Better Choices, Better Results

Archive for February, 2012

My Evil Plan…..

Bwa –Ha-Ha-Ha!  My evil plan to make the world eat better is slowly gaining momentum!

I was talking to my cousin last night about the Salad in a Jar-thing that I do, and she said, “What?  You put lettuce in a jar and it lasts HOW long?  Every time I make a big salad, no one will eat it after the next day.” 

Then she ADMITTED that she doesn’t read my blog on a regular basis.

 Shame, shame, cousin-o-mine.

But it’s OK.  I forgive her.  And I’m more than willing to show her the magic.  Her husband loves salad, and doesn’t get to eat it as often as he would like because it just goes bad so quickly!

Here’s the secret, which I learned at this blog.  Cut, wash, spin-dry and store your lettuce in quart jars.  You must seal them with a vacuum sealer.   I use a Food-Saver with the jar attachment; I’ve heard that some of the smaller hand-held sealers will work, too.

The lettuce will stay fresh, crunchy and ready-to-eat for up to 14 days, depending on how fresh it was when it was placed in the jar.  I have had it last for 2-weeks, I’m not kidding. 

To make my salads even more convenient, I’ll spend 30 – 60 minutes one night cutting up carrots, peppers, onions, cucumbers, cauliflower, etc., to place into baggies.  I’ll measure out things like grapes, mandarin oranges, and beans into bag for toppings.  Cheeses, meats and dressings are also pre-measured and placed into single serving containers.

Every day that I want to have salad, all I have to do is go to my salad drawer and play mix-n-match.

Today, I had this:

 

Romain and Iceburg Lettuce, Carrots, Onions, Ham, Cheese, Grapes and Chickpeas! Delicious!

 

 

Go on!  Create your own Salad Drawer!

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Cajun Chicken Pasta

Doesn't this look wonderful?

I found this recipe on SkinnyTaste.com.  Gina is a master at turning not-so-healthy dishes into delicious meals that you’d never guess were actually good for you!  If you haven’t already, please visit her blog at http://www.skinnytaste.com/.

This dish includes many of my favorite things: veggies, pasta, chicken, spice and cream cheese.  It’s made in one large skillet and the recipe makes about 10 cups, which was more than enough for supper last night and 3 additional lunches.

I think you could probably make substitutions based on your needs: more or less veggies, turkey or shrimp for the chicken, whole grain or high-protein pasta in place of regular pasta.

Here’s the recipe and the photos I took while preparing it:

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces uncooked linguine (I used penne pasta)
  • 1 pound chicken breast strips
  • 1-2 tsp Cajun seasoning (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil  (I used 1 tsp)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup fat free low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup skim milk
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 3 tbsp light cream cheese
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 scallions, chopped  (I omitted)
  • salt to taste

First, you’ll want to cut up your veggies, cook your pasta and prepare your chicken.

Be sure to keep the mushrooms and tomatoes separate from your peppers and onions. They go into the dish at different times.

 

Cut your chicken into chunks and season with cajun seasoning and garlic powder.

I'll be honest - I didn't measure out my seasonings. I sprinkled it on and then reseasoned to taste towards the end of cooking time.

Spray your skillet with cooking spray and cook the chicken.

While your chicken is cooking, make a slurry of the milk, flour and cream cheese by putting it in a small blender.  I used my Magic Bullet.  Tip: Did you know that the blade mechanism on many standard blenders will fit onto a regular-mouth mason jar?  You could make your slurry in a half-pint jar and not dirty up that big-ol’ blender!

When your chicken is completely cooked, you’ll remove it from your skillet and save it for later.  Add your oil to the skillet, then pop in your peppers and onions.  
 
 
Add Veggies!

Let those cook about 5 minutes, then add the mushrooms and tomatoes.

Nothing like a skillet full of healthy vegetables!

Let those cook down for about another 4 – 5 minutes, then add the chicken broth and the slurry.

The slurry adds flavor and thickens the sauce.

Bring this to a boil and stir until you notice the sauce starting to thicken.  Then you’ll add your chicken and pasta back into the skillet.

Mix it all together and heat until everything is hot. Be sure to taste and reseason if necessary.

By now, your largest skillet should be full, and hopefully, your family is ready to eat.  This recipe made 10 cups; enough to:

...fill up our largest meat platter......or make 5 large servings.

I enjoyed mine right away.
 
So good!
Just to make you even hungrier, here’s another shot:
My mouth is watering!
Enjoy!

