummm! These were soo addictive! And not just because of the coffee ;) I loove the speckled look that my dissoluble coffee gave these bars. Betty Crocker does denote that these can be made without coffee; just be sure to use the hot water still.

While all of these desserts were more than delicious, I saved the best for last.

Chocolate Mint Bars
adapted from Me, Myself and Pie 

used Ghiradelli brownie mix (I fully intend on following the original recipe when I make these again soon because they look to die for as well!)

Mint Layer
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 Tb. fat-free milk (we use 1%)
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2 drops green food coloring

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 Tb. butter

Prepare brownies according to box directions or follow bottom layer directions on the original recipe. Cool completely on a wire rack.

To prepare mint layer, combine powdered sugar, melted butter and next 3 ingredients (through food coloring) in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer until smooth.

Spread mint mixture over cooled brownies.

To prepare the glaze, combine the chocolate chips and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir and return to the microwave for an additional 30 seconds. On a side note, can you tell that I'm obsessed with Ghiradelli? :) They are fabulous. I think quality chocolate is important in making good desserts. Plus, when I was at the store last, Ghiradelli chocolate chips were $0.04 more than Nestle. Seriously? I'll hand over a nickel for the best chocolate chips ever.

Stir and let stand 2 minutes.

Spread chocolate mixture evenly over top. I swirled the layers a bit because I already got some mint and chocolate mixed up so it looked better, as if it was on purpose ;) Cover and refrigerate until set. This was the cruel part. I had to go to bed without even trying one. LAME. But the next morning....

In my chocolate-mint obsessed brain, these had the perfect proportions. Cut into bars and enjoy!

F.A.B.U.L.O.U.S. I'm not even exaggerating. I can't wait to make these again!

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