More Freezer Love…

I’ve been at it again!  I have so much fun finding recipes that I think will be nutritious and filling and will freeze well for work-week lunches.   As you know, it’s important to me to know what’s in my food.  I do pretty well on most days because most of what we eat comes out of our own kitchen.  Often, the food has been grown in my garden or by local farmers, which makes it even better.

Today, while Googling “make your own frozen lunches”, I found a recipe for a tuna burger.  Since I’d never made tuna burgers (patties) before, I thought it might be a great lunchtime project for me.  Here’s the recipe that I used:

 

Simple Ingredients - and I had everything on hand!

 

Tuna Burgers from Spark People

2 cans chunk light tuna (I used 4 – 2.5 oz. pouches)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp horseradish
1 clove garlic, minced

This was just like mixing a meatloaf; I got in there with my hands!

The original recipe called for the burgers (patties) to be fried in olive oil and then baked.  I decided to just put them on the Foreman Grill to avoid adding extra fats.  They turned out just fine.

I really should pull out this grill more often!

I decided to pair the patties with some homemade mac & cheese, broccoli and tomato wedges.  The recipe made 4 patties, so I put two of them in lunch containers and will freeze them.  I suspect they will reheat nicely.

In addition to what we ate for lunch, I had enough to make up two frozen lunches.

It was really good!  Definitely a keeper!  The lemon and horseradish gave the patties a little kick that was unexpected.  The mac & cheese added comfort and the veggies – well they are just good for you!

This meal was so good and very filling!

 

My next project is a Cajun Chicken & Pasta!  I will be back with a report and recipe, of course!

Exercise Update

I have been exercising.  I have been actively moving.  (Put your hands in the air and raise the roof!)

Here’s a break-down of my week:

Monday: Walking DVD   I bought Leslie Sansone’s new DVD and I really enjoy that it’s faster-paced and includes a strengthening band routine.  I did the 2-mile portion.

Tuesday: I did a stability ball DVD.  This time I worked without the stability ring, so it was a bit harder to keep my balance, and I think that’s the point.  The ball still isn’t inflated enough because the little hand-pump that came with it just doesn’t provide enough pressure.  I’ll be talking a short stroll to our garage to take advantage of our air compressor!  Once that ball is inflated correctly, I believe the workout will be more beneficial.

Wednesday and Thursday:  I was out-of-town, but part of my days were devoted to walking around to see some of the sights.  Because it was cold, I walked pretty fast, too.

Today:  I had to get to work early, but I’ll be sure to pop in the walking DVD or SOMETHING before I go to bed tonight.

GET READY!

I’m going to be playing in my kitchen this weekend.  Hopefully I’ll have something great to share with you!

3…2…1…Cake!

There are some days that you just want a little something.  A little sweetness.  A little…you know what I mean.  However, I have this problem of wanting to eat ALL of something sweet if it’s around, so I typically don’t keep anything, especially a whole cake, in the house.

3-2-1 Cake for One!

But what if you have company?  Is it fair to completely wipe the shelves clean knowing that someone could just drop by?  I wouldn’t have anything to offer them!  More importantly, I must think about the fact that it just might be considered unladylike in a southern household to not have something around to offer my guests.

I take pride in being a southern lady.

I had a dear friend over this weekend.  We just hung out and laughed and crafted and cooked.  A superb weekend by any standards, except for one little thing.  She was craving something sweet and I didn’t really have anything in the house that I could whip up for her.

This was a challenge!  She talked about cake, and while I probably had all the ingredients I needed to make one, it would have taken 2 – 3 hours to mix, bake, cool and frost a cake.  It was already 8:30pm, and as I have said before, I can’t have a lot of anything sweet in the house.

We started combing the internet for ideas.  At first we started looking at Mug Cakes.  Have you heard of those?  You mix your regular cake ingredients in a mug, and microwave for a few minutes, and out pops a cake-for-one.  Sounded like a plan until I started figuring out the nutrition values on a mug cake.  This was important to know, since we are both losing weight.

For those of you familiar with a well-known points program famous for helping people lose weight, I have to share that the mug cakes were between 22 – 27 points…EACH!  For one serving!

We considered making one anyway and splitting it, but still, that just seemed like so many calories and carbs and fat grams for so little real nutrition.

So we kept combing the internet.  My friend said, “Here’s one for only 3-points!”  That got my attention.  She said that I needed to take a regular cake mix and mix it together with a boxed angel food cake mix, then use 3 tablespoons of the mix, 2 tablespoons of water and nuke it for 1 minute.

I immediately went to the closest store and bought the two cake mixes.  We tried it and LOVED it!  It was just sweet enough, even without frosting.  It was just enough to satisfy that sweet craving, without going overboard.  And it was so easy.

First, buy your two cake mixes.  I bought a chocolate fudge and a regular angel food cake mix.  I dumped both into a large zipper bag and shook to combine.

What you need: the mix, a measuring spoon, a small coffee mug and liquid. I used 1 tablespoon of water and 1 tablespoon of Sugar-free Kahlua-flavored syrup.

Then we added our liquid.

Just dump it all in...

We stirred.

...and stir.

We nuked.

This is what it looks like after cooking in the microwave for 1-minute.

We enjoyed.

Presentation is everything! Take it out of the mug and dress it up with a little fruit, whipped topping and mini chocolate chips!

I ended up giving her half of the mixture to take home and share with her family, and believe me, I still have enough mix to have cake for quite awhile.

This is such a great idea!  I wish I knew who thought of this so I could thank her (or him).

Want a bite?

Look Ma! No Donuts!

Webster’s Dictionary defines donut as:  a small, usually ring-shaped cake fried in fat.   I define them as: Sugary pieces of delight created by the Devil himself!

I do love donuts.  I love that they are crsipy and sweet on the outside and soft and comforting on the inside.  I love that they come in so many varieties.  I love that they are portable, one-hand food.

Smell no evil, touch no evil, eat no evil!

I love them so much that when they are around, I must have them ALL eaten before the end of the day.  A dozen glazed Krispy Kremes would, in my former life, be completely be devoured in just a few hours. 

To sum it up, I cannot have them around.

So, when some were brought in to work yesterday, I found myself looking at them all day.  Every time I went into the break room, I looked at them.  When I fixed my healthy and wholesome lunch, I looked at them.  When I prepared protein shakes for some patients, I looked at them.

But I didn’t touch them.  I didn’t smell them, and I DID NOT EAT THEM! 

This morning, there are 2 left in the box, and I’m so proud of myself for avoiding them all day yesterday, that I won’t even consider grabbing one from the box.

This has been a relatively successful week for me.  Here’s a break-down:

1. I didn’t eat the donuts.
2. I have done some type of physical activity every day this week.
3. I have eaten healthfully at every meal except one.
4. I have been tracking my food.
5. And lest we forget: I didn’t eat the donuts!

My next goal is to get away from carbonation again.  

I’ve also realized that my Leslie Sansone 1-Mile Power Walk isn’t enough to get my blood pumping, so I bought this on the way to work this morning:

Let's pump up the energy and burn those calories!

 

I Either AM, Or I Am NOT

 

I was in a conversation with someone once, and even though I don’t remember the topic, I remember telling him that I was trying to accomplish something, and he said, “You are either doing it or not doing it.  There is no in-between.”

Wow. 

At first I wanted to argue, but then I started thinking about what he said.  He was right. 

The title of this post was going to be I’m Trying, I Really Am!  But then I remembered that statement and realized that I couldn’t get away with that.

I’m either actively exercising daily or I’m not.

I’m eating appropriately or I’m not.

I’m taking the steps to get to my goal. 

Or.  I’m.  Not.

What I know is that I am eating healthy most of the time.  I can plan for those times that I don’t, and if I choose to eat something “bad,” then it IS my choice.  Let’s be honest.  Sometimes I choose to eat the brownie.

Regular exercising is more of a struggle.  I wanted to start whining about how I’m trying to be better.  But am I?  It’s far too easy for me to make an excuse.  When I don’t exercise, I’m choosing that option.  It’s all on me.

BUT!

I have a dear friend who lives far away from me and I had texted her about fitting into a smaller size.  She responded by telling me that my success gave her motivation to exercise!  What a compliment!  And then I remembered that even though I was “trying” to do better, I really wasn’t giving it my all.  So my friend and I decided to exercise in the mornings and text each other when we were through.

Well, you knew I’d have to take photos and share all the gory details with you.

I had the alarm set for 5:15. IN THE MORNING!!!!

 

I did not want to wake up yet!

 

Be glad I'm sparing you photos from me actually getting dressed!

 

Yep! shoes, too!

 

Grabbed some water...

 

Slide in the DVD. Sorry some of these are out of focus; I didn't have my glasses on yet!

 

Grabbed my glasses so I could actually SEE what was going on...

 

Press Play...

 
 
 
…and then I completed my workout, feeling very proud of myself.  How do you keep doing what it is you need to do?